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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Losing a partner to AIDS: bereavement in gay men Dustan, Leigh


The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), that which causes AIDS, is most prevalent within the homosexual community, and in particular among gay men. Given that the final outcome of AIDS is death, it can be assumed that grieving an AIDS-related loss is not uncommon among gay men. It is surprising then, that AIDS-related bereavement has received such scant attention in the existing body of literature, with an even greater dearth in research specifically concerned with partner bereavement in gay men. This study provides a qualitative exploration into the bereavement experiences of gay men who lost their partners to AIDS thirteen months to two years ago. Three gay men residing in the Vancouver area participated in this study. Using a retrospective time line of grief, the men were asked to plot out the bereavement experiences that had occurred since the death of their partner. Participants were then interviewed, and questions were asked about the issues placed on their time line. Participants reported a variety of bereavement reactions. Common themes across three participants were emotional reactions and connection with the deceased partner. Two participants mentioned letting go/closure. Also, unique themes emerged including caregiver, network support, anniversaries, anger/regret, and passing through stages. This pattern supported some previous theory, but indicates the need for modification and theory generation. The ramifications of AIDS-related partner bereavement are great, yet much remains to be done.

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