How do adults with ADHD cope with grief?
Content warning: This post explores how I deal with death of loved ones and grief
Content warning: This post will focus on loss and grief. Specifically on how ADHD [impacts] the way we deal with death and grief.
These past couple of weeks have been really hard for me. My close friend recently passed away unexpectedly and I attended her funeral this week. I’m still processing it.
I’ve been asking myself whether there are any interlinkages with ADHD and coping with grief. How do adults with ADHD cope with grief? Does it affect us differently?
I decided to be super vulnerable in this newsletter. I’ll be writing about my own experience which will include dissociation, emotional processing, guilt, and how I’m coping.
“Dissociation is a disconnection between a person's sensory experience, thoughts, or personal history. People may feel a sense of unreality and lose their connection to time, and place.” - webmd
I recently read that many people experience dissocation at some point in their lives. This could be due to stress, a traumatic event, difficult relationships and anxiety.
I’m experiencing dissociation as a result of losing/burying a close friend this week. The symptoms of dissociation that I’m experiencing are feeling emotionally numb/disconnected and having a distorted sense of time (time blindness).
I can’t seem to make sense of it all. But the more I read about dissociation, the more I’m inclined to think that this has links to my ADHD traits. Here’s why:
Inattentiveness = not paying attention to my sad feelings
Distraction = Finding distractions so I don’t come to terms with the loss
Poor memory = In my case, selective memory and choosing not to recollect
This is my way of interpreting it. I haven’t come across anything on the internet that I could relate to in relation to ADHD and grief. So I decided to breakdown how I’m feeling and to share it with you all.
Read here for more information on dissociation.
“Processing emotions is about learning to understand, make sense of and deal with emotions in healthy productive ways.
You might be so disconnected from your own feelings or so accustomed to suppressing them that at first you might just feel nothing.” - Christine Askew
I’m currently experiencing poor emotional processing. What baffles me is that ‘emotional sensitivity’ is a common ADHD trait. Many ADHDers would say they feel things more intensely. Howver, what I’m feeling is the opposite of this.
I wonder whether this an unexplored area of ADHD or whether I’m an anomaly.
When we read about ADHD and emotions, we come across articles on Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) and Emotional Dysregulation. The main focus usually being the intensiveness of our emotions, our outburst, and our behaviours.
Why isn’t there a focus on dissociation, avoidance, or emotional memory?
Once again, I wonder whether this an unexplored area of ADHD or whether I’m an anomaly.
My stomach is in nots just writing this section. The feelings of guilt is a feeling like no other. It feels like a hard punch to the gut.
What am I feeling guilty about?
You never know until it’s too late. We had been planning to meet up last year but COVID and several lockdowns made it more difficult. Also, life in general. I had lost my uncle to COVID last year and kind of withdrew a lot.
I wish we spoke more last year. I wish I told her I was proud of all her achievements more often. Even one last phone call. But it’s too late.
Those of us with ADHD often talk about how difficult it is for us to keep in regular contact with closed ones. Ever since my friend passed, I’ve had to make the extra effort to check up on friends and keep in regular contact. Is it draining? Yes. But I never want it to be too late to say the things I’ve wanted to say.
I’ve actually found it very comforting keeping in regular contact with people during this difficult time. I’m trying to form healthy habit around this moving forward.
It gets easier
First of all, I want to thank everyone who has sent me well wishes on twitter. I’ve seen every single one of them and it’s warmed my heart.
I’m still taking things day by day. I’ve recely started practising Qigong via YouTube as a way to cope with grief. I feel much lighter, and less tension in my neck, shoulders and back. It has also helped me to be present and grounded. So it’s pretty much keeping me sane and on the straight and narrow. It doesn’t take much effort and it’s quite peaceful.
I know I haven’t included any nswers or strategies on how to cope with grief. But I needed to use this newsletter edition to let it all out.
If you’ve lost someone, just know, that it gets easier.
Rach, with ADHD.
Hi Rach, this is insanely eye opening. I have yet to be truly diagnosed with ADHD myself, but I find myself in every facet of what you so beautifully shared. Not only on the disassociating and the lack of emotional processing, but also the guilt. I lost my grandfather last March. 1 week before the world shut down. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February 1 week before I was set to go on a long planned holiday to Thailand. Because of this, I did not have a chance to call him or message him before he passed. I am holding onto the guilt of that, but also have taken to fully ignore my emotions. I have always dealt with grief by bucking up and moving on. Maybe 1 day of crying and then acting like nothing horrible just happened to my heart. I get back to action. As a hyper-sensitive emotional person, it is crazy to think that I can cry over dogs in a commercial, yet I can't fully process my emotions when I am hurting.
Just a theory, but it may draw from the over-exertion of having to deal and process our emotions. Just like I get overwhelmed in a large task, having to overcome my emotional distress is not something that can be done easily. It may be our brains trying to distract us from having to actually accomplish something so monumental by pushing it away.
I’m really glad you shared this. I never thought to dive into a connection between my ADHD and grief. I also lost a very close friend of mine unexpectedly a little over 5 years ago. A lot of what you laid out sounds very familiar to me and it makes a lot of sense. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I still think about him every single day, but I can concur with the others that it does get a little bit easier.