Death is difficult to explain to any child. It is difficult to grasp as an adult. It was difficult to explain to my neurotypical four year-old when my father died two weeks ago.
“Mommy, where is Papa?”
“Papa is not here anymore. Papa died. Papa’s body stopped working and he stopped breathing, eating and talking.” We read a few books about missing a loved one who died. I avoided any religious references that may cloud her understanding. But my four year-old did not quite comprehend. She asked for my father the next day and was bewildered when he was not still in is bed.
But I hesitated when I approached my 8 year-old daughter with non-verbal autism. I sat down to tell her grandpa had died. She grabbed her iPad and started watching an Elmo video. She paused when she saw I started to cry and wiped my tears. She smiled up close to my face as if to say, “Be happy.” She did not understand and she did not like to see mommy cry.
So I turned to a resource on the Autism Speaks webpage. There are several resources such as books, coloring books and articles. I knew my daughter with autism was a visual learner so I took her to the wake. I walked her up to the casket and told her grandpa’s body was not working anymore and he was not sleeping. I told her to say goodbye to him. I gave her a rose to put in his casket. She did not seem to understand but it was a ritual and she loves rituals. It seemed to mean something to her. I was told by a doctoral-level BCBA not to tell my daughter that my father was sleeping – because she may be frightened to go to sleep. I did not tell her he was sick because it may make her fearful of getting sick or if I get sick.
I find it difficult to express my grief in front of my children. I feel I have to be happy mommy and it is business as usual. Yet, I miss my father and I am truly sad. I started showing
In the next few weeks, I plan to explore the resources listed in this link: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/resource-library/bereavement-and-grief-resources