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kareng

a childhood friend of my dd died and I need your help

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I home schooled my dd and was part of this forum for many years.  She is  now an adult.  I'm not sure if she's on the spectrum (recently I posted something about that) but whether she is or isn't,  she does have her struggles socially.  When she's uncomfortable in social situations she laughs or smiles.  She knows that's wrong but doesn't know how to correct it.

This friend died tragically in a car accident a couple of days ago. My dd was not close to this friend but when they were little, they played together.

On Friday, we are going to visiting hours at a local funeral home to pay our respects to this friend's family.  My dd remarked to me today that she's afraid she will laugh or smile when seeing this friend's relatives.

How can I help my dd in this situation and all the other uncomfortable situations that she will encounter in her life?

Edited by kareng

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Well, it's not a terrible thing to laugh or smile at a funeral.  During the actual service there are often tears, but my experience has been that during that time before or after the service, during visiting, there's a lot of................normal life.  Stories are shared about the deceased and sometimes those stories are even funny.  But also, people catch up with those they haven't seen in a while, share info about what else is going on in their lives, all that sort of stuff.  So first, I suggest letting her know that she doesn't have to avoid all laughter or smiles.  Just knowing that she doesn't have to force herself to avoid it all may help relieve some of her stress and anxiety, which could in turn make it less likely that she reacts inappropriately.  

 

Also, you don't have to stay the whole time.  Just go, offer condolences, share a story or two if/as appropriate, then leave.  If she finds herself getting more comfortable, then stay longer, but if it's just getting more and more distressing, it's perfectly ok to leave.  At FIL's funeral, there were a BUNCH of people in and out during the visiting hours, but I think, counting DH, DD22, SIL, BIL, and myself, there might have been just 10 to 15 people that stayed for the actual service.  FIL's brother didn't even stay for the service (they were not close at all)

 

You could also bring a small flower arrangement or gift, it provides a natural opportunity to approach the family members, gives her something to do with her hands so she isn't more uncomfortable trying to figure out what to do with them, and it's likely the family will smile when they thank her for them, which could help put her at ease too.  

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Oh dear. If she has a psych who specializes in autism or if you could find one, this would be a good time to have one. Sigh.

Given that they were not close, if she knows she will be uncomfortable, she could choose not to go. There have been times I wasn't going to be my best for something, and that was the choice I made, just not to go. It could be put on the table as an option.

If she decides to go, I would practice ahead what she would say (or not say) and role play. Usually a viewing like that is pretty predictable. You wait in line, chatting with people who come by that you know. When you get there you have about 90 seconds where you say something. You hug and it's over and you leave. So that would be another strategy, to role play it out and pre-visualize it and figure out what she's planning to say and practice it in the mirror.

Another strategy would be to practice some mindfulness to see if she can tamp her anxiety down. Just 10 minutes of mindfulness can give a 30% boost in EF and hence self-regulation. So doing some mindfulness a few times a day would put her in a good position to be super zen come the day of the funeral. That plus some pre-visualization and planning of the steps might be enough. 

Beyond that, I would also suggest the say nothing strategy. Or the say exceptionally little strategy. But she has to know herself. If it's going to happen, even if she says nothing or says exceptionally little, I would just flat not go. My ds watched my blood get drawn with eyes wide open like it was great entertainment, and he laughs when people get hurt. Now I will tell you he has *not* laughed at funerals. Maybe he missed the gravity of it and was just oblivious? It might not happen that she has that. Pre-visualizing can help. Maybe go to the funeral ahead, so she can walk through the space. Has she been to a funeral before or seen a dead body before? If she can isolate all those other steps, then there will be less to make her uncomfortable the day of. If it's very important to her that she be there, then it might be worth the effort to visit the funeral home ahead of time.

Fwiw, for myself what I do sometimes, when it's not practical to visit ahead, is I use google maps. I will drive the route virtually, and google will even sometimes take you in buildings. I'll trace the whole thing virtually and wrap my head around it, so very little is new. It's that everything is new and different for this (the building, the experience of an uncommon event, AND the fact that it's an old friend). So she can work through the anxiety and uncomfortable feelings with the newness of all the other stuff, make them old hat, and then she'll have a better chance in the line. At least that's what I do. 

But I would not be above showing up or calling ahead and saying hey could I tour, I have some anxiety, I don't know what this will be like. They have people there all the time, so you're not inconveniencing them. They're trying to make EVERYONE comfortable, and they'd be happy to help.

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I just wanted to thank you both for your responses to my need.  My dd had attended one funeral prior to the calling hours tonight but never
at a funeral home. I wish I had thought of doing a dry run (being able to go though the funeral home ahead of time when it was empty). What a brillant idea!  But, since there wasn't time for that to happen prior to this event, I did do a lot of talking about what to expect.  I gave her opportunity to ask questions and to role play.  I assured her I would be right next to her (actually me going first through the line with her behind me) and that she didn't have to do anything other than shake people's hands.  I chose to introduce us together when appropriate so that almost eliminated the need for her to say anything.  She only knew one person in the receiving line so that worked out fine.  We knew ahead of time that my dd's childhood friend was cremated so that eliminated what to do in front of the open casket issue.

While I knew this was going to be hard for my dd, I felt it was important for her to do this, 1. because this was a friend, and 2. because I want her to not shy away from social situations that are an important part of life.  Also, I believe that she is up to the task , that is provided she has the level of support she needs in those social situations.  Personally, I think a lot of it is her lacking the confidence and a lack of awareness of the skills she already possesses.  Ahead of time, I did say that she could wear whatever clothes she was comfortable in (meaning no need to wear a dress if she wasn't comfortable in that) and, as one of you shared,that however she ended up acting (laughing or whatever), it wouId be fine. She was absolutely superb.  She rose to the occasion, acted normally and appropriately, even introduced herself to some of the relatives in the receiving line.

Thank you for your help in this.  I so appreciate it.

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