A journey through grief with autism.

Alan Greenwell

3-Minute Read


I have had a couple of days to reflect on the past week and what me and Tam are doing. It has taken a couple of days because of panic attacks that I have had with some of the stuff me and Tam need to do.

To be specific I will use one time which was dropping off Tam at the respite centre. After dropping him off I went to get the bus back home. A walk of less than a hundred yards. During that walk I got chest pains, my breathing went nuts and I thought I was going to fall over. It was all I could do to stay standing. I ended up sitting on the floor and trying to recover. The pain was real, the breathing was out of control. Panic attacks are horrible. I wanted to go back and get Tam and go home.

The bus came, I hauled myself up and got on the bus. I must have looked bad because the bus driver asked me if I was ok. “Fine” was my only answer and I sat down. Still my breathing was ragged, still my chest hurt.

Convincing myself that Tam was safe was the only thing that started to restore some form of calm to myself. Panic level was still high and I just wanted to get home.

Less than 30 minutes later I was home and sobbing. I could not get out of my head what Bev would be thinking of me putting Tam in respite. My brain and thoughts were torn in two. I knew in my heart that she would know that it was the right thing to do. Not the best thing, but OK. My head wanted her to scream at me and say “what the hell are you doing with our boy”.

An hour and a half had passed and the sobbing had stopped, the breathing was under control and the pain was subsiding. I was shattered. Surely sleep would come tonight.

To be clear, I don’t write this for sympathy. Sympathy does me or Tam no good. This is something I have to go through. This is something I have to endure for now. I have medication which sometimes works, but panic attacks are not planned and most certainly don’t give advanced warnings. Maybe I need to carry my medication with me and better understand the circumstances that might trigger an attack. That might be the best plan for now.

The reason I write this is because I know that many people have panic attacks for various reasons. My reasons are not better or worse than someone elses, they are just different. My reason is to be open and transparent about what is going on with our lives. I am trying my best to protect me and Tam from anymore hurt. That might be totally futile but I will use everything in my skill set to do be the best I can for him and me. Right now I have loads of questions about what the best mechanisms are. I will make mistakes, but I will either learn or win.

Down to the point of this post. Don’t be frightened to be fragile or vulnerable. Share what scares you. Talk about what brings you down. Be honest with yourself and the ones around you. Finally be good to yourself and don’t be harsh to yourself. It is a learning process, eventually we will come out the otherside and be stronger and wiser.

Have a wonderful day.

Alan and Tam

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