resources For the Grieving Grandparent
As a grandparent, your grief can feel twofold. You grieve for the life of your precious grandchild, but also for the hurt that you cannot stop for your own child.
BUILD A NETWORK OF SUPPORT. Reach out to tell your story and to hear other stories like yours. There is no one who understands your pain as deeply and fully as someone who has also lived it.
- For immediate help, call a grief support hotline.
First Candle Grief Support 1-800-221-7437
- Reach out to other grandparents who have lost a grandchild. This may begin to happen naturally. Once I posted a message on Facebook about Charlotte, two women that I already knew reached out to me to tell me that they had experienced similar losses. Another friend gave my email to a coworker of hers who was the mother of a stillborn baby as well. These three women (one of whom was a complete stranger and two with whom I had interacted very little before) wrote me many heartfelt messages, listened as I told my story over and over again, and provided support in a deeper way than others were able to. It sounds strange, but this tragedy will open your life up to new friendships with people who have survived the same trauma. These new friendships are important because every other relationship in your life will feel like it has shifted.
- Join an online or face-to-face support group. If you do not feel ready to pour your heart out yet, it may be helpful to hear someone else tell their story. The more that I heard other mothers tell about their losses, the more I felt hope that I would be able to survive this. I would be changed, yes, but still able to live a life that is full and meaningful.
- List of U.S. Support Organizations by State
- Compassionate Friends Meeting Locator (Face to Face Meetings)
- Grandparents & Extended Family is a live, online support group (via videoconferencing) that is facilitated by Joann O’Leary, PhD and sponsored by the Star Legacy Foundation. It takes place on the 1st Wednesday of each month at 7:30 pm eastern/6:30 pm central/5:30 pm mountain/4:30 pm pacific. Registration is just required for the first session, but participants are emailed a reminder after that.
- Stillbirth and Infant Loss Support Group (Closed Facebook Group)
- I'm Still Standing (Public Facebook Group moderated by Still Standing Magazine)
- Compassionate Friends Online Support Groups/ Live Chat Rooms
- Locate a loss doula through Loss Doulas International. Loss doulas are able to assist parents, family members, and their support circle with navigating a terminal diagnosis for the baby, the birth, and even memorial planning afterwards. Loss Doulas International can also be contacted via their online contact form or via phone at 816-830-9572 or 816-457-6930.
JOURNAL. Speak your deepest truths as a stream of conscious. Be sad, be angry, question, ponder. Don't worry if the words that you write are eloquent, just write from the heart. Here are a few prompts to get you started:
- Tell your grandchild's story from the start. When did you find out that your son/daughter was expecting? What were you most excited about for this new little life? Tell as many details as you can remember and take the time to grieve each.
- Write a letter to your grandchild. What would you like to tell him/her? This entry turned into a journal of its own for me. I carry it in my purse or backpack most places that I go and write her letters periodically. I tell her what she has missed or moments that I thought about who she might have been.
- Write a letter to your son or daughter. Remind them how much you love them and how much you loved their baby. Suggest ways that you would like to support them through this trauma.
- List the emotions you are feeling about the baby's death. Take the time to explain each emotion in detail. Why do you feel that way?
Add your grandchild's name to a memorial list or book. Here are a a few places that you can add your grandchild's name:
- A Place Remembered Remembrance Book
- Light a Virtual Candle by adding the baby's name to First Candle's Gallery. After adding his/her name and a short message, you will be asked if you would like to make a donation to First Candle. Your virtual candle will be added to the gallery whether you donate or not.
- Project B.E.A.R. (Bringing Empty Arms Reprieve) will send a teddy bear to anyone who is grieving the loss of a baby. There is no charge for the teddy bear, though they do ask for donations so that they are able to continue providing bears for families. Molly Bears , created by a loss mom, creates bears that are weighted to your child's specific weight (up to 14 pounds). Molly Bears has a long waiting list (4 months last I checked) and costs $20, but have the benefit of being customizable.
- I had a tattoo done on my right wrist (so I could touch it to my heart) to remember Charlotte. If you happen to be in the DC Metro area, my tattoo was done at Capitol Tattoo in Silver Spring by TK. He was kind, offering sincere condolences for my loss, and even listened to my story about why a fox was a symbol of Charlotte for us. He was patient and accommodating when I changed my mind about the design & sizing and made my first tattoo experience very positive.
- A Place to Remember has a large collection of memorial jewelry, pocket tokens, urns, ornaments, and memorial/funeral elements.
Find a special place to talk to your grandchild. A vocal stream of conscious can be just as cathartic as a written one. There is a bench on the side of a lake that I visit often on my hikes. I always stop in this place to talk to Charlotte. Sometimes I just tell her how much I miss her and other times I tell her about all of the things that she has missed. I bring her baby blanket with me in my backpack on these hikes and hold it while I talk to her.
Read what others have written about their grief and the healing process. This will help you begin to form the words to define your own. I found that most religious-heavy texts angered me as I processed my own grief, but I know that they brought comfort to many other mothers. Texts with religious sentiments are marked with an (R) below so that you can distinguish between them and decide what is most comforting to you.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner (R) (A Summary of this Text can be found here.)
Healing Grief by Amy Hillyard Jensen
The Centering Corporation and Grief Digest Magazine have a large collection of books in English and Spanish on prenatal and infant loss.
Compassionate Friends, The Grieving Grandparent
American Hospice Foundation, The Grief of a Grandparent
- ARTICLES & POSTS:
Child Bereavement UK, The Death of a Grandchild
Grief Digest Articles (Article Library)
Compassionate Friends "We Need Not Walk Alone" Magazine
The Beautiful Before by Heather Carnaghan
After Loss: Turning to Poetry for Grief and Healing (NPR Morning Edition Segment)
Stillbirth Matters by The Star Legacy Foundation
Become a support for other grieving families. Reach out to the newly bereaved to offer a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Visit a support group meeting or chat room with the purpose of comforting someone else. Donate to a charity that provides mental health resources for bereaved families. Organize a fundraising drive to add a Cuddle Cot to your local hospital. The act of "giving back" as a supporter can be empowering after experiencing the helplessness and humbling quality of being distraught with grief. Another way that you can give back without spending a dime is to participate in research studies regarding stillbirth. These studies help inform future medical and support practices for families who are experiencing stillbirth. ISPID (The International Society for the Study and Prevention of Perinatal and Infant Death) publishes a Stillbirth Research Data Base. I have participated in several studies simply by completing surveys about my experience. 1st Breath, an organization which builds public awareness of stillbirth, does ongoing research through this Baby Loss Survey. (There is a survey for Family & Friends of the bereaved parents that you can contribute to.)