Grandparents have not only lost a grandchild; they also must watch their own child struggle with grief and its implications, often not knowing how to help.
Grandparents face a unique challenge. Their role in life has been to parent, safeguard and protect their own child from harm and disappointment. Yet, in this event, there are few ways to diminish the intense emotional distress their child is feeling, as well as its repercussions through all areas of his or her life.
Many grandparents feel conflicted about sharing their own deep grief with their bereaved child. Often, grandparents choose to reserve their grief for themselves and show a strong face of support. Many feel survivor’s guilt and regret for not having a more in-depth relationship with their grandchild. Often, grandparents find emotional comfort from deeply investing in surviving children and grandchildren.
While there is little research on grandparent grief, finding ways to remember and celebrate the lost life can help. Acknowledging and anticipating major holidays and anniversaries can help both the grieving grandparent and the bereaved parent. Also consider making the child’s favorite meal or honoring their dreams to visit a part of the world or learn a new subject.
To support a bereaved sibling, grandparents can contribute by providing assistance and relief. Being consistent, such as coming every Tuesday for lunch or taking other grandchildren to the park or to soccer practice, may be constructive ways to support a bereaved parent steeped in deep grief.