HIV/Aids

Updated 24 June 2014

Bereavement counselling

The bereavement experienced by a person who has lost a loved one and the bereavement experienced by a terminally ill or dying person are very similar.

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The bereavement experienced by a person who has lost a loved one and the bereavement experienced by a terminally ill or dying person are very similar. Both people experience a grievous sense of loss: in the first case, one experiences the loss of a loved one, and in the second case, one experiences the loss of one’s future, one’s hopes, one’s loved ones, one’s health, self-esteem, well-being and one’s dignity as a human being. In either case, people are confronted with their own mortality.

Terminally ill persons are directly confronted by their own imminent death - the imminence of which becomes more pressing as the disease progresses – while persons who have lost a loved one are indirectly confronted with the possibility and spectacle of their own future death through the death of the loved one. It is therefore understandable that the process of bereavement is often very similar for both those who are dying and those who are forced to witness death.

In all cases where HIV-infected people are still leading relatively normal and healthy lives for extended periods, the counsellor needs to facilitate a process of reinvestment in life. This is also an important element in the counselling of a person who has lost or is in the process of losing a loved one.

Bereaved people should actively work through their grief in their own time. Bereavement is a process that cannot be rushed.

 

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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