Mourning in people with intellectual disabilities

Mourning in people with intellectual disabilities

The birth of a child with a disability presupposes an impact within the family.This is seen as something unexpected, strange and weird, that breaks the expectations we had about our child. As it grows, resources and supports of all kinds become more and more necessary. However, in the majority of cases, families are not ready to respond to the functions that derive from these special needs. One of these needs is communication, especially when it comes to giving bad news.

All parents who have a child with a developmental disability ask themselves a question as soon as they become aware of this disability:What will happen when we are no longer there? How to manage the bereavement of someone with an intellectual disability?

Phases and types of grief in people with intellectual disabilities

phases

The majority of authors agree thatthe process of mourning goes through different phases or stages.Mourning for people with intellectual disabilities follows the same pattern. These phases range from the initial impact to the final recovery or chronicization of the problem. Therefore,we can organize this evolution in four phases:

  • Initial impact:perplexity, shock. The main symptoms are negation, disbelief and panic about this situation.
  • Rage and guilt: this phase is characterized by the presence of ideas of self-punishment, feelings of anger, a search for culprits and a feeling of abandonment.
  • Disorganization of the world, despair and withdrawal:the person resists a return to normal life, feels weak and tends to isolate himself.
  • Assertion of reality and recovery:the person begins to see life with hope. Even if there are certain specific moments – which normally coincide with key dates such as birthdays – where she may have the feeling of falling back into an earlier phase of grief, the person faces reality through the elaboration that she has done. of the loss.

Types of grief

With regard to the types of bereavement, we can distinguish two basic ways of responding to such a situation: normal and pathological.Several things will distinguish these two basic types: the intensity and duration of symptoms, as well as the degree of affectation in the person's daily life.

Normal grief comes to an end when the person reaches the last phase of the process by having closed the previous phases. She can recover an emotional stability that will allow him to regain his enthusiasm for life and to face other problems.Pathological mourning can be of two kinds:

  • Complicated or unresolved: it occurs when the person remains stuck in one of the phases and experiences the loss very intensely or when they feel nothing (as if they were anesthetized)
  • Psychiatric Mourning:symptoms consistent with a possible diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder
Mourning in people with intellectual disabilities goes through different phases ranging from the initial impact to the final recovery or chronicization of the problem.
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How to manage bereavement in people with intellectual disabilities?

Certain criteria of general activity can help guide and channel the expressions of sadness and despair that normally accompany grief reactions.Although it will always take into consideration the personality characteristics and the degree of intellectual disability.

Standards to follow

Once the loss has occurred, one speaks of a reactive point of view.The standards to be followed would be:

  • When and how to announce the news Although it is extremely painful and difficult,it is better to warn the person as soon as possible.The best way is to use few words, with language that is easy to understand. This announcement must be done simply.
  • It is recommended to pushthe person to speak and ask questions.You have to be concerned about how she feels and not be afraid to name or talk about the deceased.
  • Give information about death or loss clearly, simply, directly,by making it clear that these situations are not chosen or controlled.
  • Explain to him thatsome of its symptoms are peculiar to the process of mourning and they will disappear little by little.
  • Individualized attention:take into account their personal characteristics, their particular history, their previous responses to other losses, which worked to address them …
  • Remember that memories can be kept (photos, letters, etc.).It may be useful to create a photo album or a memory box that will allow you to relive certain moments when it sees fit.
  • In the case of recent deaths,involve the person, as much as possible, in rituals and events related to funerals.It is important that she can anticipate the next events.
  • To ensure that the person with a disability continues to follow his or her routine and daily activitieswith the greatest normality.

Questions and decisions

In the end, one of the biggest concerns for the families of people with intellectual disabilities is knowing what will happen when they are no longer there. Who will take care of their children? Will they be taken care of? Will they be alone? It is true that no one can answer these questions because the future is uncertain.However, being able to anticipate some important decisions so others do not have to take them for us can help someone experience a difficult time (such as bereavement) in a less traumatic way.

Informing the person with an intellectual disability as early as possible and providing individualized attention will facilitate the grieving process.

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