Pretty Little Liars isn’t the most intelligent of shows and it’s certainly not the most well written, but I won’t deny the fact that I’ve learned a lot from it (not just fashion and accessory tips). A scene in Season 3 actually contributed to a major breakthrough in my love life (or lack thereof).
Hannah and the randomly-appearing British doctor, Wren, taught me about “ambiguous loss.” He diagnoses Hannah with the term as she’s struggling with Mona’s silent stare in a mental institution. Ambiguous loss occurs when there’s no closure to a relationship, like when a relative is suffering from Alzheimer’s or with the disappearance of a family member. The person is either there but uncommunicative or gone but not buried. The grieving process is disrupted. The girls deal with numerous cases of ambiguous loss on PLL, not least of which is the disappearance of their friend and former ringleader, Allison, the crux of the show.
The moment the term was defined in that episode, I realized I had been dealing with numerous small cases of ambiguous loss on a continual basis as a result of my attempts at online and app dating. It’s the grindr cycle: you chat, have a decent conversation, maybe send naughty pics, maybe meet for coffee or a drink, maybe hook up once or twice, and then inevitably, communication will stop without further explanation, not even a polite rejection. You can still see their little picture every time they’re near you, you know the exact distance they are from you, you can still look at your conversations and extra pics, and maybe you will even see them randomly on the street, but never ever will you talk to them again.
It makes me feel at once angry, sad, humiliated, cynical, and hopeless. I am definitely suffering from ambiguous loss and the more I date online, the more it piles up. Just as I’ve recovered from the loss of one boy, the next loss is soon to come. Technology speeds our relationships up so quickly that they are over before they begin.