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My son is grieving horrably over the recent loss of his dog.

What can I do?...
My son is grieving horrably over the recent loss of his dog. What can I do? I am concerned over his ability to function. His life centered so much around the dog. He's a straight A student, excellent runner Track and Cross Country, has friends but no one real close. Has shown no interest in girls. The death came as a shock - cancer but we missed the signs. Vet last Tuesday diagnosed it as a intestinal disorder. He left for school one day and never saw the dog alive again. Elliot has one sister 14 (heart broken but strong) and two brothers 11 & 12 that are managing ok.
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Answered in 28 minutes by:
4/1/2011
Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,334
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Verified

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.

Let's first rule out a mild undiagnosed Asperger Disorder, okay?

Before that, though, has he been treated for any other issues?

You say he has some casual friends, but does he make friends easy now and in the past? Did he play in age appropriate ways and have good social skills?

Does he tend to obsess on activities he likes and have a hard time stopping when it's time to do something different?

Does he have repetitive motions and movements? Does he also have certain habits he does over and over?

Does he bring his fingers to his mouth or make facial expressions when talking, when he's unhappy or angry?

Does he have a hard time relating to other people's feelings? Does he express caring and love for anything other than the dog?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Let's go forward from the answers to these questions.

I see you are online at this time but I'm going to be going into session soon, so if I can't answer before that, would later today be okay for me to respond?

Dr. Mark

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Thanks for the respone.

He has not been treated for anything before.

He has played in age appropriate ways in the past. He goes in his room and bounces around in pretend mode. quite a bit - likes to fantasize on his own.

I would say he does not obsess but never let's his homework slide even for a minute.

Does not bring fingers to his mouth when angry or sad.

Has not cried in many years. He's been crying constantly since the death. Blames himself for not doing something sooner. Mom and Dad were on vacation getting back the day after it happended but niece who was providing care kept it from them. We told the kids.

He does express love to myself and mom.

He's a pretty private kid. Very reserved. Does not like to party. Does not like noise.

I will make myself available to chat anytime.

Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue. Once we are in question/answer mode, the site doesn't have a mechanism for switching to chat mode. So let's continue this way.

First, let me say I can imagine how confusing and distressing this situation must be for you. Distressing can be understood--your son is very distressed. But why do I say confusing?

Because his grief seems to be stretching on in time and in intensity above and beyond the normal bounds of a teenage boy's expression of immediate grief for the loss of his beloved dog. And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about.

Your son's behavior is not normal. The other kids' behavior is much more within normal bounds. I sense you know this within yourself. This is why I asked about possible Asperger Disorder. Your responses seem to indicate there may be a mild form of AS or some features of AS. Or perhaps some other slight developmental disorder. Because his relating to the world and events of the world seem just a bit off in a developmental way.

Therefore, there are two recommendations. If he continues to exhibit these same behaviors unabated or they become even more pronounced, then you know you have to seek professional interventions. You would then need to find a psychologist who has experience with kids who might have AS. That would be helpful so there could be an evaluation as well. And even if ruled out, the techniques of working with AS kids will be useful for your son.

Before that, though, I would recommend you take the unilateral action of getting another dog given that you are willing. You need to announce to him that you are going to do that. So only make the announcement when you are ready to get the new dog. Invite him to come with you or not as he wishes. Let him know it's his choice to come or not. Encourage him to come even if he says he doesn't want to. Tell him you would like his opinion on the new dog, which new dog would be good to choose. Then get the new dog and see if he is able to bond with it. That will give you good information about your son's condition.

Hopefully your son will bond with the dog within a few days and this will end the episode. I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****

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Customer reply replied 6 years ago

Even though he is adamant about not wanting another dog you feel I should pursue that?

I don't know anything about Asperger disorder. I'll have to research that.

I think you need to do that. Because the grief is passing from normal bounds. And there are others in the house so who would also enjoy having a new dog.

AS is a spectrum disorder, meaning you will see lots of different variations in severity of symptoms. Your son, whatever his developmental situation has very mild symptomology in some area developmentally. The aloneness and aloofness, etc. and this intense reaction all point to something going on.

I wish you the very best!

Please remember to click the green accept button. Feel free to continue the discussion; my goal is to get you the best answers possible. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, ***** *****

Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,334
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
Verified
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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,334
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Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice

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