“It’s OK, Momma, It’s Gonna Be OK”
I worried that my son with ADHD wouldn’t be able to handle the grief of a funeral, but the sweet surprise is that he wound up comforting me.
“I can’t go. I really can’t, Momma,” Ricochet said, pleading with me. I had told him we’d be traveling to the funeral of his great grandfather, after breaking the news that he had passed away.
It wasn’t the long road trip that he objected to. It was the overwhelming sadness and grief he’d be surrounded by, which makes him uncomfortable. He is blessed with great empathy for others, but, having both ADHD and autism means emotional communication and processing are painful challenges for him that he’d rather avoid.
We couldn’t and wouldn’t avoid my grandfather’s funeral. I explained to Ricochet that it’s something we had to do, and that I’d help him get through it every step of the way. We packed his noise-cancelling headphones and iPad right next to his new slacks and button-down shirt. We prepared for the event, as well as his special needs.
I expected Ricochet to be detached the entire weekend, to stay off to the side in his own bubble of self-preservation. I expected him to resist going to the services. I prepared myself mentally and emotionally for the challenges that likely lay ahead.
When we arrived at the visitation, Ricochet went straight to the back of the room, in the opposite direction of the casket. That was expected and totally acceptable. I walked with him and directed his attention to the slideshow of photos of Daddy B’s life playing on the TV back there. I thought the old pictures from the first half of the 20th century would be interesting to him. Instead, it made Daddy B’s death real for Ricochet, and he finally broke down and cried.
Once he had a good cry and worked through his emotions, he ended up entertaining a lot of his younger cousins throughout the visitation. He was respectful and helpful.
The next morning, he told me he wasn’t going to sit in the front rows of the church with the family, because it was too close to the casket. We wouldn’t have made him, but, when the time came to take our seats, he wanted to sit together to support everyone. Ricochet ended up holding me when I broke down sobbing as we filed out the doors of the church behind the casket for our final farewell.
“It’s OK, Momma. It’s gonna be OK,” he sweetly whispered and wrapped his arms around me gently. My tears became as much pride for my boy as grief for my grandfather.
Little flags were given to each of Daddy B’s 11 great grandchildren at the cemetery to lay at his graveside and honor his military service. Ricochet had said he wouldn’t get out of the car at the cemetery, because it’s too unsettling. But, again, when the time came, he wanted to honor Daddy B and support me and his grandma. He led the line of great grandchildren up to the casket to lay their flags at his grave.
We expected that Ricochet would have a tough weekend, but he showed more maturity, empathy, and compassion than we thought possible.
Again, Ricochet taught us to throw out our limiting beliefs about his diagnosis and be open to the possibilities that he could do more, manage more, than we thought.