How to Deal with Grief in Uncertain Times as an Autistic Person
November 02, 2022
By: Grace McGrath
Uncertainty is never fun, but when it’s coupled with grief, it can all seem like too much, and as an autistic person, where the world can be unforgiving as is, it can be an even more significant burden. This is a topic that was put in the front seat for me recently as my mom passed away earlier this year. While for most of my life, I didn’t know I was autistic, my mom still never made me feel wrong about being different, even though we had no label. And when she passed, along with the grief of losing a parent, I had the grief of losing one, if not, the only person I didn’t feel I had to mask in front of. This put me in a world of uncertainty because I felt like I had a void in my life.
I am still on my journey of dealing with the loss of my mom, but in many ways, the whole world is grieving from COVID-19 deaths, mass shootings, police violence, a tense political environment, and much more we all need support in some form or another. That’s why I want to present some lessons and advice I have learned so you can process your grief in times when your life seems uncertain.
Emotions are something that exists in most folks in some form or another. Society’s construct around gender and emotions may make you think it is “weak” to cry. I am here to say it isn’t. When you experience grief, emotions come along for the ride. And when you don’t process them, they bottle up and will come back eventually and may end up hurting an innocent person who has no idea what you have been through. As an autistic person myself, my emotions are more powerful at times compared to others, but after my mom passed, I let myself release them when they showed up. It made me feel better and allowed me to continue to work and do outside activities successfully. A good cry is underrated.
Uncertainty can cause restless energy in your body, so it is essential to find something you can dive into. As autistic people, we have special interests, so it is important to see how you can make sure you can use it to help release that energy. You will thank yourself later. This will also help cut down on anxiety, which is a plus.
This one took me a while to learn because society makes you think everything is a competition, but it isn’t. You have to do what fits your circumstances, and no one knows that better than you. Grief is something that never leaves, but you learn to live with so don’t believe you are ever getting grief wrong. Just consult your body and go from there; it knows the way. As autistic people, grief can cause unease as it will affect your personal routines and timetables because your life has forever changed. This was the case for me, so I found ways to do things I had done before with my mom in new ways, so I didn’t lose them completely. You just got to do some adjusting, and while that’s scary, at least in my case, it’s necessary to hold on to routines that give comfort.
It may be cliche to say, but although we have come a long way, there is still a long way to go. When you look to the past, it shows we have managed uncertainty before, so that can help with dealing with the uncertainty you see in the world right now. It doesn’t mean you can’t be mad and angry, but there is room for hope. There are people fighting for change right along with you. Just look at how neurodiversity is more accepted than it was before. There are more opportunities, but change is still needed so we can look to the past for ideas and hope.
You can only control yourself, not anyone else. This relates to the routine/timetable tip but is worth mentioning again because when we feel uncertain, sometimes we focus our energy elsewhere because we ourselves feel overwhelmed. This leads to us not looking after ourselves and only causing ourselves hurt. Remember, no one has your best interest in mind besides yourself, so put yourself first, and that will make it so you can show up for people in a more successful way when you have the capacity.
I hope this blog has given you some actionable advice you can use in your own life. Uncertainty and grief can make some days harder than others, and that’s okay. There is no trophy or prize to win just for you to find some peace in a chaotic world. And remember, you aren’t alone. There is a community out there for whatever you are going through. The human race is successful because we care for others, so make sure you spread care wherever you go; you never know who needs it.
Grace McGrath (she/they) is a graduate of the University at Albany class of 2020. They joined AmeriCorps VISTA after graduating and moved to Montana. After their service term ended, they moved to Virginia to work full-time and pursue their Master’s degree at Marymount University. Grace wants to be an advocate for folks in the future regarding sexual assault and domestic violence, whether that is in higher education or another field. Overall, Grace hopes to make the world a better place, and they try to do that through their work and volunteering. Feel free to follow Grace on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram.