Grandparents Day is a wonderful holiday, meant to honor grandparents and help to strengthen intergenerational bonds. For some, though, it’s a reminder of loss, and a time of sadness. It’s not unusual for a child to lose a grandparent, but what about when the loss goes the other way? Grieving grandparents are often overlooked, but their sadness is just as real as anyone mourning the loss of a loved one.
When a child dies, the parents are, understandably, the primary focus of sympathy and comfort. Losing a child brings intense pain, and can even be a difficult time in a marriage. If you’re a grandparent suffering a loss, you may feel lost in the shuffle. It’s a different kind of pain, when your own child has lost a child, because you’re not just mourning the loss of a grandchild, you’re also suffering the pain of not being able to protect your own child from pain. While these feelings are natural, there is a way through them, especially if you take some steps to help yourself deal with all the feelings.
Talk to your child. Your feelings are complicated, and so are your child’s feelings. Be gentle with each other, and appreciate that everyone experiences grief differently. Avoid making any judgments or giving unsolicited advice. The best thing to do is just be there for each other.
- Do what you can to help. Offer to bring meals, or grocery shop, or watch the other children, if there are any. Be aware that the grieving parents may not even know what they need, and try to think about it objectively, to think of helpful things to offer. It’s also important to be aware that they may want some time alone; don’t be offended if your offers of assistance are refused. If there’s nothing they need right now, just wait and offer again later, without allowing yourself to have hurt feelings or feel rejected.
- Take care of yourself. It’s important to make sure you’re eating well, as well as getting enough rest and exercise. Especially when you’re concerned about your family members, the tendency may be to push your own needs to the bottom of your priority list. However, you have to take care of yourself in order to be helpful to others.
- Spend time with loved ones. If you have other grandchildren, be sure to spend time having fun with them. No matter what, spend time doing things you enjoy, with people you love. Life is precious, and nurturing relationships is one of the most important things you can do to take care of yourself.
- Do something to honor your grandchild’s memory. It could be something symbolic, like planting a tree, or it could be something practical, like volunteering at an elementary school. The important thing is to find a way to use your grief in a positive way, to help you find your own path.
- Be gentle with yourself on holidays. For a while, holidays like Grandparents Day, as well as birthdays and anniversaries of the death, may be painful and difficult. This is to be expected, so be patient and give yourself some time to heal. Do something special for yourself on these challenging days, whether this means participating in an activity that brings you joy, or simply spending time alone.
Whether your grandchild was an infant, a child, or an adult, your loss is a loss of future hopes and dreams, and it’s a loss you share with your own child and your child’s partner. Together, you’ll grieve, and together you can find a path to renewed hope. We want to provide the support you need along the way, so please contact us if you need help. We’ve got resources to make the journey smoother. Visit our website for more information, or call and speak to a member of our caring and compassionate staff.