College of Education and Human Development

Family Social Science

Pauline Boss



Ph.D., Child Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

M.S., Child Development and Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

B.S., Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Areas of Interest

Ambiguous Loss (Research & Practice)
Family Resilience, Stress, and Coping
Families of the Kidnapped and Missing
Care-giving for Dementia
Families of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury

Research & Discovery

Minnesota - New York Ambiguous Loss Project - The University of Minnesota teamed with the Service Employees International Union, 32-BJ, to provide mental health services to their 70,000 union members.

Successful Caregivers - Their goal is to determine how to define and locate successful caregivers, or persons who have a relatively high quality of life despite dealing with long term ambiguous loss in caring for a family member with Alzheimer's disease, and whether cultural differences exist in successful care-giving.

Latest News

"The Pandemic is Still Making Us Feel Terrible," The Atlantic

"What we know about grief 20 years after 9/11 - and how it's helping us cope with loss from Covid-19,"

"On Kindness and Grief," Scientific American

"Your Pandemic Sadness Is Called Ambiguous Loss," The Forge on

"The year of postponed grief," The Atlantic

"Navigating the continuing psychological pandemic," Inside Higher Ed Op/Ed (referenced)

’Ambiguous Loss’ from Miami-area condo collapse makes grieving harder,” Scientific American

"What is ambiguous loss and why it matters,"

"How to grieve after a year of loss," MPR News with Kerri Miller

"Ambiguous Loss," All in the Mind, BBC Radio 4

"How to Grieve during a pandemic," Washington Post magazine

"Feeling sad during hard times is not depression," Psychology Today

"Work harder or work smarter? How empathy makes room for innovation," Forbes

Acknowledging COVID-related Grief: 3 Ways to Address Your Career Fears, Forbes magazine

"Grief is Different Now," The Atlantic

"The little losses of COVID-19 add up: Here's how to deal with them," Star Tribune

"Ambiguous Loss: Helping teens and others cope with lost milestones," UMN Alumni Association. 

"UMN family therapist Q and A: Grieving the losses amid coronavirus pandemic," 

"How to understand the type of loss we're all feeling right now," YahooLifestyle

Outreach & Engagement

Pauline worked at the Anglican Church Hospital in Adelaide, Australia in February and March 2005 performing training on various forms of Ambiguous loss

2002 FSoS Acting Head, Marriage and Family Therapy Training Program

2002 FSoS Search & Screen Committee

2001 FSoS Search & Screen Committee

Teaching & Learning

Dr. Boss is retired and no longer teaching courses.

Honors & Awards

2002 Humanitarian Award, SEIU Local 32 BJ for dedicated and compassionate work with the families who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11

2002 Ernest Burgess Award, National Council on Family Relations for research and theory

2002 Excellence in Outreach and Engagement Award, College of Human Ecology, University of Minnesota

2000 Elected Fellow, National Council Family Relations for research contributions


  1. Boss, P. (1999). Ambiguous Loss. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  2. Boss, P. (1996). They did it quietly: The meaning of immigration for women. In H. Ryhner (Ed.), Jubilaumsbuch 150 Jahr New Glarus: America's Little Switzerland errinnert sich. Glarus, Switzerland: Tschudi AG.

  3. Boss, P. Dahl, C., & Kaplan, L. (1996). The meaning of family: The phenomenological perspective in family research. In S. Moon & D. Sprenkle (Eds.), Research Methods in Family Therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

  4. Boss, P. (1995). Learning by doing: Memories of Carl Whitaker. American Family Therapy Association Newsletter, 26(4), 13.

  5. Gurko, T. A. & Boss, P. G. (1995). "The relations of husbands and wives in marriage." In A. Antonov, M. J. Matskovsky, J. W. Maddock & M. J. Hogan (Eds.), The family on the threshold of the third millennium. Moscow: Russian Academy of Science, Center for Human Values.

  6. Boss, P. (1995, Winter). The teaching of intuition. American Family Therapy Academy Newsletter, p. 18.

  7. Boss, P. (1995, July-August). That man Whitaker! Networker, pp. 58-59.

  8. Boss, P., Kaplan, L., & Gordon, M. (1995). Accepting the circle of life. Center for Urban and Regional Affairs Reporter, XXV(3), 7-11.

  9. Garwick, A., Detzner, D., & Boss, P. (1994). Family perceptions of living with Alzheimer's disease. Family Process, 33, 327-340.

  10. Boss, P. (1994, December). The merging of family therapy research and practice. American Family Therapy Association Newsletter.

  11. Boss, P. (1994, March). Research methods for family therapists. The Networker Conference. Washington, D. C.

  12. Boss, P. (1994). Coping with ambiguous loss. In System Familie. Springer Verlag.

  13. Boss, P., & Gurko, T. A. (1994). The relationships of men and women in marriage. In J. W. Maddock, M. J. Hogan, A. I. Antonov & M. S. Matskovsky (Eds.), Families Before and After Perestroika: Russian and U. S. Perspectives (pp. 36-75). New York: Guilford.

  14. Boss, P. (1993). The reconstruction of family life with Alzheimer's disease: Generating theory to understand family stress from ambiguous loss. In P. Boss, W. Doherty, R. LaRossa, W. Schumm & S. Steinmetz (Eds.), Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach. New York: Plenum.

  15. Boss, P., Doherty, W., LaRossa, R., Schumm, W., & Steinmetz, S. (Eds.) (1993). Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach. New York: Plenum.

  16. Boss, P. (1993). The experience of immigration for the mother left behind: The use of qualitative feminist strategies to analyze letters from my Swiss grandmother to my father. Marriage and Family Review, 19(3/4).

  17. Boss, P. (1993). Remembering our roots: Family-of-origin work as part of training in family therapy. Zeitshrift System Familie

  18. Boss, P. (1993). The experience of immigration for the mother left behind: The use of qualitative feminist strategies to analyze letters from my Swiss grandmother to my father. In B. H. Settles, D. E. Hanks III & M. B. Sussman (Eds.), Families on the Move: Migration, Immigration, emigration, and mobility. Binghamton, New York: Haworth.

  19. Boss, P. (1993). The construction of chronicity: Coping with ambiguous loss. In R. Welter-Enderline & B. Hiltebrand (Eds.), System Familie (pp. 161-170). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag.

  20. Boss, P. (1993). Boundary ambiguity: A block to cognitive coping. In A. Turnbull, J. Patterson, S. Behr, D. Murphy, J. Marquis & M. Blue-Banning (Eds.), Cognitive Coping, Families and Disability (pp. 257-270). Baltimore: Brooks Publishing.