A journey through grief with autism.

Alan Greenwell

5-Minute Read


This is probably going to be the hardest post to write from a personal point of view.

When my Dad died a realisation came about to do with my Mam’s mental state. She had dementia. She was diagnosed with a particularly horrible version called Lewy Bodies. She lived in a world that existed in her head but not in reality. She saw children in a basement we did not have. She talked about visitors that did not exist. At times she looked terrified.

After she was moved into a nursing home for her own safety things got worse. I have always had a good relationship with my parents and have tried to look after them in their later years like they did for me in my early years. Putting Mam in a nursing home was not easy, but looking after her at home and Tam was becoming impossible. Things got even worse, my cuddly Mam lost weight and her condition got worse. Then she starting having moments of what appeared to be lucidity. Her face would change, she would stand taller and ask me for a cig and then once I had lit it for her she would plead with me to kill her. This happened over and over again until one night I totally broke down. I sat in the car for hours crying. Bev eventually talked me down and got me home. I had a nervous breakdown. Another followed weeks later when I had an argument with Bev about going to see Mam and ended up walking around town from 10am until 3am the following day. It ended when I could walk no more and was approached by a policeman. I got home safe and saw a doctor again. Up until this point I had been drinking heavily and hiding it from Bev. She would fall asleep watching the TV with me and I would have another bottle of wine. At least 1.5 bottles of wine a night. I was drinking to forget. I stopped the night the police took me home. I have not drank since.

At this point I started talking antidepressants. At first I was scared of them. Then when I got over that it made me so foggy that anything outside of the bubble I was in was not part of my world. After trying different kinds I got to a place I could operate. All of this time I did not see my Mam. That was the doctors advice as well as Bev.

My Mam passed and another weird breakdown. This was like mania. The drugs continued but I felt a sense of peace that my Mam was at peace. Our family started to get to normality and Bev had pieced me back together. For the first time in a few Christmas’s we headed to a holiday with some stability and normality. I was more than happy with Bev and Tam and I pushed myself to be the best I could. I made sure they both knew how much they meant to me. I tried my best to be my best.

Then my world collapsed again. Bev died leaving me and Tam. My world collapsing had to wait. I had to be strong and concentrate on Tam. I had to organise a funeral, keep my boy safe, keep myself going, had to deal with insurance, pension, coroners, and a myriad of other people with essentially no help. Tams school provided the most help, they put things in place and accepted a lot of things about Tams behaviour. My mate Micky as usual asked no questions and was most supportive.

I had reviews with our family doctor who was brilliant and I started again on anti-depressants. We went at a pace I could cope with and over the last year we have got to a much better place. I like the fact that our Doctor will keep me in check if I am trying to go too far or too fast.

So I take anti-depressants and beta blockers to keep me squared up. It has taken time to get to a good place, but I think that is part of the stages of grief, plus getting Tam to a better place. Yes, it has taken time, but I think with everything that has gone on it was stupid in hindsight to have expected quicker results. I am in a place where I feel more competent to look after myself and Tam.

Some people see mental health as a weakness. Some people would love to mock me for taking anti-depressants. I say that taking anti-depressant is not a weakness, I think it takes strength to accept the difficulties of life and realise that you need help. I think that people who admit there need for help are some of the strongest around. The ability to look within and release that you need help is a strength not a weakness. So anyone who mocks people with mental health issues, be damn careful, you will be visited by mental health issues at some time in your life. For one thing grief visits us all.

PS Sorry for writing 2 posts in a day. This is what happens when Tam won’t sleep. It 3:53BST and no signs of Tam sleeping.

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