From the moment you became a parent yourself, you have sought to protect your child from the pain and sorrows of life. Mostly, you have been successful. You’ve had the ability to solve problems and the power to lessen hurts.
Suddenly your adult child is facing a pain far deeper than any other pain in life. It may be deeper than anything that you have ever experienced, or perhaps you can understand this sorrow because you, too, have lost a child. Either way, you are now experiencing a variety of emotions: helplessness, frustration, grief, guilt and anger.
You are grieving for your grandchild. All your hopes and dreams have been shattered and your promise of immortality has been broken. You had wondered if he or she would favor your side of the family, wondered what he would become and had perhaps even bought gifts for later on (like a first tricycle or special doll.)
While your grief may not be recognized by your own child, you are, most definitely, entitled to it. Grandparents are often referred to as the forgotten grievers. You were looking forward to a special relationship with your grandchild, one of unconditional love unhampered by parental responsibility.
All the little ways that you had to coax a smile from your child are useless. Now all the magic words that used to solve the problems are empty. You can only sit by, offer support and watch your adult child learn to live with this loss.
Grandparents often feel that they should cope better, have all the answers, control the situation and be an example. When all that you have offered (advice, financial aid, babysitting or experience) is not accepted, asked for, or is even rejected, grandparents feel guilt, frustration and anger.
A sudden death of a baby, whether during pregnancy or after birth, is uniquely difficult because of its very nature. Its suddenness and the lack of answers to important questions intensify the grief reactions. As grandparents, understanding what is known about your grandchild’s cause of death is vitally important.
Talking with other bereaved grandparents may help. First Candle can help put you in touch with other grandparents who have experienced a similar death by calling 1-800-221-7437. You can also contact AGAST (Alliance of Grandparents, A Support in Tragedy).
- Download When a Grandchild Dies (PDF)