Helping Grieving Grandparents

23 Nov Helping Grieving Grandparents

Because I design customized urns ( and deal with people who are grieving, it’s important to me to be sensitive to their needs. Realizing how devastating it is to lose a grandchild, I read what Dr. Alan Wolfelt wrote  on the December 15, 2016 blog of the Center for Loss and Life Transition. He pointed out, “When a grandchild dies, grandparents grieve twice.” They are not only mourning the loss of the child, but also experiencing the pain of seeing their own child suffering. Even if the grandparents didn’t live near the child, they are left to mourn the loss of the relationship they didn’t have. And just as none of us is prepared to outlive our children, we are certainly not imagining we might outlive a grandchild. Many a horrified grandparent has been known to say, “Why couldn’t it be me?”

Dr. Wolfelt advises that we encourage grandparents to talk about their feelings and not be judgmental, simply accepting whatever they’re feeling about their faith, understanding it may be helpful to them right now, just as they may be questioning it. It’s our job to be present and listen, not to counsel a grandparent by saying things like the child has gone to heaven or turn to one of the clichés like, “God needed another angel.” Grandparents, like anyone experiencing a profound loss, may need to repeat a story. Dr. Wolfelt urges us to listen, but also to give permission to the grandparent — and this is more likely to be the grandfather — not to talk about death.

When writing about helping those who are in crisis, Dr. Wolfelt suggests that in addition to showing we care, we can do chores, like preparing food. And this is welcome both at the time of death, as well as in the weeks and months to come.