Grandparents are often in a very difficult position when faced with the death of their grandchild. They are mourning the loss of their grandchild, but also dealing with the pain of seeing their own child face such a loss. Grandparents will have their own grief reactions but will also want to support their child. It is important that, as a grandparent, you balance your need to help and support your child with time to grieve yourself.
The death of a child is an almost unbearable tragedy. You have not only lost a grandchild, but also the hopes and dreams you had planned for the future. You may have already planned the things you wanted to teach your grandchild and the activities you wanted to do with them. The loss of these plans adds to the feelings of grief after a grandchild dies.
Finding the balance between helping your grieving child and their family and not intruding may be difficult. Talking with your child and their partner about what would be helpful to them is a good way to avoid intruding. Practical help may include making meals, looking after siblings or taking them to after-school activities. Providing a listening ear and comfort can be invaluable. But it is important to check in with your child about what support they need.
As with each parent, the way in which grandparents grieve may be different. It is important to give yourselves time and space to grieve in your individual styles, but also taking time to nurture your relationship as well.
We know it is not normal for a child to die before his or her parents, and it may feel like a grandchild dying before their grandparent is totally unnatural. Grandparents tell us they sometimes feel guilty that they have lived a life and experienced everything they want to experience yet their grandchild, who has their whole life ahead of them, has died. This is a normal feeling, and with time and support from friends and family, it will slowly fade away.
The death of your grandchild may bring back feelings from other experiences of grief in your past. You may feel you are reliving that past grief, as well as mourning for your grandchild in the present. It can be helpful to know what helps you relax in these situations, and use them. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by grief, taking some time to do some breathing exercises, go for a walk or talk to a friend can help to reduce some of the emotional overload.