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What is Migratory
Grief and Loss? 

Immigrant youth experience psychological and social losses throughout all migratory stages. Those losses may evoke reactions of migratory grief.


Migratory Grief is the psychological, interpersonal, and somatic reaction to losses caused by migration.

(Casado et al., 2010; Falicov, 2002; Jerves et al., 2019)

Migratory grief is multi-layered because migration results in many simultaneous and recurrent losses which include:

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The Loss of Loved Ones

Family separations can occur throughout the three stages of migration. A child may experience the separation of a parent/caretaker when the adult migrates leaving them in the care of a surrogate caretaker. Once the child/adolescent migrates unaccompanied, they then are separated from their parent or surrogate caretaker.


The loss caused by family separations can leave the youth feeling the pain of uncertainty of not knowing if they will ever see their family member/loved one again. In addition to the loss caused by family separation, the physical death of a family member may occur during separation, which can complicate the grieving process. 


Cultural & Symbolic Losses

Cultural and Symbolic losses refer to the losses related to culture, including homeland, language, food, climate, norms, traditions, beliefs, religious and spiritual practices, and symbolic losses of a sense of identity and/or self, belonging, and community. 

People & Things I miss
click on the slideshow created by high school students who arrived as unaccompanied minors 

Migratory grieF as an AmbigUous Loss

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The losses caused by migratory grief are riddled with uncertainty and ambiguity. Due to the physical absence and psychological presence that characterizes the losses of migratory grief, migratory grief is framed as an AMBIGUOUS LOSS.
(Falicov, 2002; Jerves et al., 2019; Suárez-Orozco et al., 2002)

Pauline Boss (1999) describes Ambiguous Loss as a loss that offers no closure and remains unclear and uncertain. Boss (1999) proposed two types of Ambiguous Loss:

Type 1

The loss of a person who is physically present but psychologically absent (Alzheimer’s Disease; Dementia).

Type 2

The loss of a person who is physically absent yet psychologically and emotionally present. Some examples include incarcerated parent(s); children living in foster care; and separations caused by migration

"Migration represents what Pauline Boss (1999) calls a “crossover. " It has elements of both types of ambiguous loss: while beloved people and places are left behind, they remain keenly present in the psyche of the immigrant; at the same time, homesickness and the stresses of adaptation may leave some family members emotionally unavailable to others".- Falicov (2002)

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