• Mari Børnick-Sørhaug
  • Louise Heller
This thesis concerns the involuntary loss of contact with family members of migrants residing in Denmark. The purpose is to study what has been referred to as ambiguous loss (Boss, 2004) - the situation of not knowing whether a relative is dead or alive, as well as to examine the coping strategies of migrants dealing with the uncertainty concerning the possible loss. Furthermore, the thesis investigates how mobilizing in diasporic networks relates to the coping of this loss, and whether these networks are of support for migrants dealing with ambiguity. A qualitative research method is applied, and qualitative, semi-structured interviews with migrants in Denmark have been conducted and lay the baseline for the empirical data.
The thesis begins with analyzing the target groups’ premises for dealing with ambiguous loss, being refugees and asylum seekers. The period of time waiting for the asylum case to be resolved is characterized as a liminal one. Further, it demonstrates how the migrants deal with a double vulnerability, as they, in addition to struggling with living in exile, have lost contact with their families.
With the premises for dealing with the ambiguous loss in mind, this thesis sheds light on the impact of ambiguous loss, and how the informants cope with this loss. The continued ambiguity impedes the grieving process and leaves the informants in a limbo. When dealing with ambiguous loss, closure is unobtainable, and the aim is not to end the ambiguity, but rather, through different coping strategies, to accept the ambiguity. This study has revealed that religion plays an important role in the lives of our informants, and that usage of the church is a significant coping strategy. In addition, these churches serve as a place where they find comfort and social relations as well as a substitution for the family they have either lost, or still have to live in the absence of.
For the informants, the concept of family and religion is intertwined. The members of the migrant churches gather around a common understanding of culture and of adversities, as it consists of people from the same homelands and regions. This creates a space of mutual understanding and recognition and therefore these migrant churches can be conceptualized as diasporic networks. Our informants are mobilizing in these diasporic networks, seeking to recreate and uphold religious as well as cultural traditions as a way of creating meaning and familial bonds. This mobilization contributes to the creation of hope, which is an important aspect on coping with ambiguous loss.
Publication date30 Jun 2014
Number of pages100


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