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Worry about coping

Mar 25, 1999

My brother is at his last stage of AIDS. I live far away from him and I'm worry how I will react to he death.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I am sorry to hear about your brother. Is there no way you can take some time off from work now to go and spend some time with him before he dies? I would urge you to do this, even though it will be emotionally difficult it can provide the two of you with some special shared time before it is too late. Even if you can not take time off of work, then I'd urge you to plan to go for a weekend.

Also, call the local AIDS service organization in the city where you live, in order to find out if they have a grief group that you will be able to attend in order to be around and get support from other people who have lost a loved one to AIDS. If there is not an AIDS organization near to where you live, then call the biggest hospital's social work department and inquire about the existence of grief or bereavement groups. Getting adequate support during your mourning will be essential for you.

There is no real way that you can prepare yourself for the enormity of the kind of loss that you will experience losing a sibling. All you can do is expect to feel terribly hurt, angry and sad for a long time. There is no "normal" amount of time for how long a person mourns. Each individual is different. But for all people the first year is the worst.

If you are a religious person, I'd suggest contacting your clergy person to begin some kind of pastoral counseling from him or her. There is always beginning counseling or therapy now to begin to have a relationship with another person who can offer you professional support.

It will be an excruciatingly difficult period in your life. There is no way around that. My personal and professional experience is that you never really work through all of your feelings about having a beloved person die. The best that you can hope for is that you learn to make the necessary psychic and emotional accomodations to the huge emptiness that having a loved person die creates in your life.

I hope that this is helpful to you.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

Perspective: partner with AIDs dementia
When to tell a 12 year old they are HIV +

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