Grief and Bereavement Resources

Psychologists suggest the following resources to help autistic people understand and cope with tragedy and grief.

  • Helping a Child with Autism Deal with Disaster
    Individuals with ASD tend to be inquisitive, seeking to learn more about topics they are interested in. Autism Speaks has provided some suggestions from school psychologists Peter Faustino and Andrew Livanis to help in processing information about tragedy for various groups along the spectrum.
  • Talking to Your Child about Tragedy: Six Tips for the Autism Community
    In this post, school psychologist Peter Faustino answers a question from parents: Can you share some tips on how to help our child on the spectrum understand a frightening and violent tragedy in the news?
  • How to Talk to Your Child with Special Needs about Death
    Autism parent Jennifer Lovy shares a personal story, along with advice and 8 tips for talking to your child with special needs about death.
  • Death and Grieving: Tips from Pathfinders for Autism
    The loss of a loved one is difficult, and complex. How do we explain death, funerals, and loss to our children with autism?
  • Supporting Individuals on the Autism Spectrum Coping with Grief and Loss through Death or Divorce
    The focus of this article from the Indiana Resource Center for Autism is on how children and adults on the autism spectrum may experience loss due to death or divorce and how to provide support through the grieving process. 
  • Grief and Loss: Helping Children with Autism Cope
    Family members and caregivers of children with autism understandably want to help their child comprehend what is happening both when anticipating and after the death of a loved one. Stages Learning provides some ideas about how to help kids with autism understand and cope with death and bereavement.
  • Understanding Death and Illness and What They Teach about Life: An Interactive Guide for Individuals with Autism or Asperger's and their Loved Ones
    by Catherine Flaherty 
    Author Catherine Faherty offers detailed, concrete explanations of illness, dying, life after death, losing a pet, and numerous other issues. Her descriptions are written with such care; even caregivers will be comforted by her words. The Communication Forms following each short topic will engage learners and include them in the conversation, allowing them to share personal experiences, thoughts, and concerns. Wonderful chapters such as "What People May Learn When Facing Death" and "Role Models and Mentors" put death into perspective in terms of life, and encourage us all to live fully. 
  • Autism and Loss
    by Rachel Forrester-Jones 
    People with autism often experience difficulty in understanding and expressing their emotions and react to losses in different ways or in ways that care givers do not understand. In order to provide effective support, care givers need to have the understanding, the skills and appropriate resources to work through these emotional reactions with them. "Autism and Loss" is a complete resource that covers a variety of kinds of loss, including bereavement, loss of friends or staff, loss of home or possessions and loss of health. 
  • Finding Your Own Way to Grieve: A Creative Activity Workbook for Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum
    by Karla Helbert
    Children and teenagers with autism can struggle to cope with the loss of a loved one, and the complicated and painful emotions of bereavement. This book explains death in concrete terms that the child with autism will understand, explores feelings that the child may encounter as a part of bereavement, and offers creative and expressive activities that facilitate healing.
  • It's Ok to Feel This Way: Validating a Child's Swirl of Emotions Amid Drama
    by Susan M. Funk
    "It's Ok to Feel This Way" is a Healing Art coloring book that deals exclusively with children's swirl of emotions through trauma. While children may recognize themselves through some of the drawings, adults will also have a tool for reaching out to a troubled child. This book is a vehicle for discussion, for children to see that life happens without it being their fault.
  • Bereavement and Autism Spectrum Disorders 
    Death and bereavement are subjects we do not find easy to discuss. This natural reluctance means that we avoid discussing death until it is too late, especially with someone who has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 
  • COMPASS Information Series: Understanding Death
    If possible, a person with autism needs to experience rituals and grieving with people who love them. They will be well aware that people around them are upset and that routines are disrupted. They will react in their individual ways. This document provides a list of resources and books concerning children and young adults and death.  

For more information and resources, contact the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team