My dear friends, as I write this I am in deep thought caused by the loss endured by my good friend and math mentor.
Grief looks different to each person but in particular to a non-speaking autistic. Our grief is felt through the lens of sensory differences. Not all have the capacity to express their losses through a letter board. Some must handle their grief in physical ways. Some may bite themselves or hurt themselves. This is grief made manifest in the feeling of pain. Some may have feelings of impulsivity and find themselves being motor messes.
Life is hard for the grieving autistic. I am often plagued with feelings of fearing abandonment when I am grieving the loss of a loved one. Relief only comes in the form of rituals with my family that must be adhered to in the smallest details.
New loss is a painful occurrence, yet old loss is as if it endlessly happens to us with each new memory of our loved one. My kind grandfather Mike passed many years ago, and yet a smell or the sound of a harmonica can send me into a kind of grief full of sensory overload, giving me intense memories of my loss as if it has entirely happened anew. In these moments, I may laugh or become impulsive and tear up anything in my path. It is important during these times that my team or family understand that what they see might not match what I feel. Such is the confusion of neuro-pathways. It is a terrible burden not to be able to express sadness like others do.
So my good friend Jen, this blog is for you and Richard as you both mourn the loss of beloved Omi. I give you both my love. I am hoping that this helps you both and in particular, Richard. He will process this differently due to his neuro-diverse brain. Something special about us is that when we remember our loved ones we live within those memories, as if they are happening again. This means that for your son, Mami lives on. Our loved ones are always with us, but in particular, they exist in a bubble of memories we can immerse ourselves in whenever we need to feel their presence.
Grief is hard not only for those having to experience the loss but for those supporting the grieving autistic.
May her memory be a blessing.
Ethan Nagy views himself as a Renaissance man following his own interests, including history and math. Ethan is a published author, having contributed a chapter to the book Underestimated: An Autism Miracle. Joining the NLC is the perfect merging of his love of writing and his newfound passion for advocacy. Ethan resides in Oregon with his family.