Chapter 4: Other losses and changes

If you are now parenting your grandchildren

I had been so excited about becoming a grandmother, but when our daughter and son-in-law were killed, I suddenly became a parent again. It was a shock and it changed my world.

We help our daughter-in-law with the kids whenever we can. We pick them up from school most days now, and they stay over when she works nights. On top of the loss of our son, all of our lives and routines have been flipped upside down too.

If your adult child has died, you may take on more caregiving of your grandchildren than you did in the past. If your child was a single parent, you may have become responsible for raising their child or children. This change in your role with your grandchildren can create huge upheaval in your life. You may have been anticipating retirement, travel, or other activities that now seem out of reach. You might have had no time to grieve if you were thrown into full-time parenting mode. You may feel deeply concerned for your grandchildren who have lost their mother, father, or both.

Your role as grandparent will change significantly, and although you might love your grandchildren and feel committed to raising them, you may also have other feelings, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, resentment, or fear. These are normal feelings and responses.

What may help

  • Recognize and acknowledge all of your feelings. Having feelings like doubt or resentment doesn’t mean that you don’t love your grandchildren.
  • Even though you may be focused on the needs of your grandchildren, it’s important to pay attention to your own needs so that you can continue to provide care in healthy ways.
  • Acknowledge both your limitations and your experience. You may have less energy or patience, but you have the wisdom that comes from learning from your mistakes.
  • Expect some ups and downs. Your grandchildren will express their grief according to their ages and development.
  • Reach out for support from family, friends, or other people who are raising their grandchildren. There may be a support group in your community or online.
  • If you or your grandchildren are experiencing ongoing distress or are feeling “stuck,” seek help from an experienced grief counsellor. 

Helpful resources - How to support grieving children - Guidelines for grandparents raising grandchildren