Having a grandparent in your life is a wonderful experience and the very dream most parents dream of when their children get married—that one day they will be able to be grandparents. To be a part of your grandparent’s life as you both grow older together, and sharing the love, laughs, and fun that many grandparents provide is one of the treasures we hold dear. You might now know that many children never get to experience the love and warmth of a grandparent. For those who do, it’s something to be grateful for.
My name is Susan Whitmore, and most importantly to me, I am Erika Whitmore Godwin's mother. I am also the founder and president of griefHaven.
Losing this beloved and special relationship is very difficult for many. In some cases, the grandparents were like second parents. At others times, they were literally parents to their grandchildren. In most cases, it’s a bound that provides a lifetime of security and love unlike any other. So when that grandparent passes away, the grief can be deep and the sorrow intense. The closer we are to someone, the more we miss them. On top of that, you are also dealing with the sorrow that your mother, father, and other siblings are experiencing. As the matriarch or patriarch of the family, it has always been the grandparents’ job to try and make things better for everyone. Perhaps you shared regular holidays with your grandparents, sitting around the table eating and fighting and enjoying one another. When that grandparent dies, it means all of that changes as well. We call those secondary losses, for losing your grandparent is the primary loss, but with your grandparent’s passing, you also have lost many other things that your grandparent gave to you.
As a grandchild, it is very important that you allow yourself to grieve and take loving care of yourself as you also stand alongside the others. Here is a brief list of the things you can do to be of loving support right now to yourself and your loved ones:
- don't deny your own sorrow and grief. Allow yourself to grieve your own way, and if that includes crying openly, then do so. We say that grief needs to “be given a voice,” and that means that it needs a way to be expressed in whatever way works for you.
- model healthy grieving in front of other family members, including your other children. There is no need for you to be closed off or stoic in the face of such depths of sorrow. Remember that talking about your grandparent is not going to “remind” anyone of what happened or upset them. They are thinking about it every minute of every day, just like you are, and when others stop talking or saying your grandparent’s name, that often makes the journey feel even lonelier. We all need someone who will cry and grieve with us, in whatever form that takes for each person, and who better to do that with than the very people who loved that same person?
- review what to say and not say from the enclosed document, for there are so many things that others will say that will be hurtful and frustrating;
- realize that the process of grief and missing your grandparent will never end ... really. You will think of your grandparent off and on for the rest of your life. This is especially true during big turning points in life, such as a graduation, new child, or any of the others that come into life.
- recognize that all of the holidays and special occasions, especially the first few, might be difficult, as you re-create how those holidays will play out without your beloved grandparent here. Someone else will have to take over the roles that your grandparent played, and at first it feels odd. Eventually, you will all work it out.
- share with others who have also lost a grandparent. Sometimes being with others who have had the same loss is very helpful and makes us know we are not alone.
- educate yourself about all that we know today about grief. Things have changed tremendously, especially with all of the research being done using fMRIs on the grieving brain. You can see much about that on our website and in our Now You KnowTM TV and Video Blogs.
- read our newsletters so you will better understand all that is happening.
- know that there are SO many grief myths out there. The two biggest myths are (a) the death of a child creates so much strain on marriages that most parents end up divorced; and (b) there are “stages” of grief you must go through. Neither of those is true. You can learn much more about those by watching our Now You KnowTM TV Video Blogs and by reading the attached grief myths document.
- don’t minimize your loss or compare it to others’ losses. Your experience is what matters at this time.
- exercise/move, even if it’s just a slow walk around the block. Studies show that exercise releases endorphins in the brain and helps people cope with grief.
Those are just a few tips that will hopefully give you some guidance right now. Our website is filled with tools of love and hope for everyone, and we are just a phone call or email away. That is why we are here—because we care and because we are walking alongside you on our own journeys.
Although I am so sad that you needed to find us, I am also glad that you did. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do to help support you and yours as you pick up the pieces and rebuild your lives without your grandparent. Please be gentle, patient, and loving with yourself and your loved ones. Together you can grow ever closer as a family.
With much love,
Susan Whitmore, BS/BM, CGC
Founder & CEO