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Can you help me?
Jul 9, 1997

I am married to a wonderful man who is in a downward spiral after adjusting to the fact that not only is his only son gay but HIV positive. It's been a difficult adjustment for everyone. His son has been very hostile towards him from the start; to the point that I felt my husband was being victimized by guilt. My husband started to become very depressed, the more he tried to reestablish a relationship with his son. He went to counseling for a little while in an effort to work through it. Their past had been an ongoing struggle and very dysfunctional for the most part but my husband always did what he could to try to support him. I've tried to support my husband in the things he did for his son, but there were times when his son's hostility became so ugly I would have to draw the line. These situations have caused some turmoil with my stepson and his siblings in the family with me being the stepmother. Although I was against it, as my stepson became more self-destructive and less inclined to care for himself, we let him move back home with us. From the beginning he is very easily agitated, self-centered and cross most of the time. The pressure seems to have taken its toll and without reason my husband suddenly quit his job. Now they are home together all of the time. My husband has gotten so depressed that he doesn't seem to be able to focus on anything about his future. He goes through the motions of looking for a job but nothing seems to be within his reach. Somehow I feel that his son is really satisfied that he is home. The two of them rarely talk and when they do they disagree on everything. My stepson is getting very sick now. He looks awful and feels worse. It's very frightening to me. His eyes are red and swollen as well as his feet and hands. He constantly has a headache and he can't eat or chew very well. Because he is an adult he doesn't have to explain anything to us and he doesn't. We don't know what is going on with him until he decides that he wants to go to the emergency room and even then he is very secretive. I don't know what to expect and my husband doesn't seem to be able to tell me. I work two jobs now to keep a roof over our heads and I don't have a guess about what is going on with my family; where I fit in or where I could be the most help. I want my husband back, I feel like he is trying to die with his son. I worry about what he will do when it's all over. I don't understand why my stepson isn't trying harder to live longer. He hasn't gone to any counseling that we know of. He doesn't seem to be interested in any of the new strategies that are being tried. Can you help me? When I try to talk to my husband about what his expectations are or want we need to do to deal with this he brushes me off.

Response from Rev. Pieters

I'm sorry you're having such a tough time. It sounds like a terribly difficult situation. Clear and open communication is so vital in every day life, and when you add the complications of being sick with HIV, it becomes even more urgent.

Please seek out counseling for yourself. Ideally, it would be great if all three of you could go to family counseling. There is a tremendous breakdown in communication in your household, and things will probably not improve until you re-establish open lines of communication. However, since your stepson sounds so resistant to any dialogue with you or your husband, this family counseling idea may not be possible.

If you and your marriage are to survive this time of troubles, you need to get counseling and support for yourself individually. Encourage your husband to participate as well. Whether you seek out a member of the clergy, or a social worker, or a psychologist, there are many professionals who have successfully dealt with this kind of situation before... Make use of their experience!

Seek out the support of other parents who are nursing their adult children living with AIDS. You may very well find other parents through your local chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG), or through your local AIDS service organization. You are not the first to go through this! Take advantage of other people's experiences.

You obviously care very much about your family. Care for yourself too through this challenge. Get the help that is available for people in your circumstances! You'll be in my prayers.

Sister is stuck with secret
The stress of AIDS on families & Caregivers

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