Explaining Death to my Little “Aspie.”
When my brother-in-law recently died, I wondered how I would explain it to Cameron. How could I say it so that he would understand it and feel the magnitude of it?
The problem with explaining something like death to a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, especially one who is only seven years old, is that they seem to view the situation in the abstract. One cannot really know if they have gotten through to the child.
I knew that I had to explain this to Cameron in a factual way. I had to try to leave my emotions out of the explanation, or else he may be distracted by my show of emotion and fail to listen to my words.
I called him into the bedroom and told him to sit on my bed. I said, “I have something important to tell you, and you have to listen very carefully.”
He said, “Okay, mommy.” He sat down and looked away for an instant.
I said, “Look at mommy. Listen, because this is very important.”
When I was certain that I had his attention, I said, “Do you remember Angel?”
He nodded, so I continued. “Angel died, Cameron. He has gone to be with Jesus. He won’t be here with us anymore.”
Cameron just looked at me and waited. Knowing that he was, on some level, waiting to see what was expected of him, considering this news, I explained a bit further. “People are going to be sad and they are going to be crying. They will probably need extra hugs and for you to wipe their tears away.”
He simply said, “Okay, mommy. I’ll try.”
His reaction may seem to be without emotion, but it was what I had expected to receive. He seems to view things in a factual sense. A friend of mine, who is also an Aspie, said, “Think about Data on Star Trek. It’s like that.”
In Cameron’s mind, it seems to process like this: “Someone has died. People have cried. Hugs have been given, tears wiped away. It’s over now.”
He had a similar reaction a couple of years ago, when my mother died. He had given me hugs and kisses. He had wiped my tears away and said, “Now, make the tears stop.” When I was still crying a couple of days later, I heard his little voice come from the bedroom, “Why are you still crying?”
I went to spend a few days with my sister after I got the news. I didn’t want her to be alone. I knew that my husband could handle everything at home. Everyone would pitch in and do their part.
I spoke to Cameron every night. As usual, his part of the conversation was mostly fantasy talk.
On my second night there, he was jabbering something about The King of Thieves. He then mixed his fantasy with a bit of reality. He was telling me something about The King of Thieves’ treasure chest. He said, “Maybe you can find Angel in The King of Thieves’ treasure chest.”
I realized that he knew that Angel was missing, but he didn’t understand that we wouldn’t be finding him this side of Heaven.
Death is a difficult concept for anyone to make sense of. Cameron was processing it in the best way a seven year old Aspie can.