Loss of Loved Ones

The loss of a loved one can never be fully anticipated. Consider the range of emotions you may experience, such as grief, guilt, shock, loneliness, compassion, and humor, and think of how that might reflect in your child with Asperger's Syndrome. The difference may be that while you and others close to you may outwardly show such emotions, you may not readily detect such feelings in your child. Just like you, comprehending the loss of a loved one (even a beloved pet) may take time for your child to completely process. Because your child isn't grieving in “typical” ways, such as openly sobbing or wanting to be with and talk to close family or friends, doesn't mean he isn't experiencing everything you are. The opposite could, in fact, be true.

Explaining Death

Remember that honesty is the best policy. You may be pressured by well-meaning friends or relatives to offer some alternate explanation for the loss of a loved one, such as “Uncle Rich has gone away and won't be back,” “Daddy's just sleeping,” “Your baby sister won't be coming home from the hospital,” or “Grandma's resting in the ground now.” At some point in time your white “fib” will be exposed and the cover-up — despite your original best intentions — could upset the trust between you and your child.

Essential

Remember that it is typical of all people to mourn the loss of a loved one and to become depressed with grief. This, in and of itself, is natural and expected, and does not make for clinical depression unless it becomes prolonged and stymies the person's daily life. Monitor your child's grieving process and be aware of the symptoms of depression as they might apply to her experience.

In explaining death, you will wish to call upon your own religious and spiritual beliefs as the foundation from which to begin such a discussion with your child. Analogies, such as referring to other people who have passed or transition metaphors like the butterfly, may be helpful — as will drawing and writing out what you intend to communicate and reviewing it regularly.

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