Ambiguous Loss and Embodied Grief Related to Mexican Migrant Disappearances

Rebecca M Crocker, Robin C Reineke, María Elena Ramos Tovar
Publication Year
The Americas
Thematic Area
Families / The Search Process
Family Needs / Mental Health / Migration / Psychosocial Support
Open access

Since the 1990s, thousands of Latin Americans have died or disappeared along the US-Mexico border, following the funneling of migration through remote desert regions. The families of missing migrants face long-term "ambiguous loss," a lived experience in which a loved one is physically absent but psychologically present. Mexican relatives of the missing in Arizona and Sonora report that these losses produce deep emotional suffering along a timeline - worrying about the crossing, learning of the disappearance, beginning to search, and finally, coping with the long-term impacts of unknowing. Close relatives experience embodied health effects including headaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic disease.