Grieving and comprehending this with supported individuals whether they live independently or within their family is an area that is complicated and has no clear definition. In essence there is no clear “way” to grieve. Grieving a loss coupled with cognitive challenges can take this life process to another dimension, requiring a different understanding and support.
For caregivers, we may feel helpless and may revert to the following in order to protect our loved one. The following are areas to avoid when a supported individual is grieving:
- Overprotectiveness that creates a reluctance to upset individuals
- Limiting exposure or discussion of death, loss and grief
- Putting a time limit on their grief. There is no time table for grieving. Over time an individual’s painful and emotional reactions lessen and returns to their former levels of functioning
- Grief never goes away, and there may be surges of this emerging especially during holiday or anniversary times in which the deceased is deeply missed
- There is no sequence or stages within the grieving process (Worden 2010)
- The process is individual
There needs to be consideration that supported individuals may experience grief with what seems like distorted limited emotional reaction. However, within everyone there is a spiritual element, that encompasses not only our outward reaction, such as crying or anger, but inwardly. It is known that when there is a significant loss there is sense of longing, or an emptiness that is experienced. There needs to be honour and dignity when a supported individual also experiences a loss in their lives, without the assumption that they will not notice or it just goes away. Avoiding these assumptions, paying close attention to behavioral changes, giving space and supporting resources that can aid in this process for as long as they need will be integral to their unique self- expression, healing and moving through their loss.
Doody,O. (2014) Loss & Grief Within Intellectual Disability. Research Gate: https://www.research/gate/net.publication/288010367