Thursday, December 2, 2010

Grandparents Grieving at the Holidays

~ Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

"When a grandchild dies, grandparents grieve twice. They mourn the loss of the child and they feel the pain of their own child's suffering. Sometimes we forget about the grandparents when a child dies. You can help by not forgetting, by offering the grandparents your love, support and presence in the weeks, months and years to come."

All of the “year end holidays” – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (and other significant days-such as the child’s birthday and anniversary of their death) can be very difficult for grandparents.

These holidays and events emphasize again the memories and pain of the grandchild's absence. This pain and sense of loss are natural extensions of the grief process. It can be even more painful when no one seems to “remember” but them.

Grandparents - don’t hesitate to speak of your grandchild.  Others may not want to make you sad or upset you, they may feel it is better not to mention the child's name.  When you speak of your grandchild, it allows them the opportunity to remember with you…

If you know of a grandparent who has suffered this most horrific loss, remember that grandparents and parents alike enjoy hearing the child’s name and appreciate when others remember their child - Your visits, notes or even a quick phone call from someone who “remembers the child” is so comforting, appreciated and offers healing for their broken heart.. It’s wonderful to use the name of the child who died in your personal note and in talking to the grandparent. Hearing that name can be comforting, and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important child whom the grandparent loved and misses so much.

When a grandchild dies, the grandparent often mourns the death on many levels. The grandparent probably loved the child dearly and may have been very close to him or her. The death has created a hole in the grandparent's life that cannot be filled by anyone else.

Grieving grandparents are also faced with witnessing their child-the parent of the child who died-mourn the death. A parent's love for a child is perhaps the strongest of all human bonds. For the parents of the child who died, the pain of grief may seem intolerable. For the grandparents, watching their own child suffer so and feeling powerless to take away the hurt can feel almost as intolerable.

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