Support for Grandparents
As a parent yourself, there can be few things more painful than watching your own child experience the loss of their baby or child.
Perhaps for the first time in your life there is nothing you can do to take away the hurt and “make it better”. Your child is your child whatever their age.
In addition, you are mourning the death of your grandchild. You may feel helpless and find watching your child in such pain almost unbearable. You may feel guilty that you, who have had many years of life, are still alive while a tiny infant has died. You may also feel guilty and sad that you did not spend more time with your grandchild while you had the chance. If you live at a distance, you may not even have seen your grandchild. It doesn’t help to know that you thought you had lots of time.
Grief is intensely personal and everyone grieves in their own way, at their own pace. There is no “correct” way to mourn, and you should never say “you ought to be feeling better now” or anything else which implies a judgement of their feelings. You can’t take away the parents’ pain or bring your grandchild back but you can make the parents’ adjustment to the loss easier by accepting their feelings and supporting them as they go through the grief process.
It is important to recognise your own right to grieve.
To be helpful to your child, you need also to be helpful to yourself, to deal with your grief by facing it and working through it. Make sure you give yourself time and space for this.
We offer a range of support services for families affected by sudden and unexpected death of an infant/child. This includes grandparents. Whether you need to speak to our bereavement support worker, access our Grandparent online support forum or access bereavement counselling yourself – please know we are here to support you too.
What support is available for me?
Nowadays, we understand better about the impact of the sudden unexpected death of a baby or child on the whole family and the change in the family dynamics. There can be long term impact on the whole family unit if key members are not well supported in their grief. There is no prescriptive way to grieve and so the support you want or need is not something we can prescribe either.
You can have access to a dedicated support worker who is there for you and your bereavement needs. They are your dedicated point of contact and you can have them visit you at home, and have regular contact on the phone or by text, email or private messaging – whatever you find easiest.
Some Grandparents find they need bereavement counselling and we can offer this service for you too.
It might be that speaking to another Grandparent seems like the only thing that would help make sense of what has happened. We can put you in touch with another Grandparent befriender whose grandchild died suddenly and unexpectedly. Everyone’s experience is unique but they will understand what you have been through as a family and can be a good source of informal support. We can also link you with a group of bereaved grandparents as part of our online support group. Grandparents often come along to family days and other events run by the Scottish Cot Death Trust.
How can I help my child and their partner?
You may find it difficult to know how best to help your child and their partner. Sometimes, in their grief, they may push away your efforts to assist. Try not to take this personally – it is part of their pain and distress. The most hurtful thing you can do is withdraw your support.
If they are living with you after the death of their baby, you might find that the family pulls together but it may also be very stressful for you all living together again. You may all want and need some space at times. It is understandable that you might feel resentful too at having to give up space and time in your own home.
The best thing you can do is just be there, to listen, to accept any feelings that are expressed.
Allow them to talk as much and as often as they wish about their child. It is sometimes hard not to interfere and give advice. Give as much help as is welcomed but be sensitive to the parents’ needs to be left to make their own decisions.
As time passes, it is important that the parents know that you have not forgotten your grandchild. Often relatives avoid mentioning the baby or young child for fear of reminding the parents of their pain, or change the subject when they mention their name. Ignoring the fact their child lived causes more, not less, hurt. All family members may need to talk about the baby or young child long after the death. It is healthy to keep their memory alive, especially during important family events such as birthdays. celebrations and anniversaries.
It is common to feel angry, unbearably sad, anxious, numb and many grandparents also tell us they feel guilty for things they did or did not do during their grandchild’s life. The Scottish Cot Death Trust is here to support the whole family after the death of a baby or young child. Although it is natural for you to want every effort to be put into supporting your child, their partner and any siblings, it is very important that you realise the importance of the role of grandparent in a family.
You may take on a more hands on caring role for your other grandchildren whose sibling has died. You may need to help them get ready for school, take them to school and just be around for them more. This can leave you less time for your grief but it is important to seek help for yourself too, especially at a time when you may be called upon more.
Returning to work
You may still be working and have to return to work at a time when your family may need you more than they ever have. Be honest with your employer and provide them with copies of the Scottish Cot Death Trust leaflets for employers so that they understand the medico legal aspect of SUDI and the timescale involved in waiting for post-mortem results and that the baby’s death will be investigated for some time and that your child may be off work for some time.
A family well supported is a family who can begin to heal.