Autism and Grief

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

As my family and I have recently experienced the loss of my dog Jasper (the vet found a large mass on his spleen and he had to be put to sleep πŸ˜₯ ), this week I’d like to talk about autism and grief.

jasper

Everyone deals with grief differently, it’s an individual experience. For autists however, as with many aspects of our lives, grief can be a lot harder to navigate. Emotional processing is at the core of the experience, and for an autist that struggles with emotional regulation, grief can be all the more overwhelming. Meltdowns, shutdowns, violent outbursts- we feel our emotions so much more intensely than neurotypicals that grief can truly bring us to our knees.

In my experience, grief doesn’t even have to be associated with death- grief for the loss of a friendship, a job, a prized toy can be just as tough to deal with. I’ve whiled away many an hour curled up in a ball grieving lost friendships or missed opportunities, especially where specialist interests are concerned (you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve cried my eyes out over forgetting to press the record button on some Harry Potter TV special back in the days before high speed internet/catch up TV services!πŸ˜‚).

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Grief is never easy, but here are some of my top tips which I’ve found helpful when coping with grief:

Express your feelings– one of the worst things that I did after the death of my dog Oscar 9 years ago was to bottle it all up. I knew that he was dying with cancer 2 weeks before he was put to sleep, so logically I thought that I had to move on straight away. I’d had time to prepare so once he was gone, I felt like I was expected to go back to normal straight away. I felt like I had shed so many tears in his dying weeks that it wasn’t “socially acceptable” to mourn him any more. So I buried my tears and feelings and about a month later I imploded- I even snuck out of the house in the middle of the night to cry by his grave πŸ™ˆ Don’t be like me, lance that boil; don’t let it fester!

Take comfort in music– I know I often come back to this one, but for me music truly helps to process my emotions. I can’t always identify or verbalise how I’m feeling, but music often acts like some sort of mental key to help me get there.

Write it out- Again, I know I proffer this offering a lot, but like music, writing soothes the mind. If you can put words to what you’re feeling at all, it will really help you to make sense of your grief, and help you to move forwards.

Let your tears fall– when you cry as often as I do, the phrase “stop crying” is never far from the lips of those around me. But crying is the needle to my boil- my brain needs it to drain my mind of the neuroelectrical storm of overwhelming emotion. My mind hits emotional capacity and tears are the only way to drain it. In a society of stiff upper lippers it can be hard to feel like you’re allowed to cry, but if you need to, let them roll. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older it’s that there’s no point in holding them in- like a blocked toilet they’ll resurface eventually (and when they do, it won’t be pretty!)

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The most important thing to remember about grief is that it does get easier. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but eventually- there is no true timeline. Bit by bit, the pain will get easier. πŸ€—

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings and that you’re all keeping safe and sane(ish) during this difficult time! πŸ™‚

Aoife

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