By: Margo Asay, Full Circle Supporter
I’m a fixer – I think all moms are. No matter how old your child is, moms feel the need to fix – to make it better. But sometimes that’s not possible. The feeling of helplessness to change the situation is a crushing blow. To witness your son or daughter mourn the loss of their child is a double gut-wrenching blow.
As a grandparent, you grieve for the death of your grandchild and the loss of your own hopes and dreams. Although I lost my granddaughter Logan almost five years ago, I think of her every day. I imagine what she would look like and if she would have the same mannerisms as my daughter, her mother. I wonder if she would have been enthralled with the color purple or want to wear dresses with sparkly shoes.
As a grandparent, you grieve the loss of innocence for your own child as they will never see life the same way again. You can’t protect them from the daily reminder of what has been stolen from them. I miss my daughter. She now sees the world through a lens colored by loss and grief. I want to fix it – but that’s not possible.
If you are like me, you never give up in trying to lessen the blows. How may you ask?
What can I do as a grandparent to make it in any way better?
- Allow yourself to grieve. Yes, it is your child’s loss but it’s yours as well. You will never be given the opportunity to watch that grandchild grow and flourish into this perfect little human. You will never have the trips for ice cream or shop for that special gift. Even if you have other grandchildren afterwards, you will never have it with that child. Allow yourself to grieve as a mother as well. No matter how old your child is when they are hurt, you are hurt.
- Seek support for your grief so that you will be available for your son or daughter. Finding a support group of other grandparents either online or in person, allows you to share your feelings and not keep them bottled up. You want your child to feel comfortable expressing their grief to you, but this is difficult for them to do when they feel like your grief is all encompassing already.
- Listen. You might not be able to fix anything, but you can listen. Look them in the eyes. Don’t interrupt. If there is a pause in the conversation, ask a gentle question. Reflect back to something you heard them say. It’s ok to just sit in silence with them. Allow them to share their pain without telling them things will be better.
- Acknowledge Mother’s and Father’s Day to the parents because to them they are and will always be that child’s parents. You can also acknowledge Bereaved Mother’s and Father’s Day which shows your understanding of their never-ending connection to their child.
- Do your part in remembering the infant or child that is lost. Include them in holiday remembrances and other family traditions. Every year, I buy a Christmas ornament for my granddaughter and put it on the tree. Even after her brother was born, I made sure she was remembered. Last year, I planted a tree in memory of her in my front yard. This year, her brother and I decorated ornaments and put them on her tree.
- Help can be simple – grocery shop, cook, laundry, walk the dog, take your clues from the parents. Ask them what you can do to help. If they don’t have an answer, suggest something. Do not take it upon yourself to do something without first seeing if it is something they would want done. When my daughter lost Logan, I stayed for a few days to help with things around the house. I also researched support groups for grieving parents and that was how we found Full Circle Grief Center. I did the research and left the information on their table to decide if this was something they wanted to attend.
- Finally, I learned that although I can’t fix Logan’s parents’ grief, I can lessen the blows by saying her name and remembering her along with them. When I see beautiful sunsets, I send the picture to my daughter letting her know that Logan is looking out for us. When a cardinal visits my birdfeeder on the coldest, snowiest day in winter, I think of her and say her name.
I may never have held Logan or kissed her sweet cheeks, but she made me a grandmother and for that I will always be grateful.