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Anticipatory grief and bereavement: the perspective of an individual with autism

02 August 2022
19 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 8

Abstract

Much has been written around the meaning and impact of grief and grieving on people's lives following the death of a person, and anticipatory grief/grieving is receiving increased attention in nursing and healthcare. However, the impact of anticipatory grief on an autistic male adult has received far less research exposure than that of neurotypical (non-autistic) adults. This article, ‘written’ in the form of a letter by the author to community nurses, seeks to address this. The intention is to initiate reflective discussions around anticipatory grief and grieving, as current and future support will be stimulated on the part of community nurses through dialogue between those on the autistic spectrum and community nurses. Ultimately, the aim of this article is to help improve the support provided by community nurses to autistic individuals.

Bereavement, in all its manifestations and lived experiences, has been the focus of several published research, clinical works and interventions. However, it could also be suggested that there are significant gaps in knowledge around specific issues and population groups (Thorp et al, 2018; National Bereavement Alliance, 2020). Such gaps in knowledge could have a detrimental effect on both the delivery and perception of the support services of these population groups. Bereavement and its effects on men, and its effects on those who have an autism spectrum condition or who identify themselves as autistic, are of special interest to the author of this article. The author is an autistic male in his early 60s, whose wife died of multiple and long-standing health and disability issues in January 2021 after nearly 30 years of marriage. This article hopes to initiate a reflective debate around anticipatory grief (AG) and grieving, as well as the current and future support provided by community nurses for autistic adults who are journeying through these experiences. The intention of this article is to help improve the support provided by community nurses to autistic individuals.

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