African Americans and HIV/AIDS-related bereavement: an exploratory study of loss, coping, and help-seeking
The purpose of this study was to understand how individuals from African American families process the HIV/AIDS-related bereavement of a loved one. A sample of African American adults age 18 and older who experienced the loss of a loved one to HIV/AIDS-related death were interviewed for this study. Qualitative methodology was employed for data collection and thematic analysis was used to identify central themes. Due to the exploratory nature of the study, emergent themes regarding AIDS related bereavement were expected. It was postulated that African American individuals shared experiences related to HIV/AIDS-related loss. Individuals were also expected to report unique bereavement experiences. In particular, prolonged grief and internalized coping strategies were expected to impact bereavement experiences of individuals in families acutely affected by HIV/AIDS-related stigmatization. Secrecy about a loved one’s HIV/AIDS-related death was expected to impact the ability of bereaved persons to process and effectively cope with loss; results yielded evidence of protracted states of shame or blame regarding loss. The findings of this study are useful for identifying methods for targeting bereavement resources toward individuals who are underrepresented in HIV/AIDS-related intervention programs.