When a grandchild dies, the grief of grandparents is complicated because not only do they mourn for their grandchild, but they also feel the helplessness of not being able to take away the pain felt so intensely by the parents of their grandchild, one of whom is their own child. Both parents and grandparents have lost a part of their future.
Sorting out your own feelings of grief and trying to find ways to be helpful for your son or daughter can be confusing and overwhelming. You may set aside your own grief as you focus on the grief of your child. You may feel angry, cheated, frustrated, powerless, or overwhelmed. You may see changes in your child that make you feel alienated, unloved, or intrusive when what you really want is to be helpful and supportive. Please remember that this is a very confusing time for your son or daughter too. They may lash out at you as you attempt to help or make suggestions about such things as funeral arrangements, care of other children in the home, or ideas about ways to assist in the healing process. On the other hand, your son or daughter may simply withdraw from daily living, become unresponsive and deeply depressed by the loss of their child. It is not possible to predict how a person will respond to a loss such as this and your own child may become as a stranger in your life, compounding the loss you feel as a grandparent.
Nothing can ever completely take away the pain of losing a grandchild. The void in your life will always be there. What will change however, is the searing, numbing pain that is so much a part of your life early after the loss.
Click here to join our newsletter mailing list. Click here for support group information.
Courtney Lea Abare
by Granny December 15, 2008
“Now I lay me down to sleep,” Words of prayer I learned as a child and said so often in a sing-song manner and very quickly.
“I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” Words forever imprinted in my heart the day Courtney Lea swiftly was gone before I could realize my dreams with her.
“If I should die before I wake,” Courtney Lea’s small soul was known and her life already written.
“I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Courtney Lea Abare received, on December 15, 2008, the promise He prepared a place for her. “Amen.” You are eternally in my heart.
I was asked to write a little something for the newsletter and felt very touched by the offer and just as quickly wondered what I could say. I decided the best thing would be to tell everyone a little about me and this past year.
I’m Beth Hoffman, and I’m a grandma. I can’t be the happy grandma who spends her time bouncing her only granddaughter in her lap and showing her off to everyone with whom she comes in contact. Our Brynna was born-still on December 13, 2007.
I couldn’t have been more excited anxiously awaiting Brynna’s arrival. Alyssa’s pregnancy was progressing wonderfully, and we spent our days planning for Brynna’s arrival. But, her arrival came much too soon, and it wasn’t joyful. After an agonizing labor of what we had just learned would culminate in a life changing event, life seemed to stop or continue on in autopilot. Just like our breathing, it just happens. Life continued. We were devastated at our loss.
As a first time grandma, I had new concerns and thoughts. I had had three beautiful children that I loved with all my being, but I was soon to be a grandma, a role that I looked forward to and anticipated like a promotion at a job. I had done a good job at being a mother, and now I was being rewarded. I was moving into a coveted spot. I was about to be a grandma and a very lucky one at that because my granddaughter was going to be living at our home. I was already looking forward to the nights that Alyssa would be exhausted and need a break and I could fill in once in awhile for those middle of the night feedings. I was in the process of sewing all the things for Brynna’s room. Alyssa and I had spent lots of time picking out patterns and fabric for the perfect room. In the back of my mind, I was sewing for my granddaughter just like I had for my kids. I was taking her on errands. I was even thinking past the point of her being a baby and hoping that Alyssa would let us take her on trips like she used to do with her grandparents. I couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. I was constantly on the computer reading all the newest literature about babies and all the newest and safest equipment out there. I would read to Brynna every night (usually to Alyssa’s chagrin).
When we were told of the tragic news, our world collapsed. I had a new mission: taking care of Alyssa. I had was reminding her to eat and drink, bathing her, and holding her.
Time has passed, and we are able to breathe. We choose to function. Alyssa has a new job, and I have a full time job. I’m sure it looks like we’ve moved on . . . put our pain behind us. But every day Brynna is in my thoughts. I may see a baby and wonder if Brynna would be doing the same things that one is doing or a pregnant woman and think of how Alyssa looked.
And now the holidays are coming in waves. I see the time right before Halloween to right after the New Year as a continual onslaught of holidays . . . one just rolls right into the next. For me, this year my emotions are running high, and they blindsided me at first. I expected to feel sad and down around Christmas, but it actually started before Halloween. I couldn’t quite figure out why, and after thinking about it, I realized I had imagined making Brynna a costume. Of course then came the thoughts of what I would have gotten her for presents and pictures with Santa.
In all of this, I don’t quite know what I am. I was supposed to be a grandmother now and technically I am but without a granddaughter to play with. I want people to know I AM a grandma. The only place that I’ve been able to be a grandmother is a place called grandbrigade.org. It’s a forum where grandparents can come to share about their precious grandchildren who for some reason became angels much too soon. We share, vent, and support each other. The grandparents on the forum understand the pain of this loss and know it won’t go away quickly and that it isn’t neat and tidy. I want to do those grandmotherly things. I know this is the path our lives are on. I know that Brynna is with us always and I talk to her all the time and love her more than is possible to explain. I never even got to feel her move, or hear her giggle, or see her gaze into my eyes yet she is a huge part of who I am. I suppose in Heaven I’m known to her friends as Brynna’s grandma, and it’s a title I’ll always cherish.
Sixteen Times A Tribute from GranMoo to Kellan Victoria
I had a little granddaughter, and though she lived but four short days, She won my heart forever with her soft and gentle ways. My son, her loving father, oh how hard it had to be To lose a child so instantly. Last night he said to me:
“Sixteen times I got to see her. Sixteen times I got to say, ‘Daddy’s here now and I love you,’ and I said it every day. Sixteen times she held my finger. Sixteen times she held it tight. On the night that she was born, the stars were shining bright.”
Though she was a little fighter and a whole lot like her Dad, In the end, it cost her all the strength her little body had. My faithful son never gave up on his precious little one, For he believed in God’s great power, that this battle would be won.
“Sixteen times I got to see her. Sixteen times I got to say ‘Daddy’s here now and I love you,’ and I said it every day. Sixteen times she held my finger. Sixteen times she held it tight. I believed within my soul of souls that she would be all right.”
So, I never saw it coming; four days passed us by in a whirl, And one day, I had a granddaughter, and the next, no baby girl. The loss was overwhelming, but I broke through from my haze When my son said, “Mom, I was lucky. I had Kellan for four whole days!”
“Sixteen times I got to see her. Sixteen times I got to say ‘Daddy’s here now and I love you,’ and I said it every day. Sixteen times she held my finger. Sixteen times she held it tight. And I know she’s found her home at last in God’s throne room tonight.”
For Brynna from her Grandmother
There is a song so beautiful, I never knew it spoke of you.
If tomorrow never comes, Well, our tomorrow will never come.
We lost it that day when you were born still and quiet.
You looked just like an angel from above. Cute pouty lips and little pug nose,
You were meant to beautify heaven Because, you are too perfect for our world.
We didn’t know God sent some people angels Til we looked in your face.
There won’t be any firsts in this world . . . smiles or teeth or steps.
But blessed we are because we have an angel all our own.
Her name is Brynna May And she lives in our hearts each and every day.
Bereaved Grandparents (Gerner) Addresses the grief that grandparents feel when their children have a child die
Grandma's Tears (Kolf) Offers support and hope to grandparents who are often overlooked when a grandchild dies and who carry a double burden--the loss of their grandchild and the sorrow of their own grieving children
A Grandparent's Sorrow (Schweibert) Includes ideas on how grandparents can help themselves as they grieve, how to better understand their child during this difficult time, and how to keep the memory of their grandchild
Relative Grief (edited by Jenkins & Merry) Parents, grandparents, children, siblings and partners share their experiences of losing close relatives and friends (not specific to perinatal loss)
Grieving Grandparents (Ilse & Leininger) For grandparents as they attempt to comfort and support their children who suffer, while they also learn to cope with their own grief
When a Grandchld Dies (Galinsky) Honors the unique grief of grandparents and includes stories and quotes from those who have experienced such a loss
When Joy Withers Away (Meyden) Rev. Calvin D. Vander Meyden is a pastor in Michigan. When Joy Withers Away is his poignant story of the death from SIDS of his three month old grandson, Travis Genzink. Told from a unique point of view, not only as a grandfather, but also as a minister, it is a story over which we can not only shed tears, but also garner hope. When Joy Withers Away gives grieving grandparents suggestions on how they can survive such tragedy, but its real strength is how it gives all of us the freedom to ask, "Why, God? Why?"