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Dealing with grief

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I'm a bit at a loss and not sure how to handle this situation.

 

Background: 

 

My 13yo son is intellectually disabled with autistic tendencies. 

 

Several years ago my FIL died.  We explained to him repeatedly what happened, that we were going to the funeral, what it would be like, etc.  He seemed fine and like it was all sinking in.  Then we walked into the wake room, and he lost it.  Uncontrollable.  We had to remove him from the situation completely.  It was as if it really hadn't sunk in until he saw the body. 

 

Fast forward a few years.  We were in New York to visit FIL's gravesite for the first time.  Ds seemed to handle it okay, until we got into the car.  At that point he had a total meltdown about never being allowed to sit in the front seat.  Completely irrational.  I figured out, eventually, that his grief was misplaced.  He was grieving over visiting the gravesite, but he didn't know how to let that grief manifest itself.  Hence the irrational meltdown.

 

Fast forward to last Thursday.  We had to put down our beloved family dog.  While the rest of us were completely heartbroken over the situation, ds seemed not bothered by it.  Until a few days later.  He asked me if I missed our dog, and I said that I did and that I was sad about it.  He started crying and said that he missed his friends from our last home.  Again, it's the misplaced grief.  I have not seen him cry once about the dog, but now he's crying about missing his friends from the home we moved away from a year ago?

 

I do not know how to handle this grieving process with him.  It's as if he knows he's grieving, but he takes that grief and misdirects it.  What do I do with this???

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:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

 

I don't know exactly how to help your son but I will mention I frequently did something similar.  For example, when my mom's dad passed away, I was upset over other things but did not really react to his passing away.  I was deflecting.  Until months and months and months later when I was driving to work and suddenly I was freaking out.  I had to pull over I was sobbing so hard.  Almost hysterical.  I had no idea why right at first.  It finally hit me that my grandfather was gone and my mind wasn't letting me put off dealing with it anymore.

 

I guess maybe it is a defense mechanism.  Get upset over something small and controllable (sitting in the front seat) or over something from the past that is maybe not as immediately raw (loss of friends from a year ago) without actually having to immediately face the real elephant in the room that is right there and raw and harder to cope with.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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Have you tried reading books with him about dying, death, where we go, death of pets, moving, etc.? The children's books give them a way to discuss it out in the open and process. That's what we did for my ds when his grandma died this fall. His response was, as you say, very extreme. 

 

I don't think it's so much misdirected but that he's overloaded and not able to cope with his emotions and the intensity, so it comes out lots of ways. It then spills over to other things. My daughter took him to the graveside and let him cry. 

 

Whatever the topic is you want to tackle first, I would tackle with picture books. Then, for the pet, have a funeral. For the moving, same deal, picture books about moving. For the death, picture books, and maybe a quiet trip there or to another cemetery bookended with something good to make it turn positive (cocoa, ice cream cones, whatever).

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No great tips, but  :grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug: .

 

I think grief often has no boundaries, and it bleeds out into other things. Whether that's "okay" or not, I don't know. 

 

I think these are all good suggestions.

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I do not know how to handle this grieving process with him.  It's as if he knows he's grieving, but he takes that grief and misdirects it.  What do I do with this???

 

Let him be.

 

He's dealing with it in the best way for him.

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It might be a good idea to let it be for now. Let some time pass and then find some resources that you feel might be appropriate for him to show him how all living things eventually reach an end. You could make it about celebrating their life. For example, with the dog, you could make a video with pictures and short video clips from when he was a puppy to when he got old. How much he was loved and how much he loved each member of the family. How he had a good life and how the end is just a natural part of the process. I would avoid making it about grief though. The displaced grief may be him not knowing how he is expected to react. I wouldn't make it about feelings at all. If he has autistic traits, people with autism grieve in their own way, and he is allowed to grieve in his own way too.

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One of the best things I ever did was get my son with Down syndrome a counselor experienced with kids with disabilities, so I recommend that. My son will do something like that at times. He transfers his anger, grief, frustration about something intimidating to talk about to something safe. Lots of times, the original object of his grief will come up later on when it is less intimidating to talk about.  Something you could try is say something like, "Wow. You are feeling so angry and sad. I feel like that right now because our dog died and I miss him. I wonder if you feel that way about our dog, too." Like, maybe just trying to help him connect the dots. Also, this reminds me of a story my therapist shared with me about a client she once worked with (who of course remained anonymous) who went through something difficult, and had seen many therapists, but would not talk about it. When she came to see my son's therapist, who also works with horses with the kids, the client talked about a scar the horse had on his face. She talked about how it must have felt for him to get the scar, how it must feel for him to still have the scar, how he must have been scarred, etc. And my therapist said that is as far as she ever got with the little girl, who even though she never talked about whatever hard thing it was she went through, she was able to go through the grieving process and start a healing process because she grieved about the horses experience in the way she needed to grieve about her own. I think the point was, sometimes we take a different route through grief, but the process is what is important. 

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