Explaining "loss" to Dominic

Cathy Blatnik

I first started writing this blog back in July 2011, because the first six months of 2011 were incredibly challenging (lots of personal losses). I needed a way to get out all of the emotions I had been holding in. My husband calls me the "glue that holds our family together." Well, that's sweet, but sometimes glue dries up and starts to "crack" a bit!

I have never considered myself a writer (I have a degree in Business). Anyways, flash forward to April 28 of this year. We had just dropped off my stepson and his wife at their hotel and were driving home from Lauren's college graduation. I was sitting in the back seat and started getting text messages from my brother that my mom was going to the hospital for an infection. The next day she was eating applesauce and was in relatively good spirits.

I was totally caught off-guard the next day (Monday) when my brother called me to tell me my mom was gravely ill. My first extinct was to hop on a plane and fly back there. I knew my family would want to be with me, so I made the decision to wait until Tuesday. Unfortunately, she passed away as we were driving back to Maryland. My siblings and our families were able to put together a very nice service on short notice.

I was extremely concerned that Dominic would be so out of his routine that he would start having seizures. He has had nine, the most recent one in March. I made sure Dominic had his "travel" schedule, which is a spiral notebook that is only used for when we travel. I also packed up his other favorite items. He knew my mom who he called, "Grandma Martha," pretty well.

Funeral homes are not exactly the best place to have a child, much less a child with Autism, hanging out for hours. I let him go to the very back of the room and play with his favorite items. I asked him three times while we were there if he wanted to go up and see my mom. He told me no and I didn't push the issue.

Dominic was very respectful and quiet during the whole day and it was a LONG day. When we got back home to Michigan that Sunday, we settled back into our routines. I like to think of Dominic's brain like a file cabinet. He sees and hears everything that is going on around him, even though it may not seem like it. He "files" things away for later use.

When my mother-in-law passed away at the beginning of 2011, we struggled as to how to "explain" that loss to him. We ended up telling him that she was "broken" and we couldn't "fix" her, so she went up to heaven.

In the weeks since we have been home since my mom's passing, I have asked him if he knows where my mom is. He has said, "no," which means he doesn't want to talk about it. This morning, I said, "do you know what today is?" I continued to say, "it's Memorial Day, it's a day to remember those who have passed away in wars." He then said, "up in Heaven." I'm hoping that one of these next few times I ask him about my mom, he will be able to make the connection that she too is in heaven.

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