A Grandparent and Parent’s story
We were stood in the baggage hall at Gatwick, when we heard the news. An elderly couple holding each other in silent disbelief as the reality sank in and weary travellers surged around us. . Emerging tears fought anger at God, fate, whoever let this happen to our children, two lovely people who didn’t deserve this.
Lola was my brave and feisty daughter in law’s third pregnancy. Third time lucky we said, reassuring her and us. All progressing well until the 22 week scan which firstly revealed heart problems, and then in the space of a weekend, little Lola gave up her fight for life.
Our son, thoughtful as ever despite the immense heartache they was going through, had wanted to spare us whilst we were away for a weekend in Venice, little knowing that I had waited for the 22 week scan, before going out to buy the biggest bestest present available there. Needless to say, that was quietly put away when we returned home.
Lola was delivered on Fathers’ Day 2012. We called at their family home to collect their dog to look after her, one small thing we could do. It broke our hearts to find my husband’s fathers’ day card accompanied by a leaflet from SANDs advising grandparents how to cope with their grief.
The leaflet is excellent, and contains much practical advice, which I need not repeat, but only recommend it highly to you.
Grief is so intensely personal and we all need to understand that in others whilst finding our own path. The journey is as diverse as the individuals who make up humanity. My son and his wife, who have a strong supportive relationship with each other, withdrew into themselves, retreating from the world. As their parents, this was especially hard for us. Not only do you want to protect your children from everything bad in the world, your natural instinct is also to throw your arms around them, to fuss and nurture, to draw them into the fortress of your protection. Our own grief was compounded by the helplessness we felt; at feeling we had failed them.
We respected their wishes. Of course we did. Meanwhile I took their dog for long lonely walks, talked to her and occasionally actually screamed at the sky in the isolation of the country but there was no reply, no answer – certainly no explanation why!
Please note, I am not in any way suggesting bereaved grandparents should stay away. You need to do whatever is right for your children and you. Some daughters (and I naturally include daughters in law in this) will benefit from much hugging and/or long conversations to which there may be no answer. Others will appreciate more practical help, meals quietly cooked and provided, other grandchildren collected from school maybe, and cared for to give time for grief. Or as in our family’s case, simply needing space and each other.
When expecting a new arrival, we may read up or chat to friends to prepare for the upheaval their arrival will bring in our lives. Nothing prepares you for the loss of a child, whether born or unborn.
As prospective grandparents, you naturally want to be there for your children yet you too need to recognise your own grief, to be there better for your children.
But the support of family and friends will bring you through. In my own case two friends, one especially, Margaret, who became a very good friend, took me out and talked me through my feelings of inadequacy and bewilderment, though it would have been so easy to avoid them and their support. Their love renewed me in turn to give more love to my children. What comes around, goes around.
Accept time will dull the ache, and work through the present. Respect your instincts and grief in all its’ formats. Your love for your children will carry you through this time.
My heart goes out to you reading this, and my thoughts and love to you at this time.