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Grandparents grief is like a fork with two tines--one tine represents the loss of a grandchild and the other represents the pain of seeing your child suffer. Therefore, you have two tasks. The first is to work through our own grief and the other is to feel helpful to your bereaved child. There may be two parts, but you actually deal with them at the same time.

The first tine of grandparent grief is your own grief over the loss of a precious grandchild.

Grief is the normal reaction to loss. Actually, we experience grief throughout our lives. A pet dies. A friend moves away. Our children go off to college. We lose a job. We grieve these losses, but we don't always realize that's what we are doing. With a grandchild's death, we face one of life's most painful griefs.

....We are all individuals in our personalities, experiences, ways of coping, and grief timetables. Your feelings will be the same as many other grandparents. At the same time, your grief and feelings will be uniquely and singularly yours. ....

You may also experience some of these as well:

Sleep Problems - Most bereaved grandparents find sleep difficult for a time. Warm milk or a bath before bed, reading or using relaxation techniques or relaxation tapes, keeping a notebook by the bed to write out feelings and thoughts when you can't sleep may help. Don't fight sleeplessness. Accept the fact that this is normal and temporary, and that the rest you get by lying quietly can be almost as helpful as sleep. Be careful of drugs or alcohol. Neither produces normal sleep, and they may even delay your healing.

Appetite - A grieving person is seldom concerned with nutrition or a well-balanced diet, but proper nutrition is more important now than ever before. The quantity of food is not vital, but the quality is. Include something from the four food groups in each meal. Water, too, is important. Drink at least eight glasses of water each day. You may want to pour eight glasses into a pitcher and be sure you drink it all during the day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. It's a good idea to take a good, general vitamin daily.

Adequate sleep and good nutrition are especially important for us because we're older. We don't have the physical resilience that our bereaved children have.

Constant Thoughts - In the early weeks, you may think about your grandchild and the death and your bereaved child almost constantly. This is not unusual. It's your mind's way of sorting out what happened. Let yourself think. Contrary to what people might tell you, you are not "dwelling" on painful thoughts, you are processing. This will lessen as you begin to heal.

Constant Talk - You need to hear yourself say, out loud, what you are thinking and feeling. this helps you see the reality of the death. Talking about your grandchild, your feelings and the death is the most healing thing you can do. The problem is finding someone to listen to you. Your friends are likely to tell you it's not good to talk about these things. Others may simply be uncomfortable listening to your pain. No matter! Find someone who will let you talk. It is necessary for you to talk. Talking with your bereaved child helps both of you.

Some grandparents report talking to anyone who will listen, even total strangers. Some find that talking into a tape recorder helps. Some talk out loud to themselves. One grandfather, when told he was talking to himself replied, "Right! It's good to have a conversation with an intelligent person." Others find it helpful to write to their grandchild who died, saying goodbye and sharing their feelings. However you do it, remember, talking is essential.

Inability to Concentrate - This part of grief can be very disconcerting and uncomfortable. you may feel confused or as if your thinking processes have slowed down. You may find yourself in the grocery store staring for 5 minutes at the peas and carrots, forgetting which you were going to get. Some people feel this confusion for many months, while others experience little of it. Again, we are all different.

You can handle the inability to concentrate in different ways. Muddle through it, write yourself detailed instructions or reminder notes, and eliminate as many jobs as you can. If you can accept this reaction as normal and temporary, you will be less bothered by it.

Your Body Grieves Too - Physical problems such as weakness, fatigue, infections, colds, stomach problems, increased blood pressure, headaches, are common to bereaved grandparents. Any chronic physical ailments you already have can be aggravated now. It's important to have a check-up but be sure your physician knows you are grieving and understands that grief is normal. It's a part of life, not a pathological or emotional illness. Unfortunately, many doctors still see grief as "sick" and will prescribe medication for "nerves". Hopefully, your doctor can prescribe medication that will lessen your physical problems. Just be extremely careful of allowing any doctor to try to alleviate the stress of your grief with mind or mood-altering chemicals.

Your reaction to your grandchild's death is likely to be different from that of your spouse or the other set of grandparents. Don't compare yourself with them or think something is wrong with you if you grieve differently. Many things in our personalities, cultures, religions, and our lives contribute to how we grieve. We hope you take the suggestions here and allow yourself to openly express your emotions. It isn't easy to change old patterns, but try. You can't avoid or bury grief. You must go through it. Sadness must be expressed through tears. Anger and guilt must be talked out and looked at honestly. Lean into the pain and allow yourself to experience it. In other words, allow yourself to be miserable when you need to be. This is what working through grief means. Healing Hearts


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