What Is Grandparent Loss?
Grandparents hold a special place in our hearts. When we lose our grandparents, we lose a special kind of love. Grief-stricken grandchildren may struggle with feelings of guilt, particularly around visiting more often or telling the grandparent how much they meant to someone.
It is also not uncommon to feel the loss of opportunities to come, in which the grandparent will not be there: weddings, births, celebrations, and major milestones.
Gone with them is that special way they have of sharing their experience with us; that gentle way of giving us advice is gone.
Sometimes, losing a grandparent causes people to really examine mortality, and it may often be a young child's first experience with death.
For older grandchildren, not only have they lost a grandparent; their parents have lost a parent. In addition to your own grief, you may be trying to figure out how to help your parent grieve the loss of his or her parent.
Learn more about Loss.
Learn more about losing a parent.
What Is Loss?
Loss is the involuntary separation from something we have possessed and perhaps even treasured, or someone we love and care about. Everyone experiences a loss at some point in their lives - whether it is major or minor.
Loss is universal.
Loss involves emotional pain. Significant losses produce emotional upheaval. Loss requires change and uncertainty and adjustments to situations that are new, unchosen, and uncertain.
Major losses can lead to feeling overwhelmed, sadness, pain, or numbness.
You do not have to be "strong" after a loss to protect others around you. Expressing emotion is how the body and mind process and relieve the pressure of intense or overwhelming emotions.
No one can tell you how you should feel about loss, or how to express your loss. Anyone who tries to tell you that how you are feeling is wrong is wrong.
Sudden Losses are losses that happen due to accidents, crimes, or suicides which does not give us any time to prepare for a person's passing. These type of losses often shake us to the core, make us question the stability of life. The loss can feel immediate, severe, and agonizing. It can be difficult to sort through many emotions and feelings at the same time, and it may take time and space to adjust to the loss.
Predictable Losses, like those due to terminal illness, allow for us to prepare for the loss. However, death is always difficult to prepare for. This type of loss also creates two layers of grief: anticipatory grief (the grief related to the anticipation of the loss) and the grief related to the loss itself.
How to Cope With The Loss Of A Grandparent:
Losing a grandparent is difficult, and often a child's first exposure to death. There may be an added layer of fright in addition to the trauma and sadness of losing a grandparent. Grief is one of the most common reactions to a loss.
It is important to explain death to children, and help them understand what death is.
Learn more about Talking to children about death.
Learn more about Talking to children (0-3) about death.
Teens, on the other hand, may also have a difficult time understanding and expressing their feelings about the death of a grandparent. Teens represent a different way of grieving and expressing emotion. Often they understand the complexities of death, but again, this may be their first exposure to someone dying.
Learn more about Talking to teens about death.
As with any grief process, there are typically five stages of grief:
These stages may happen in any order, at any time, or not at all. Some people feel some but not all of the stages of grief. Because there is not a typical loss and each situation is different, it is hard to figure out what a "typical reaction" is. Some people feel:
- Shock and disbelief - difficulty accepting what happened, numbness.
- Sadness - one of the more common feelings experienced. This may also be emptiness, despair, loneliness, and crying.
- Guilt - things you said, shouldn't have said, or wanted to say, not preventing the death.
- Anger - feelings of anger and resentment.
- Physical symptoms - aches, pains, headaches, nausea, changes in sleep or weight.
Children express their grief differently, in that they may experience anger, moodiness, withdrawal, and a decline in sleeping, eating, or school grades.
However you are feeling, it can be overwhelming and out of control. One way to manage intense emotions is to observe, describe, and label your emotions. Sometimes putting a name to your emotion can help you express it. Also remember that we experience emotions like a wave- the emotion will build, crest, and recede.
- Talk to friends and family who love you and make you feel good about yourself. Lean on people who love you and care about you.
- Don't expect that you're going to "get over it." The only way to "get over" a loss is to go through the stages of grieving. There's no reason to try to be the strong one - just let yourself feel however you feel.
- Write about it. Sometimes the act of writing down how you're feeling can help solidify those feelings and help you to grieve your loss.
- Let yourself feel the loss. Sit with your feelings and acknowledge them.
- Exercise - exercise releases endorphins, which are the "feel-good" hormones.
- Don't minimize your own loss. If it was a loss, it was a loss. Losses are meant to be grieved.
- Don't compare your loss to others' loss. It's apples and oranges. You feel a loss how you feel it, not how someone else feels it.
- If you are still having difficulty, talk to a therapist or grief counselor - someone who is trained to help you get through your grief.
Be sure to take care of yourself. Go through your daily hygiene routines, get up, and do something.
IT'S OKAY TO BE SAD!
Ways to Manage Feelings Of Loss:
- Don't feel like you have always to be the strong one. It's perfectly fine for you to be sad and show that you're sad.
- Go through the grief process. It's essential that you process this grief in order to be able to hold up your parent.
- Talk about the grandparent. Remember that they existed, and celebrate their life.
- Remember that watching your parent grieve and long for their parent is going to be hard.
- Remember birthdays and anniversaries of the grandparent's death.
- Memorialize your grandparent in some way - plant a tree, throw a party, burn a letter to him or her. Whatever is meaningful to you to help you remember your grandparent.
More Resources About Grandparent Loss:
Ourbigearth.com - This website contains information about children grieving the loss of a grandparent. There is a personal story, as well as descriptions of how children perceive and grieve.
Lifefiles.com - This website contains a list of articles related to grief, loss, and managing the feelings associated.