It’s a heartbreaking moment; a period in life where all hope is lost. A dark cloud of grief consumes you and a piece of your heart is gone forever the moment your child dies.
While it’s an unbearable time for parents, people may not realize the toll it takes on others. They are rarely acknowledged in the deep depths of despair; instead, they put on a brave face for their families. They are often considered “neglected mourners”, though their hearts break as if it was their own child who passed.
To the grandparents who have lost a grandchild, I see you.
The room was filled with doctors and nurses, as a chaotic scene unfolded. The air was tense, my body filled with fear. I was in labor more than 17 weeks prematurely, delivering my triplets with almost no chance of survival. After our first baby arrived, we received news no parent ever wants to hear. Our baby girl was too weak and wouldn’t survive.
I looked from my husband over to my mother, the only other family member in the room. I could tell her heart was breaking into a million little pieces, yet she kept her composure through the tears. My mother’s face was full of concern, yet she exuded strength, as my husband and I were about to lose our firstborn child.
It’s a vivid memory I’ll never forget. My mother held our daughter, and rocked her gently during her short time on earth. She was that shoulder to lean on as we faced the unimaginable, comforting us as a mother often does. In the days and weeks that followed, both sets of our parents flew in from across the country. They helped us plan a funeral, arranging for deli trays and flowers as our friends and family gathered to say goodbye. They made sure we were eating and sleeping, caring for us when we felt as if our world was at a standstill. And just two months later, they arrived back in town, planning another funeral after our second child passed away.
In the throes of grief and our darkest hours, an army of supporters arrived to comfort my family. Neighbors prepared meals and cleaned our house. Friends sent donations to help with medical expenses. And our parents remained a pillar of strength. Yet, as they offered empathy and support, their own grief took a back seat to mine.
While the pain of losing a child is unbearable, imagine watching your own child lose her baby. As a parent, you never want to see your child hurting. You would do anything to take his pain away, yet your heart hurts with grief, even guilt, as you mourn the loss of your grandchild. That’s the reality for grandparents who lose a grandchild. It’s a powerless feeling, one my parents know all too well.
Five years ago, our lives changed forever. As the years go by, we find ways to live after loss, but our family never forgets. And on those days when the grief creeps up, I often find myself calling my mother. She was there that fateful day when life took a turn for the worse. Over the phone, we cry together and confide in each other as we reminisce over my triplets, her grandchildren.
As a parent myself, I now understand. Watching my daughter grow up, I want to shelter her from any pain. And as I think back to those early days of loss, my heart hurts imagining what my own parents went through. It takes enormous strength to survive the loss of a child and it takes just as much love and courage to be grandparents comforting their own child.
To the grandparents who have lost a grandchild, your grief doesn’t go unnoticed. You may be holding your head high when the world around you is breaking, but we see you and we thank you for your strength when we needed it the most.