Learning to Live With Ambiguity: Rethinking Ambiguous Loss for Mothers of Children With Disabilities

Yoon Joo Lee, Hye June Park, Seung Yeon Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to explore the mothering experiences of children with disabilities. The theory of ambiguous loss was applied to interpret the meanings that mothers give to the process of caregiving and the ways they stay proactive in the midst of challenges. Eleven mothers of children ages 6 to 35 with various disabilities participated in in-depth interviews to talk about their child’s educational history, their family’s routine, and the rewards and challenges of raising a child with disabilities. Findings illustrate that the mothers faced different experiences of ambiguity depending on the visible or invisible nature of their child’s disabilities. However, regardless of the nature of the disabilities, the mothers had learned to live with ambiguity in the face of new and continuous challenges. They did this by redefining their lives through maintaining valued identities as mothers and redefining the meaning of family. Findings also imply that the scope of ambiguous loss needs to be expanded.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSAGE Open
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The author(s) received financial support for the publication of this article from Seoul National University.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • ambiguous loss
  • children with disabilities
  • parenting


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