Monday, October 1, 2012

Grandparent Grief - Helping Your Grieving Child (part 2 of 3)

Grandparent Grief - Helping Your Grieving Child (part 2 of 3)  Continued from Blog Posting on September 27th,2012..

~ By Margaret H. Gerner

One grandmother told me: Timmie's death is tearing me up, but seeing my daughter, Terry, in such pain is much worse. She is so different. The sadness I see in her eyes haunts me. Nothing pleases her. She's not interested in anything. All she does is talk about Timmie. She tells me she just wants to die so she can be with him. She cries and cries and there isn't anything I can do to make it better for her. I don't know what I'm going to do.

I felt like Timmie's grandmother. While I knew what Dorothy's needs were, and I tried to meet them every way I could. There were times I doubted that anything I did helped. I wanted to "kiss it and make it better;" and I wanted her better now. Without a moment's hesitation, I would have gladly taken her pain myself. I missed my precious Emily, but the feelings of helplessness around Dorothy's pain were even greater.

This is the hardest part of being a bereaved grandparent. There will be times you feel that nothing you do makes a difference. You will think your child will never "get over" this. But remember, the grief will not always be as intense and devastating as today, and your help will be forever appreciated.

The most important thing you can do is to understand your child's grief. If you have never lost a child yourself, then read The Bereaved Parent, by Harriet Schiff or any other book you can get your hands on that will help you to understand the unique, intense grief that is part of the loss of a child. Be assured, your child is not emotionally ill. There is no grief exactly like that which comes with the loss of a child.

There are several factors that make parental grief unique:

Loss of Part of Self - The parent/child relationship is the most intense that life can generate. The child was literally a part of the parent at one time. When you lose a child, you lose a part of yourself.

Loss of Meaning - Children give direction to life. Rearing and providing for them becomes a primary goal. With a child's death, even if there are other children, this goal changes. Life seems meaningless.

Loss of Support - Expectations are that parents will lean on each other and support each other. Parents themselves expect this, but it rarely happens. Each parent is so debilitated by grief that neither has the energy to support the other. One mother said, "It's impossible to lean on a tree that is already bending." Loss of support takes many forms.

Different grieving styles can create problems in a relationship. One may grieve openly, with much expression. The other may grieve inwardly and quietly. It is difficult for parents with opposite coping styles to respect the other's way of grieving. The inward-griever doesn't want to see the constant crying and lamenting of the other. The open-griever doesn't think the other one cares or has feelings. This leads to wrong assumptions and misinterpretations of feelings.

Changes in sexual activities can create problems, too. One may want the warmth and intimacy that intercourse gives them, while the other may suddenly find sex repulsive.

Guilt and blame can also prevent support. One may blame the other for real or imagined wrongs. The one blamed may withdraw with intense guilt feelings. This can create a wedge that may take professional help to resolve, especially if, in fact, one was somehow involved in the death.

 This series is continued in our next Blog Posting – Part 3, on October 5, 2012

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