Death makes a visit
Don’t worry, I’m not considering it (at least as far as I’m aware of. Fate may have other plans), but the subject came up recently when a friend told me that someone close to her was diagnosed with cancer and given three to six months left to live. As I expressed my concern and disappointment over the news, I was “lectured” about how to handle people when they face death. I felt that I was being treated a little childishly, but I understand why someone would advise me to take such precautions. People are most vulnerable emotionally when they lose a loved one as they often have a difficult time accepting the fact that they’ve lost a contact for good. I experienced the emotional disturbances that come with the death of a loved one after my maternal grandfather died. It happened five years ago, but I produced his tribute video. I wasn’t close to him, but having gone through so many facets of his life, it proved difficult to contain my sadness so it wouldn’t interfere with my job. His funeral proved less mentally exhausting.
What my grandfather’s death did for me, however, was give me the opportunity to see how others responded toward the event. Until then, I had only seen fictional occurrences, although the real-life version wasn’t far off. Crying was common, except in my eyes, and anticipating any kind of response or behavior was just about impossible. Approaching someone who knows that time may be short is a virtual catch-22, because you risk criticism for not offering support if you do nothing, but there’s a risk of aggravating the situation by offering to help, especially if no precautions are taken.
Having gone through a few hurdles with this, the strategy I have for now is to offer support if requested. I don’t want to interfere with the grieving process but don’t want to come off as cold-hearted. I think I’ll be getting another lesson soon.
What concerns me is not how others react emotionally, but how they would interpret my response. My dad was confused about my emotional state during my grandfather’s funeral; I kept a straight face from the eulogy to burial. I understood at an early age that death is part of the life cycle and unavoidable for any life form, and any effort to dispute that would be pointless. I do take the time to reflect on someone’s life after he or she has died, I just don’t get worked up about it. Problem is, not many share or would likely want the logical intepretation of death. I’m worried that my lack of emotional distress over such a jarring event could inadvertently damage a friendship or two, but I don’t think there are many options to prevent that.
I blogged about this before on YouTube and touched on the subject in a previous blog on this site, but I bring this up because I see death as the biggest social obstacle between the autism spectrum and neurotypical community. In an oddly non-coincidental way, my clock will reach zero someday, and all my concerns, thoughts and observations will become moot points.