In so many ways, a grandparent’s grief following the loss of a grandchild is overlooked and unacknowledged. We all instantly think of mom, dad, and siblings, but more often than not, grandparents and their grief are forgotten. Today, we’re here to say that grandparent grief matters, too. No matter how old your grandchild was, your grief is real, legitimate, and deserving of support and love.
As a grieving grandparent:
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief
In so many ways, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. You feel a deep sense of grief and loss over the death of your beloved grandchild, and you also feel a responsibility to help your own adult child through their own loss. By all means, help your adult child as much as you can through this devastating loss, but don’t forget that your own grief is real and not something you have to push aside.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief
While it’s true that you aren’t the parent, you’ve still suffered a deep loss. One of the most common and beneficial ways to process grief is talking about what you feel. Just because you are in a unique position doesn’t mean you have to stay silent about what you feel. Don’t bottle it up. Perhaps your adult child needs to know that this loss has devastated you as much as it has them.
3. You have the right to feel what you feel
Grief brings out a wide variety of emotions, and you have a right to feel them. You may feel sad, angry, shocked, or even guilty. There may be a very deep sense that the death of your grandchild is unnatural and unfair, which is true. All of these are normal emotional responses to the death of someone you love, and they are a healthy reaction to the loss you’ve suffered.
4. You have the right to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally
As we age, our energy levels decrease, so you may have noticed that you have less energy than you did when you were younger. That said, grief takes a mental, emotional, and physical toll on you. Your inclination may be to help your adult child as much as possible, but make sure to also take stock of your own physical and emotional needs. If you need a nap, take a nap. If you need a brain break, take it. Do what is needed to give yourself as much energy as possible so that you can face the grief journey ahead while also offering a helping hand and caring heart to your grieving adult child.
5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts”
There will be times when an unexpected wave of grief will come over you. This is called a griefburst. It can feel frightening, but don’t worry, it’s normal. And even though you may feel that your loss isn’t as significant as your adult child’s, try not to compare losses. Everyone is hurting, and you have the right to grieve, too.
6. You have the right to participate in healing rituals
After losing someone you love, participating in healing rituals helps you take that first step in the grief journey. By honoring and remembering life, you take time to cherish your memories and share them with others. As a grandparent, you have as much right as other family members to find comfort in your memories and dreams.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality
For many people, faith serves as an anchor during the tumultuous seasons of life. If you are a person of faith, then fall back on your habits to help you cope with your grief. Meditate. Pray. Sing songs. Write. There is comfort in God’s arms, and you have the right to seek refuge there.
8. You have the right to search for meaning
Especially following the loss of a child, you may find yourself asking, “Why did this happen? Why couldn’t it have been me instead?” It’s natural to ask questions and to search for meaning in the loss. Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. Regardless, searching for meaning is a natural part of the grieving process, and it’s okay to contemplate and consider the questions running through your heart and mind.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories
While you may have lived a little on the periphery of your grandchild’s life – not being the parents – you still have a strong connection to your grandchild and many precious memories. Cling to them. Share them with others. Discuss the love you feel and the loss you feel. Your memories are priceless so treasure them close to your heart as you grieve.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal
Grief takes time. It’s different from person to person. You will grieve one way and your spouse will grieve another. But no matter what it looks like, you have the right to grieve the loss of your grandchild. You also have the right to heal and not feel bad about it. Right now, the hurt may be too deep, too new, too fresh, but in time, as you do the work of grief and work through your emotions, you will find the path toward healing and reconciliation. Your life is changed forever, but you can still find hope and meaning, discovering ways to honor your grandchild’s life and memory.