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Caring for AutismPractical Advice from a Parent and Physician$
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Michael Ellis

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190259358

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190259358.001.0001

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Stages of Grief, Spirituality, and Religion

Stages of Grief, Spirituality, and Religion

(p.195) 11 Stages of Grief, Spirituality, and Religion
Caring for Autism

Michael Ellis

Oxford University Press

Dealing with any great stressor challenges our core beliefs about ourselves and about life in general. Most of us have certain reasonable expectations of how things will go in our lives. We will graduate from high school, maybe go to college, probably get married, likely have children, and so on. Small wobbles from our intended path in life are understandable to us. Although we all have different tolerances for frustration in dealing with obstacles in our way, we usually handle these troubles well. None of us expects that tragedy will strike. We never think during pregnancy that our child may have a disability or even that our child could die. We have typical expectations for our child’s life similar to those of our own lives. Thus, when we finally are told that our child has autism, our world comes crashing down. Our worldview is shattered. The plans we had made for our child’s life and our futures are forever changed in an instant. The way we cope with this immense challenge changes everything, for us and our child. At some point during any discussion of autism, we must bring spirituality and religion into the conversation. It is impossible not to do so. Any parent whose child has received the autism diagnosis knows this to be true. This is because in order to cope and find acceptance, we must find meaning. How can we accept this news without adjusting our worldview or understanding of life? We must come to terms with the questions that inevitably arise, such as “Why me?”, “How could this happen?”, “Whose fault is this?”, “What did I do wrong?” Other questions that come to mind for those who already believe in a higher power are “Why would God let this happen?”, “Why did God do this to me?”, “Am I being punished?”, “Why would God allow such suffering, especially for a child?” Sometimes it is only through great trials that we realize the need to find deeper meaning.

Keywords:   meaning-making theory of grief, mentalization, positive religious coping, spirituality, theory of mind

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