I honestly don’t know where we be in our journey without the gift of our first grandchild. My husband and I have been married for 30 years and we had two children.

Our daughter came first, and she made us parents. Three years later, we met her brother. In some ways, they were polar opposites and in others, they were so similar it was scary. No one could make her laugh as he could—and there was no one he respected or adored more than his sister. She was blonde; he had black hair. She had big bright blue eyes; he had twinkling hazel. They were both blessed with big smiles and their daddy’s looks.

In November of 2017, at 24, we lost him to a drug overdose. It shattered our lives.

While he was walking through chronic pain from an injury, transitioning from the Army to civilian life and fighting an opioid addiction, our daughter was finally expecting her first child after a three-year battle with infertility.

She gave birth a month-and-a-half after her brother died. I don’t know if I can explain how the horror of his loss and the complete joy of our granddaughter’s birth collided and brought with it an avalanche of feelings.

What I can tell you is that every single person was right when they told me being a grandparent is the best thing ever. For us, it was a miraculous gift straight from Heaven—with His impeccable timing. It didn’t take away our pain or replace our son, but it sure gave us somewhere to pour all that love. It kept us busy and she filled our broken hearts with her baby smiles and drool-filled kisses.

It wasn’t easy—certainly not for our daughter. We went from a funeral on Friday to a baby shower on Saturday.

She was deep in grief, experiencing signs of preeclampsia, and finally delivered by emergency C-section on Christmas Day. She had a great team of understanding people surrounding her, but I will say when they offered her fentanyl to help ease her pain—the very drug that killed her brother—it was hard to “politely” decline.

In the months that followed, her grief was intertwined with postpartum depression to the point that her doctor didn’t know what was normal and what was not.

We also had a year-long court case involving the dealer who sold our son the drugs that took his life. She insisted on being the one to attend the trial since we, as witnesses, could not. Fortunately, it ended in a plea deal and the trial was off the docket, but she did sit on the witness stand the day of sentencing and spoke eloquently on behalf of her brother, sharing who he was, how she missed him, what she had lost—and yet, offering forgiveness to the young man convicted.

How do you navigate all of that? No sleep, a first-time parent, the loss of your brother and best friend, a court case, and a set of parents who are forever changed. She was, suddenly, an only child trying to support us and still keep herself from falling.

I honestly don’t know how she did it. Although, I will say that her husband is a great support to her. He is the calm to the storm and such a great dad.

But this granddaughter. Oh, how she fills my heart! She is all joy in her tiny frame. Funny and generous with her kisses. It really is exactly what everyone said. It’s less responsibility and loads more fun. I have all the time in the world to just sit and enjoy her. To play with her and snuggle her as long as she’ll let me

And sometimes, I see her uncle in her smile, her eyes, her laugh . . . and I know how much he would adore her. Just like he did her mom.

And now she has her own brother—another beautiful gift—and we are just as smitten with him.

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To the Moms and Dads Who Suffer Loss: You Are Not Alone

Kristin Schlegel

Kristin and her husband have been married for 30 years. She found writing to be very therapeutic after losing their son, John, to the opioid epidemic at the age of 24. She hopes her writing will help other bereaved parents know that they are not alone.