Aspies and Grief

Gavin Bollard has a great post on his blog regarding how persons with Aspergers grieve.  Maybe one of the big things about those of us on the autistic spectrum is that we don’t have emotions.  The reality is we do have emotions, but they are expressed very differently than most neurotypicals.

Gavin shares a recent trauma, how it affected him and how others were affected by him:

We all deal with strong emotions, such as love, anger and grief in our own ways. My wife tends to cry things out but I often internalise them and take them on board as stress and at times, self-harmful behaviour. In the kids, these emotions can manifest as meltdowns or as general destructive behaviour. Sometimes there’s nothing to see on the surface at all.
The point is that although we each feel these emotions and we feel them at similar strengths, our reactions vary widely both in intensity and visibility…
For some reason, our society seems to think that it’s okay to quantify emotions based on visible reactions. If an event occurs to two people and the woman is crying while the man is not, then the woman needs the most care and attention because “she’s the one who is really hurt”. The solution is to talk in a quiet voice and bring lots of cups of tea and chocolates.
The man, by contrast isn’t bawling his eyes out, so he’s obviously not hurt. There’s nothing that you need to do for him. There’s no need to tread lightly because “he’s not even upset”.
In fact, if the event is of an appropriate level, for example the death of a loved one, then anyone not outwardly grieving is “fair game”. You can take things out on them and you’re more or less expected to say “what’s wrong with you man?”. The words “you don’t care” should also be used in conversation to him.
Sound familiar?
It’s something that many neurotypicals do and yet so few realise how wrong it is.

 Gavin’s point is that just because someone is not crying doesn’t mean that they are not feeling any emotion.

I saw this a few days ago and was planning to write something about it.  Like Gavin, life stepped in a provided an object lesson.  Late Wednesday evening, my Aunt Nora died.  For the last five years, she suffered the horrible affects of Alzheimers and was being taken away from her loved ones bit by bit.  I’ve known this woman since I was a baby, so of course it is sad to me.  But, I’m not really bawling my eyes out.  I’m rarely the one that is overly emotional in times like this.  For a long time, I wondered if something was wrong with me.  It’s not that I didn’t feel sad- it’s just that I didn’t react in the same way others did.
We live in this world where we expect people to grieve in a certain way.  But there isn’t one way to grieve.  Those of us on the spectrum do feel sad and sometimes we can feel sad in ways far stronger than neurotypicals.  But we don’t show it in the way that others do.
I think about this as I think about my Dad.  All of his sisters and brothers are now dead and he’s the last one.  I know that he is grieving, but typical him, he doesn’t show it.  I don’t think this is because he is autistic, but he is the typical male of his era.  
But as someone that doesn’t express emotion like others, I do understand and I will let him grieve in his own way.
Sometimes the tears don’t show on the outside, but they do appear in our hearts.

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