A journey through grief with autism.

Alan Greenwell

3-Minute Read


The grief monster is back again with Tam and his dreams.

Dr. Kubler-Ross listed the stages of grief as shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. John Bowlby proposed 4 stages: shock and numbness, yearning and searching, despair and disorganization, reorganization and recovery. Now I think for me I can see the Kubler-Ross as the path I am on and the Bowlby path as the one Tam is on. I think Tam blasted through the shock and numbness and has got stuck on the yearning and searching. To be clear though Tam is not doing grief in anything like a linear way and neither am I. When Tam gets down I get down down.

Last night I managed to get Tam to bed and everything was good. A nights sleep and a busy day, rinse and repeat. Tam and me being busy and doing things together is a good day.

Less than an hour of Tam being asleep in bed I heard him screaming for Mammy. So for the second night running I rushed in and tried to settle him back to sleep but he was sobbing and beyond any form of settling. It is something that we have to ride out. After multiple attempts to get him settled and back to bed we called a halt and settled down to some reading. He continued to be upset all night. The tears flowed on and off all night. Yearning and searching seems to be the best description of where Tam is in the grieving process. My main concern is that he does not get stuck there for the rest of his life.

Recently I heard the best explanation of death. At the end of an interview Stephen Colbert asked Keanu Reeves, “What do you think happens when we die?” After a pause Keanu replied “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” Tam shows that to be deeply true. We both miss Bev but it is the depth of loss that Tam has that is heartbreaking.

Anyway after all of that we have ended up with a repeat performance of yesterday. It 5:03am and Tam is quiet for the first time since about 10:30pm. He has finally settled after another episode of bad dreams. Tonight, or this morning depending on your point of view, Tam pleaded to get out of bed so I tried to settle him on the sofa beside me but he just cried. All he kept saying is “daddy please”, asking to stay up and not to be put in bed. I even tried lying in bed with him but he just cannot settle.

Wednesday I slept from 10-1pm and Tam slept from 10-2pm but it screws the day up badly. We got busy and I pushed on to get him tired but it has not worked. So right now the clock is ticking and as soon as Starbucks is open we are on our way out, a cuppa and cake for dad and Tam will have a cup of ice, bacon sandwich and cinnamon role. From there we will work out the day and see if I can keep him busy until at least 7pm and then we will sleep. Well that’s plan A.

Wish us luck

Alan & Tam

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