Guest Interviews — 5 Minutes

What is Grief?

Guest Interviews — 5 Minutes

What is Grief?

Dr. Donnie Blake is Director of Grief Counseling at Agapé Hospice.

Kristina Blake: Hey, I’m Kristina from the Autism News NetWORK, and I’m here with Dr Donnie Blake, Director of Grief Counseling at Agape Hospice. And I’m going to ask him some of your questions.

Kristina Blake: Have you ever counseled a person with grief with autism?

Dr. Donnie Blake: I’m glad you asked that. Yes, I have. And I want to explain a little bit difference with that. There’s a total difference with someone who has autism processing grief and somebody who does not have autism and processing grief.

Dr. Donnie Blake: The biggest difference is people with autism have a hard time adapting to change and their anxiety kicks up with change when they’ve lost somebody in their life. It’s like double the grief because not only are they experiencing that loss, they’re experiencing that change in their structure and that change in their daily lives.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Because we can look at, for example, if somebody with autism lost a parent, they would be experiencing change in their life as far as not just the loss of that parent. It could be loss of shelter, their habitat, where they live. It could be a loss of structure, that family structure, that leadership, that mentor. That cohering of the cocoon of that person that might have been close to them and watched over them, and that structure they’re used to.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So it totally changes when an autism person has losses in their life, it totally changes their outlook because they’re trying to figure out how just to process, how am I making it through this day with this change in my life, let alone dealing with the aspect just of the loss. So it’s almost like a personal with autism gets a double dose of grief because the change in life is going to kick up one anxiety and then the loss itself will kick up another anxiety for somebody who has autism.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So it takes a little bit more detail. Somebody with autism, usually he needs a little extra counseling than somebody else just because they’re working through the whole process of loss and the adaption of change in their life, and that new structure and that new model in their life. How they have to learn how to navigate this whole new structure in their life that’s been totally changed. So most of the time people with autism have to have a little extra counseling, a little extra help to work through this process.

Kristina Blake: What are the things that people can do to help get through that grief?

Dr. Donnie Blake: There’s a lot of things people always ask me about grief. Is there a cure for grief? Well, I always tell people there’s no cure for grief. Grief is something we have to work through because there’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic pill to help you through grief. So it’s a process to work through.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Some of the things we do with people is we do writing generally, we have them write down what they’re feeling, whatever it is, whatever the word they’re feeling. If they’re angry, we have them write it down, because when you write things down, it’s like you’re releasing that word. So when you write down and read it back, it can help you process what you’re feeling. So that’s one of the things we do.

Dr. Donnie Blake: We also recommend a couple of other things we do with people, we teach these things, we teach [inaudible 00:03:06]. We do art therapy where people can paint through their grief. We do that. Let people paint what they’re feeling and when they see the picture sometimes that helps them process their grief and what they’re feeling. And sometimes when they’re doing this stuff, they didn’t know they are spilling that stuff externally, but it’s helping them release it and identify what they’re feeling in their emotion and their grief. And it comes out in this stuff, in the journaling and the painting.

Dr. Donnie Blake: A couple of other things we suggest, if somebody goes to bed at night, that’s when your mind starts easing down and your mind starts to get active when you’re sleeping, because everything’s quiet in the house. So your mind gets over active and you start working through the processes and everything starts racing through your mind. So people have a lot of times with loss and grief, they have a hard time sleeping.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So one of the things we recommend for people is a weighted blanket, to help with the anxiety, give them a cocoon protection feeling and help them calm down at night. We recommend lavender oils, a lot of times they help bring calming about them. And these things seem to help sometimes. And it’s not a one size fits all thing. So not all of these things might work for one person, might not work for another person.

Dr. Donnie Blake: The other thing we also teach is self-guided meditation. We teach people how to do self-guided meditation to help them bring in their life, to help them adapt to the grief they’re experiencing at that time when it gets overwhelming to them. Especially with autism, a lot of times stuff can get overwhelming to you and especially if you’re grieving, and you take somebody with autism who gets overwhelmed easily anyway, then that grief could just kick that into higher gear. So we really try to teach people how to use calming methods to help them through the grief.

Kristina Blake: Well, thank you for taking your time with us.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Thank you Kristina, for having me here today.

Kristina Blake: Again, I’m Kristina from the Autism News NetWORK.

Kristina Blake: Hey, I’m Kristina from the Autism News NetWORK, and I’m here with Dr Donnie Blake, Director of Grief Counseling at Agape Hospice. And I’m going to ask him some of your questions.

Kristina Blake: Have you ever counseled a person with grief with autism?

Dr. Donnie Blake: I’m glad you asked that. Yes, I have. And I want to explain a little bit difference with that. There’s a total difference with someone who has autism processing grief and somebody who does not have autism and processing grief.

Dr. Donnie Blake: The biggest difference is people with autism have a hard time adapting to change and their anxiety kicks up with change when they’ve lost somebody in their life. It’s like double the grief because not only are they experiencing that loss, they’re experiencing that change in their structure and that change in their daily lives.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Because we can look at, for example, if somebody with autism lost a parent, they would be experiencing change in their life as far as not just the loss of that parent. It could be loss of shelter, their habitat, where they live. It could be a loss of structure, that family structure, that leadership, that mentor. That cohering of the cocoon of that person that might have been close to them and watched over them, and that structure they’re used to.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So it totally changes when an autism person has losses in their life, it totally changes their outlook because they’re trying to figure out how just to process, how am I making it through this day with this change in my life, let alone dealing with the aspect just of the loss. So it’s almost like a personal with autism gets a double dose of grief because the change in life is going to kick up one anxiety and then the loss itself will kick up another anxiety for somebody who has autism.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So it takes a little bit more detail. Somebody with autism, usually he needs a little extra counseling than somebody else just because they’re working through the whole process of loss and the adaption of change in their life, and that new structure and that new model in their life. How they have to learn how to navigate this whole new structure in their life that’s been totally changed. So most of the time people with autism have to have a little extra counseling, a little extra help to work through this process.

Kristina Blake: What are the things that people can do to help get through that grief?

Dr. Donnie Blake: There’s a lot of things people always ask me about grief. Is there a cure for grief? Well, I always tell people there’s no cure for grief. Grief is something we have to work through because there’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic pill to help you through grief. So it’s a process to work through.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Some of the things we do with people is we do writing generally, we have them write down what they’re feeling, whatever it is, whatever the word they’re feeling. If they’re angry, we have them write it down, because when you write things down, it’s like you’re releasing that word. So when you write down and read it back, it can help you process what you’re feeling. So that’s one of the things we do.

Dr. Donnie Blake: We also recommend a couple of other things we do with people, we teach these things, we teach [inaudible 00:03:06]. We do art therapy where people can paint through their grief. We do that. Let people paint what they’re feeling and when they see the picture sometimes that helps them process their grief and what they’re feeling. And sometimes when they’re doing this stuff, they didn’t know they are spilling that stuff externally, but it’s helping them release it and identify what they’re feeling in their emotion and their grief. And it comes out in this stuff, in the journaling and the painting.

Dr. Donnie Blake: A couple of other things we suggest, if somebody goes to bed at night, that’s when your mind starts easing down and your mind starts to get active when you’re sleeping, because everything’s quiet in the house. So your mind gets over active and you start working through the processes and everything starts racing through your mind. So people have a lot of times with loss and grief, they have a hard time sleeping.

Dr. Donnie Blake: So one of the things we recommend for people is a weighted blanket, to help with the anxiety, give them a cocoon protection feeling and help them calm down at night. We recommend lavender oils, a lot of times they help bring calming about them. And these things seem to help sometimes. And it’s not a one size fits all thing. So not all of these things might work for one person, might not work for another person.

Dr. Donnie Blake: The other thing we also teach is self-guided meditation. We teach people how to do self-guided meditation to help them bring in their life, to help them adapt to the grief they’re experiencing at that time when it gets overwhelming to them. Especially with autism, a lot of times stuff can get overwhelming to you and especially if you’re grieving, and you take somebody with autism who gets overwhelmed easily anyway, then that grief could just kick that into higher gear. So we really try to teach people how to use calming methods to help them through the grief.

Kristina Blake: Well, thank you for taking your time with us.

Dr. Donnie Blake: Thank you Kristina, for having me here today.

Kristina Blake: Again, I’m Kristina from the Autism News NetWORK.

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