The moment a client receives positive HIV test results they begin to participate in an ongoing grieving process, i.e. grieving loss of negative status, loss of previous healthier identity.

STAGES OF GRIEF AND DYING (Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Dying)

  1. Denial and Isolation. This is usually a temporary defence and eventually replaced by reality.
  2. Anger. Questions such as “why” surface.  Resentment, anger, rage and envy follow and it can be projected onto family, nurses, doctor or even God.
  3. Bargaining. The person hopes to somehow delay death and they “negotiate” even with God.
  4. Depression. Here the person comes to accept the certainty of death.  They may become silent, refuse visitors, spend time crying or grieving.   This is normal under the circumstances and is an effort to disconnect the self from all love objects.  Do not try to cheer the person up as they need to contemplate impending death.
  5. Acceptance. The person develops a sense of peace; and acceptance of one’s fate and a desire to be left alone.



  • Writing a letter to the deceases expressing thoughts and feelings can take care of unfinished business.
  • Drawing pictures can help, especially children.
  • Role playing to assist the person adjust to changed circumstances and develop coping skills.
  • Memory Book can be made to include pictures, stories of family events,

poems and drawings to help family to reminisce and mourn a more realistic   image of the dead person.

  • Using Imagery to image the person present and to say the things they need to say to the person, for example regrets and disappointments.


Dealing with bereavement is not easy as it is difficult to feel helpful to the person experiencing the bereavement.  The counselor can also feel uncomfortable witnessing the pain of someone’s grief.   The grieving process also touches the counselor personally as we all have to face our own losses and mortality.