Explaining to a child about someone who has passed away is not easy. As an adult, you need to be careful of what words to tell a child and see how they respond to them. In this way, you will be able to foresee the things that will happen next and what are things we need to avoid while talking to them. But how will you explain to a child who did not experience any loss of a loved one without getting so much confusion, especially if the child has a developmental disorder.
Autism is a condition that needs special attention and care from a family they belong to because this involves difficulty in maintaining conversation and has trouble in understanding the things that are happening in the surroundings. Children with autism in general have challenges interacting with other people and are not able to make a simple back and forth conversation. They also have challenges in sharing what they feel. That is why as an adult we need to understand how we can explain it to them without triggering more confusions.
This is a big responsibility of an adult or a parent because they are the ones a child can rely on whenever they are in need of something. Though it is a hard job on your part as a parent coping from a passing of a loved one and explaining to your child with special needs about bereavement, it is still a process that needs to be gone through for them to understand fully what happened. And also a way to develop their social and emotional understanding of basic aspects of life. Consider this as your guide in explaining to a child with special needs about bereavement.
This may not always be the best idea to start a conversation but can be a good help to know how you will proceed in explaining to them about what happened and the concept of people passing away. Through this, you will start getting their attention though they are not responding yet.
It may seem harder not to use euphemism to a child especially when they don’t understand what is happening. Be literal as you can be, tell them the reality of what is happening instead of using words like “Grandma went to sleep forever” or “she is going somewhere far away and will never come back”. These phrases will either scare them or will lose their interest to travel and mingle with other people. Explain to them gently and slowly the concept of people passing away.
There is no right or wrong on how to grieve but for children with autism, when they slowly understand the emotion of losing someone in the family they either need someone as support or will shut themselves out in the dark. They may experience a mixture of emotions like anger, anxiety, or breakdowns. As a parent, you have to be there for them and never live on their side no matter what they will do. You are the one who will understand them the most.
Create a tradition that will help your child feel comfortable in the process of grieving. For example, visiting a loved one’s place where their ash caskets are buried once a year or have a family bracelet for ashes to remember them. This will help the child understand that they may no longer see the person, but still feel the same care and love as they used to feel.