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Help for Grandparents

The relationship between a grandparent and grandchild is a very special one. So when a grandchild dies, the burden of grief that comes to a grandparent is complex; you are not only grieving for the death of your grandchild, but also you have the added pain that your own child is suffering too. It's a double grief.

You may feel that you can only stand by and are powerless to heal the deep pain that your own child is experiencing. The death of a grandchild ranks high on the scale of human grief but is rarely acknowledged, and you are normally left to cope as best as you can.

Why do I feel so guilty?

It can be a difficult time as you are trying to sort out your own feelings, but also trying to be supportive for your Son or Daughter. however, for grandparents it can also acknowledge the long life that they have already lived and this may bring about feelings of guilt. It's important to remember that such feelings are absolutely normal.

Will I grieve differently to my son or daughter?

There are many stages of grief that parents experience and these stages will also apply to you as grandparents. There is no logic to grief and no pattern to how it is experienced, you may feel a variety of emotions from helplessness, frustration, guilt and anger, but it is important to remember that they are all normal. You may find comfort in reading books that address parental grief but substitute the words 'parents" to 'grandparent" as you read.

How can I help my child?

Bereaved parents need to talk about their grief and they need someone to be there to listen and not feel uncomfortable. Being able to talk to your son or daughter about the child they have lost will be a great healer.

Try to resist offering advice and direction as empathising and talking about their emotions and feelings is often the most effective way of helping. There may be times when you have no words, but that's OK as it is important to be there and simply listen.

Try offering practical help, either cooking meals, cleaning, or helping with any other grandchildren who could be feeling very isolated. But, don't do too much, don't put pressure on yourself to do everything. You need to allow time for your grieving too!

How can I help myself?

Grandparents are often described as the forgotten grievers. You may feel that you should cope better and control the situation, but in reality you carry a heavier burden of grieving for your grandchild and the overwhelming urge to protect and care for your own child.

It is so important to make time for yourself, to acknowledge your own fears and emotions and talk about them. Do not expect too much of yourself, remember there are no rules or guidelines for grief.

Nothing will ever take the pain away from the loss of your precious grandchild however, in time you will learn to talk about them with a smile and be comforted by the happy memories - and that is OK. You will also find that talking and sharing your thoughts and feelings will help with the healing process and although life will never be the same again you will learn to enjoy a different life, a "new normal".

"We hurt twice. We hurt for our children because they are our children. Plus, we hurt for the grandchild we lost." A grandmother