Thoughtful Ways to Support a Grieving Autistic Person

Thoughtful Ways to Support a Grieving Autistic Person

Life is full of hurdles, and unfortunately, a person might experience the death of a loved one, job loss, divorce, long-term illness, and other challenging situations which may cause grief.

During this moment, a person experiencing feelings of grief and despair, including those on the autistic spectrum, needs support to cope.

To help, you must know thoughtful ways to support a grieving autistic person.

One way to provide support during grief is by teaching them how to cope.

Individuals with autism may find it difficult to recognize and process their feelings during the grieving stage.

You can support them by providing clarifications on their questions, teaching them comforting techniques, and encouraging them to stick to routines.

Also, reassurances and affirmations will go a long way in helping an autistic griever.

An autistic person might process loss differently from others and grief in their unique way.

It is essential to reassure them that it's okay to grieve in their own way and at their own pace.

Similarly, you can provide support by offering help with practical tasks and ensuring they maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Even for autistic people, feelings of loss and grief can disrupt their routines, interests, and ability to live like they used to.

During this critical stage, they will need emotional and physical support to get their life back on track.

Read on to learn thoughtful ways to support a grieving autistic person: 

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Teach Them How to Cope

Many autistic people experience difficulties expressing and coping with their feelings.

This difficulty, coupled with grief, can lead to an overwhelming period of anxiety, sadness, and confusion and may affect their mental health.

However, you can effectively support a grieving autistic person by teaching them how to cope.

For one, you can comfort them through an exchange of information.

Autistic individuals may need to be explicitly taught about their loss situation and how to cope.

Educate them with the necessary information in smaller chunks and endeavor to answer questions they may have.

Also, retaining and maintaining routines is an excellent way to cope with feelings of loss.

It might be challenging to continue daily routines while grieving; however, maintaining them can make the grieving process a lot easier.

In addition, there are several ways you can encourage an autistic person to cope with grief.

You can suggest they read books, reminiscence on happy moments, write positive affirmations daily and practice relaxing techniques.

Provide Affirmation and Reassurance

A grieving period is a critical stage where an individual needs the most support and love.

You can support a grieving autistic person by providing reassurance and affirmations.

Show support by listening to their feelings, providing comfort, and validating their thoughts and emotions.

Also, endeavor not to judge or compare their grieving process to anothers'.

People with autism process information differently and may not react like every other grieving person.

It is important to reassure them that people respond to grief differently, and that is okay.

Sometimes people going through loss often blame themselves for their situation, autistic people included.

This thought process can make a grieving person harsh towards themselves and may cause potential harm to their mental health.

You can provide reassurance by letting them understand they are not the cause of the situation.

In addition, giving a griever as much time as they could possibly need to grieve is vital.

While affirmations and reassurances can go a long way, the heart will heal on its own accord.

Some people recover from their grieving stages in months, while others take years.

There is no timetable for the grief process, so you must be patient.

Get Involved 

Grief can cause difficulty concentrating, excessive self-stimulating behaviors, frequent anxiety episodes, reduced appetite, and a range of emotions for autistics, which can be difficult to manage.

A more helpful way you can support a grieving autistic person is by getting involved in their life to help them get back on track.

For one, you can help them with their routines.

Unpredictability can cause stress and make the grieving process more difficult.

Ensure they know to stick to their routines and restructure a new one with them, if necessary.

Also, you can get involved in their lifestyle.

If you have a close relationship with an autistic griever, ensure they practice proper hygiene, eat well, continue their favorite activities, sleep well, exercise, and lead a healthy lifestyle.

Similarly, a grieving person might be reluctant to ask for help or make a request.

Rather than waiting for them to ask for help, get right into it.

Join the cooking, bring dinner, send flowers, and help with shopping.

Helping in concrete ways will lessen their burden and help them focus on passing over their grieving stage.

Stay in Touch

Many autistic people have a small circle of friends and a limited social life.

Hence, It can be difficult for a grieving autistic person to cope and manage their feelings of sadness, anxiety, loss, and grief, all by themself.

One way you can support a grieving autistic person is by staying in touch.

Find out the mode of communication they prefer.

Whether text messaging, emails, or phone calls, leverage that to check up on them regularly.

A grieving stage can be the loneliest period in a person's life, and by constantly communicating with them, you can help them cope.

Likewise, you provide support by inviting them to small social gatherings.

Usually, most people with autism prefer solitude and may avoid social situations.

However, introducing them to a familiar or controlled environment will make them feel more at ease attending.

In addition, birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions, can be a difficult period for a grieving person.

This supposed happy moment can become difficult to celebrate and enjoy.

You can provide support by sending messages, cards, or heartwarming gifts.

Most autistic people don't like surprises, so it's best to inform them forehand if you will be visiting. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

People with autism often have a hard time labeling, processing, and articulating their emotions as well other people's emotions.

They might be going through confusion, anger, and disbelief and become highly vulnerable to developing anxiety or depression.

Through cognitive behavioral therapy, you can support a grieving autistic person to overcome complicated grief emotions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is beneficial for grieving people on the autism spectrum as it helps them change how they think, feel about grief, and behave.

With therapy, they can make sense of the situation, regain a sense of control and talk about their emotions.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy will help a grieving person walk through stages associated with the grieving process.

The therapist will use both behavioral and cognitive techniques to help them cope with symptoms of anxiety or depression and aid their healing process.

Facing the reality of loss and adapting to it can be challenging for an autistic person.

They may express emotional reactions, including detachment, denial, numbness, disbelief, shock, or emotional distress.

This distress can lead to delusions, continuous crying, detached behavior, and hallucinations.

During this stage, the best way you can offer support is to introduce them to therapy as soon as possible. 

Conclusion

Navigating the feelings of grief and loss is hard for most individuals, especially those with an autism spectrum disorder.

Unlike the non-autistic response, autistic people, when dealing with grief, may find it hard to process their feelings, understand the situation and react appropriately.

However, there are thoughtful ways you can support a grieving autistic person.

You can support autistic individuals during their grief by getting involved, staying in touch, teaching them how to cope, providing reassurance, and cognitive behavioral therapy.

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March 25th, 2023

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