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But it was a slow and wrenching process. Casting about for some better way to build community, the two women considered trying to publish a collection of accounts but were discouraged by agents who told them that anthologies were hard to get published. Instead, they started thinking about the possibility of launching a website, and subsequently the idea for The Recollectors was born. Besides filling an apparent need, the project seems timely. I kept his sexuality a secret. Both my parents were very open, and no one said I had to keep quiet about my father.

It was just an instinct that I had. She also lived with her father when she was in her early 20s after he moved to San Diego. He had a Mohawk.

Recovering from the Loss of a Loved One to AIDS - Katherine Fair Donnelly - Google Books

He always wore black jeans and a T-shirt with a leather vest. Bannon encouraged her father to get tested for the HIV virus after his friends began falling victim to the disease. Seven of them had died by the time I left in After her own father passed away in , Bannon joined an AIDS action group to talk about losing her father. She found she was the only child of a gay parent in the group. Besides having to keep the details of a family AIDS death private, many families also felt the sting of being relegated to the sidelines of gay history.

And so many kids who had parents and relatives who died of AIDS had no way of processing what happened. David Turcotte, 37, was 9 years old when he learned his father James was gay. He particularly remembers that as the son of a gay father he was alert to homophobic epithets.

Many survivors disenfranchised in their grief rely on their spirituality as a way to find love and acceptance denied them by family and friends. Survivors may also need to explore how religion may have complicated their grief. They may have been taught that AIDS results from sin and they may have internalized this inappropriate assumption.

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Whatever the situation, your presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Many AIDS survivors will be physically, emotionally and spiritually drained from caring for someone with such a debilitating disease. And they may have experienced the loss not only of the person who died, but also the loss of friends and family who have abandoned them. The overwhelming impact of these multiple losses demands your special awareness and sensitivity. Preparing food, washing clothes or cleaning the house are among the practical ways you can express your love and support.

A Clinical Guide to Supportive and Palliative Care for HIV/AIDS

Remember-this support is needed not just in the first few days following the death, but also in the weeks and months ahead. To help AIDS survivors, you need to have an abundance of patience. You may even become the target of their explosive emotions. Realize that the grief process takes time and allow mourners to proceed at their own pace.


Don't force your timetable for healing or set expectations about how they should respond. If survivors become silent or remote, don't push with questions. Turning inward is a part of healing in grief. Often total silence is absolutely necessary. Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died.

I couldn't save my brother from Aids. But his death made me the man I am

Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process. Learn from it.

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And, most important, never try to take the hurt away. Sometimes special rituals and traditions of remembrance take place during these times. Memorial quilts, for example, have been created to remember those who have died of AIDS.

Perhaps you can initiate such a project or plan a special ritual. Support groups are one of the best ways to help AIDS survivors. In a group, survivors can connect with other people who share the commonality of the experience.

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  5. They are allowed and encouraged to tell their stories as much, and as often, as they like. You may be able to help survivors locate such a group. This practical effort on your part will be appreciated. Lovers, friends and family who experience the death of someone to AIDS must no longer be disenfranchised.

    As helpers, you need to join with other caring persons to provide support and acceptance for survivors, who need to grieve in healthy ways if they, and we as a society, are to heal. Alan D. Wolfelt is a noted author, educator and practicing grief counselor.