"Because You Asked" -A Grandparent's Lament

by Earl Grollman

My seven-year-old grandchild was killed in a tragic accident. We had such wonderful times together. He was the shining light of my life. And now he is gone. I feel sorry for my daughter and son-in-law, but they have lots of support from caring friends. No one seems to understand my agony. Grandparents mourn, too!

How true. The grandparent/grandchild relationship is very special. With quality time they provide the biggest laps, make few demands, and give many gifts. It has often been said that parents aren't supposed to bury their children. But neither are grandparents supposed to bury their grandchildren. When a child dies, both parents and grandparents have lost a part of their future - one of the most horrific blows that human beings can endure.

There is the double assault of grieving for a grandchild while witnessing the suffering of your daughter and son-in-law. Your grief work may be different. Memories and attachments are not the same. Each of you has been rocked in individual paths to the very depths of your being in the attempt to patch together the pieces of your shattered lives. You must find a way to express what you are feeling or this suffering will stay inside you and fester. Seek out those with whom you can share your heartbreak. Pour out these emotions of grief and if necessary repeat them time and again. Perhaps keep a journal for your eyes alone to flood out your sorrow. But most of all, talk. Talk to your friends, family, neighbors, clergy, support group, or a professional counselor. How sorely you need their expressions of help, warmth, and understanding.

The death of your grandchild may also result in an even closer relationship with your daughter, son-in-law, and the rest of your family. Recall the unforgettable memories of the past as you search for a meaningful future. Even in your overwhelming despair you will realize that part of that child's life will live with you forever.

This article originally appeared in the April 2002 issue of Journeys, HFA's bereavement newsletter, Kenneth J. Doka, Editor, © Hospice Foundation of America.