I never understood grief. I had never lost anyone close to me suddenly or unexpectedly. My great-grandparents have all passed on, but their deaths were not a surprise and I was not emotionally close to any of them. When my nephew passed away, I suddenly understood loss. For years I struggled to understand why one of my best friends was so emotional about certain things. I could not sympathize when she struggled with a coming date that commemorated a birthday or reminded her of the day a loved one died or so many other dates that seemed to mean something to her. I simply had no experience with grief and while I tried to be supportive, I admitted to her that it was not something with which I could sympathize.

I understand grief now- not in an all-encompassing depth of knowledge, as I only have a glimpse of the journey that I now travel, but I now understand that grief is real. I have nights of not being okay. I have days where everything seems to remind me of that terrible tragedy. I know what it is like to ache for a part of you that will never return. I try not to sink too deeply into my grief. I know that I must cling to happiness because depression constantly reaches for me, simply waiting for me to slip back into its grasp. I must not succumb to the grief because it will swallow me whole if I choose not to fight. However, I do need to greet the grief. I need to welcome it and entertain it for a while because it is now a part of me that needs to be addressed. There is a balance to grieving and a balance to living. I must do both. I will do both as I traverse these new emotions that I never thought would be a part of me.

Sympathy and Empathy

Do you sympathize or empathize with others?

Probably… but most likely not all the time. There are things that we just┬ádon’t understand. If you have never known someone who died, it’s impossible to empathize with someone who had a loved one pass away. If you have never had the experience of being teased or bullied, you can’t really empathize with someone who goes through that every day.

So… why do we ask if people with autism can empathize?

I don’t understand the dichotomy between what questions are appropriate to ask of people with autism and people without it. If you feel sympathy, why wouldn’t someone with autism feel sympathy? If you can empathize, why wouldn’t someone with autism be able empathize? We’re human too… We may not sympathize or empathize in everything, but no one can. We all have different experiences and can only understand what we’ve somehow experienced.

Anyway… rant over… I just had to get that out.

My best friend is homeless right now and just had her phone stolen… and I am definitely empathizing… And I just don’t understand how anyone could not empathize at some point. Empathizing is part of being human. Just because I may not be able to express my empathy like others or relate to certain things doesn’t mean I don’t empathize. I empathize as much as anyone I know… and I think everyone else with autism does too…