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social sciences

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But advanced awareness can spur people to prepare. Many individuals facing a terminal illness can plan the details necessary to have closure and care for others. Or one faced with the dissolution of a relationship can prepare to make the break-up as amicable and as equitable as possible.

Legal preparation is especially important for glbtq individuals. A living will offers rights to a partner to make medical and funeral decisions. A will acknowledges the partner's legal rights and assets. An alternative is a revocable living trust, which places the couple's assets in a separate legal entity that cannot be challenged. At the death of a partner, the trust transfers full ownership to the surviving owner.

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Legal arrangements protect the couple's assets from others, who may not respect the couple's rights. Assets such as homes, stocks, and bonds can be assigned a beneficiary. Life insurance is also a valuable means of preparation. The knowledge of an impending loss can be an opportunity to make certain that loved ones are nurtured and protected.

Cultural Losses

Occasionally, a loss can be a shared experience of a community or society. Examples are the past experiences of polio and wars in which many individuals died. Recently, the city of New Orleans, as a result of Hurricane Katrina, the collapse of levees, and the inadequate response of governments, experienced a major cultural loss. Many individuals died and more lost their homes in the catastrophe. People were displaced and many experienced a loss of identity. The city itself faced a great crisis of confidence in the face of so many challenges, which were exacerbated by soaring rates of depression and diminished mental health services.

For the past three decades, the glbtq community has experienced many losses due to HIV and AIDS. Prior to the development of effective medications, death was commonplace in the community. One loss could not be fully resolved before another loss occurred. Many gay men at the epicenter of the pandemic saw their entire circle of friends succumb to the disease.

The glbtq community responded to the crisis by developing a network of support services that now provides a model for community reaction to community-wide health crises. For many men and women, this experience of individual and cultural loss is still very fresh. Though a diagnosis of HIV-infection is no longer an imminent death sentence, HIV and AIDS continue to be a reality with which the community must cope.

For many, the loss of sexual freedom as a result of the AIDS crisis has also been difficult to resolve. Some individuals have reacted with denial and continued to engage in risky sex despite the risk. This reaction to grief is a destructive response that has led to even more HIV-infection. Survivor guilt is also an issue for those who have not contracted HIV, especially for those who have lost friends or lovers to the disease.

Losses as Transitions

Loss is universal and is a normal experience of living. Losses often occur with gains as well. For example, retirement is often a very difficult time that some people experience as a loss. However, retirement can open up new opportunities such as volunteer work, increased time with family members, and the development of new interests.

The book Transitions by William Bridges discusses the benefits of facing major life changes, including loss. He states that a decision is made either to accept and face the change, or withdraw and refuse to grow. Many life events--including aging, relocating, entering the work force, or saying goodbye to an adult child who leaves home--that are not major losses may nevertheless be experienced as one. Each of these events involves a transition from one stage to another. From this perspective, even major losses such as the loss of a life partner may be more easily accepted.

David Price

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social sciences >> Overview:  AIDS Activism

In the United States, glbtq people have played an integral and often leading role in AIDS activism, greatly influencing AIDS treatment and advocacy.

social sciences >> Overview:  Counseling

In recent years there has been a push for glbtq-sensitive counselor training and glbtq-affirmative counseling, which, although occurring slowly and encountering resistance, marks a significant move in a positive direction.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family

Many glbtq people reject a fixed definition of family imposed by society, and instead claim the right to define their own families as they choose.

social sciences >> Overview:  Grief Resources

There are many excellent resources, both general and specifically tailored for glbtq individuals, which can assist in the process of healing after a bereavement or other major loss.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Orleans

One of America's most colorful cities, New Orleans boasts a rich tradition for glbtq people and is both a popular travel destination for gay men and lesbians and the home of a diverse glbtq community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy, the clinical process of treating mental and emotional health problems, has recently been energized by a movement to depathologize homosexuality and to enhance the dignity and self-respect of glbtq clients.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Social Work

Since the 1990s, Social Work has slowly become a more glbtq-friendly profession.


Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2004.

Donnelly, Kevin F. Recovering from the Loss of a Loved One to AIDS: Help for Surviving Families, Friends, and Lovers Who Grieve. New York: Fawcett Books, 1995.

James, John W., and Fred Cherry. Grief Recovery Handbook: A Step by Step Program for Moving beyond Loss. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth, and David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner, 2005.

Levine, Steven. Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart. Emmaus, Penn.: Rodale Press, 2005.

Walter, Carolyn Ambler. The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.


    Citation Information
    Author: Price, David  
    Entry Title: Grief  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated March 11, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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