When a grandchild or great-grandchild dies, it’s not just their life you grieve but also all the hopes and dreams you had of seeing them grow and mature into young adults. The different types of grief you experience after the loss of a grandchild range from ordinary grief to a more profound kind of loss that typically occurs when you lose a child.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Tips for Dealing With the Loss of a Grandchild or Great-Grandchild
- More Tips for Dealing With the Loss of a Grandchild or Great-Grandchild
While the devastation will last for weeks or months following their death, the pain of losing them may last a lifetime. Many different factors affect the level of grief that you’ll suffer after losing a grandchild. Some things that will affect your grief include how close you were to your grandchild and if you’ve also suffered the loss of your child, your grandchild’s parent.
The following tips may help you with your grief.
Tips for Dealing With the Loss of a Grandchild or Great-Grandchild
Becoming a grandparent is life-changing. The unconditional love you have for your grandchildren is an emotion so unique that it can catch you off guard. With a love so strong like that, it comes as no surprise to experience such acute pain as one would experience after losing a grandchild or great-grandchild.
Trying to cope with a loss of this magnitude seems insurmountable. Although the hurt will never completely disappear, following these tips may help you learn to navigate your grieving journey in the months and years following your loss.
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1. Just breathe
Receiving news of your grandchild’s death is maybe one of the worst things you can ever hear. No grandparent is ever fully prepared when they get the sad news that their grandchild has died. You’ll not only feel the excruciating pain of losing them, but you’ll also hurt for your child who is grieving their loss.
Whether your grandchild lived near or far away, you can feel the pain of their loss on different levels. The loss of a grandchild represents a void in a grandparent’s life that no one else can ever fill. All the lost hopes and dreams you had for your grandchild vanish when they die. You’re left having to pick up the pieces trying to make sense of their untimely death while at the same time helping your own child through their loss.
When a grandchild dies, you may not know where to direct your grief. For the first few days following their death, remember just to breathe.
2. Get support
As much pain and sorrow that you may be experiencing over your grandchild’s death, your child is also mourning an even more significant loss to them - the death of their child. Many times a grandparent’s grief is often overlooked. You may find that people are focusing on your child’s loss and forget that you’re also grieving.
As a grandparent, your grief is unique and complex from the standpoint of being in the middle of two great tragedies. You’ll find that you’re vacillating from grieving over your grandchild’s death and for your child who’s hurting and facing a deep sorrow of their own. You may be suffering through grief without the acknowledgment or support of others as they focus on the parents who are grieving.
Consider seeking online therapy or counseling to help you get the support you need as you work through your grief.
3. Acknowledge your grief
As you mourn the loss of your grandchild, it may tempt you to ignore the pain and go on with your life. When you ignore the emotional pain of your loss and bury your grief, you’re only prolonging its effect.
The feelings and emotions that come with a devastating loss don’t simply go away on their own. You’ll find yourself dealing with your grief either now or years from now. The more you wait to acknowledge your suffering, the more complicated your recovery will be. Allow yourself to grieve your loss and to accept the pain that’s a part of your suffering.
4. Allow grieving
Acknowledging and allowing your grieving to take place are two different measures. Yes, it can be one thing to recognize your pain and suffering, yet it is another to allow those emotions to manifest and allow grieving to take its course altogether.
The grief process is seldom easy, and you may not feel ready to confront the rollercoaster of emotions that come with having lost a grandchild. Accepting their loss can remind yourself of how much it hurts that they’ve died. So you may consider blocking your feelings to avoid having to feel anything.
Part of the natural grieving process allows for a feeling of numbness after such a significant loss. The stages of the grieving process will naturally unfold if you allow them to take place.
5. Practice self care
When taking care of others, it may seem nearly impossible to find the time for some self care. You’ll want to be distracted with other things like taking care of your child’s family as they grieve over their loss.
Busying yourself by taking on these responsibilities might make you feel as if you’re useful and supportive to others at their time of need, but doing it at the expense of your emotional wellbeing is counterintuitive.
Carve out some time for a little self care to avoid an emotional breakdown when least expected. You can read our guide on self care and grief for more tips.
6. Read and learn from others
For some, reading books on grief and how others have survived this type of loss helps them cope with their own experiences. You may find comfort in reading books on grief to help you sort through your thoughts and emotions.
Learning from what others have gone through will guide you in what to expect through your grief journey. There have been many books written about people’s individual experiences on loss, what they did to get through, and how you may be able to get through yours.
Your local library or bookstore is a great place to start your search. Consider picking up a book as a gift to your child who’s also grieving their loss.
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7. Shed some tears
You may want to be the strong one that holds the rest of the family together by not allowing yourself a good cry. The loss of your grandchild may be one of those times where you feel that you’re the glue that needs to keep everything together.
Releasing your tears is not only therapeutic for you, but it helps in the healing process of grief. Tears are not only cleansing, but after a good cry, you may gain a different perspective surrounding the death of your grandchild.
Christian Nevell Bovee, an American writer, best describes what happens when you hold back your tears. “Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.”
8. Grieving is not a competition
The acute stress brought on by the death of your grandchild may leave you not knowing how to react to your loss. It’s normal and natural to want to be there and support your child as they deal with this tremendous loss.
Some parents don’t know how to help their child who is grieving, so they end up taking on more responsibility than needed by overseeing their child’s family’s welfare. Without realizing it, a grandparent may become overbearing and create unnecessary competition with the other set of grandparents.
Some things to look out for are:
- Stepping in to make the funeral arrangements
- Paying for the funeral
- Ordering the family flowers
Although you may only be trying to be helpful, take care that you aren’t subconsciously trying to make up for your losses by going overboard and overstepping boundaries.
The funeral planning and arrangements, if nothing else, should involve the input of other family members.
9. On finding meaning
When someone you love dies, you may search for a deeper meaning to explain their loss. You may find yourself contemplating the meaning of life and death, and whether there’s anything more to this life here on earth.
Spirituality, like grief, is unique to each individual. Finding hope and peace after the loss of your grandchild will help you get through the many rough days and nights ahead.
Turning to your spiritual beliefs for comfort and support during these most difficult times can help you move forward as you learn to cope with your loss.
10. Start a campaign
The tragedy of having lost your grandchild will never leave you and will make you wonder why something so senseless had to happen. For grandparents who have lost their grandchildren to avoidable tragedies or accidents, it helps to lend a voice to try and prevent the same thing from happening to others.
Some famous figures who’ve lost their grandchildren took to their platform to raise awareness on preventing senseless tragedies:
- Former Secretary of State James Baker III lost his 7-year-old granddaughter to a drowning caused by the suction power of their backyard pool. She was a twin. He later campaigned to bring awareness to these types of dangers.
- Golfer Jack Nicklaus also lost a 17-month-old grandson to a preventable drowning in a family pool. He committed himself more fully to his sport to help him deal with the grief of having lost his grandchild and of seeing his son grieve over the death of his child. He also used his voice to let others know about the dangers of drowning.
Consider lending your voice and experience toward the prevention of certain tragedies that have personally affected you and your family.
More Tips for Dealing With the Loss of a Grandchild or Great-Grandchild
Read on for more ways you can support yourself or a loved one.
11. Understand how grief works
Because each relationship with a grandchild is unique, every grandparent's grief experience will be different. While some grandparents can express their pain through tears and verbal communication, others may internalize their grief without verbalizing their emotions. Conflicts may occur within the family dynamic due to the different grieving processes and add more strain to this painful loss.
Remind yourself that everyone grieves differently. If it seems like some may care more than others, realize that they may be expressing their grief when no one's around. A strong family support system is imperative during this painful time in life.
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12. Be patient with yourself
Grief is a rollercoaster of emotions. You may be in denial one day and then sad or angry the next. Unfortunately, experiencing such a painful loss can't be summed up by one idea or emotion. This process will change often and usually when you least expect it. As time goes on, you'll begin to have good days.
However, expect that without warning, you might have one of the worst days imaginable. Limit your expectations and be patient with yourself. Given enough time, with conscious grief recovery, the pain will subside, and your grandchild will forever be in your heart.
13. Take a break from grieving
After losing a grandchild, it's only natural that you experience a myriad of emotions. Some days you'll feel motivated to do something, and others, you'll feel like staying in bed all day. While this is a part of the grieving process, it's essential to give yourself a break and step away from your pain and suffering.
Constant mourning, sadness, and grief, if not acknowledged, can cause strain on your physical and mental well-being. By getting away and letting yourself recharge, you benefit not only yourself but also those who depend on you. Consider going out to lunch with a friend once a week.
14. Keeping their memory alive
There are many different ideas to honor your grandchild after they've passed. Consider doing some online searches to get some inspiration from others. Some people will make teddy bears and pillows out of clothing left behind, and others may choose to start a yearly event or tradition held in remembrance of their loved ones.
By finding a unique way to remember your grandchild, you're creating a way to develop a connection that allows your relationship to continue. Honoring the memory of your grandchild can aid in the grieving process and establish a legacy inspired by the person's remarkable life.
15. Let hope lead the way
Where there's light, there's hope. While you may feel the pain will never end, seek comfort in knowing that there's light at the end of the tunnel. Although you'll never quite get over losing your loved one, the heartbreak will subside as you learn to accept the loss.
There's no actual timeline as to when you'll get through your grieving process. Have patience and know that emotions will improve with time. Learning to appreciate every moment of every day is a great way to keep the memory of your loved one alive. In time, your life will develop new meaning.
Grieving the Death of a Grandchild
You can get through the grief of losing your grandchild, but you’ll never get over it. The void created by their death is one that can never be filled by anyone else. In time, you’ll learn to move forward with your life, and the pain will ease.
Try and surround yourself with friends and family to help you through your loss. There’s hope in tomorrow that you will get past the intense pain of your grief and suffering.