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For Grandparents

It isn't supposed to happen this way. Grandchildren aren't supposed to die before grandparents. The continuity of life is unbalanced and you may be feeling confused and helpless to do anything about it.

As a grandparent, you grieve doubly for your child's pain over losing a baby and for the loss of a grandchild. You might be worried that the family might never be the same after the loss or that your children will never be truly happy again.

Discuss your feelings and concerns with your spouse, friends, family or within your religious community. You need to find outlets for your grief, too, especially since your children may be too caught up in their own sadness right now to show much comfort for you. This doesn't mean you cannot express to your children your sorrow over the loss; in fact, they will probably appreciate your sympathy.

You might feel inadequate to help your children at this time, especially if you live out of town. Phone calls, cards, flowers or a charitable donation in the baby's name can show you care. A visit to help with meals, caring for the other children or just to be there as a support when needed means a lot to parents who are emotionally and physically exhausted.

The continuous talk and sadness about the loss might leave you uncomfortable. You might think it would be a lot easier on everyone if the parents just forgot about it and went on with their lives. Unfortunately, it isn't that easy. Communicating their feelings and concerns may help parents process their grief.

The parents need your support right now. Respect the decisions they make regarding funeral or memorial services, when to dismantle the nursery or if and when they decide to "try again." It won't help them to mention that they have other (healthy) children at home or that they'll have other children some day.

This is not an easy time for you as your plans for your life with this grandchild end before they could begin. The double burden of trying to be strong for your children in the midst of your own sadness makes this kind of loss more difficult to bear. Know that your presence in your children's life right now means a great deal to them as they try to cope with this tragedy.

To aid in your understanding of your own grief as well as your children's, it is helpful to know the four phases of mourning. They are:

Shock and numbness
After hearing of the baby's loss, you might disbelieve something like this could happen. You might feel intense panic or distress. Why is this happening? How could this happen? These are questions you might be asking yourself while in shock over the loss.

Searching and yearning
There is a yearning for the baby. Mothers may embrace the baby's blankets and clothing. In search for answers, parents may express anger toward each other, the doctors, nurses, friends, family or God. There is a need to know the cause of death or a reason for the loss, but caution yourself against saying things like "you didn't eat right," "you worked too many hours," "you became pregnant too soon." Adding guilt to an already difficult time for everyone is not helpful.

Confusion and disinterest
Parents may talk about empty feelings and that their future seems hopeless. Their interest in activities and things they previously enjoyed may be lacking, and they may neglect daily tasks as well. Be supportive and understanding during this difficult time.

Resolution or getting on with life

People grieve differently. Your children will heal in their own time. This process can take several months. If after 12-18 months, the parents seem unable to move on, professional counseling may be helpful.

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