Ways to Help the Living Siblings
When adults are grieving, the child’s siblings often feel neglected, hurt and confused –and they often do not understand the grief that they are experiencing. Try to spend extra time with your living grandchildren. Be available to listen and help them make sense of what has happened.
It is best to have a discussion with parents about how they want you to help their other children. While they may be relieved to have a break from the pressures of parenting, some parents may feel a strong need to be close to their living children. They may also worry about their safety.
It is a good idea to clarify how they prefer you to explain their baby’s death to their child, as every family will have varying ideas on how to approach this topic.
If possible, offer to take surviving grandchildren for an afternoon or a day, offering to listen and remind them that they are very important and much loved. Supporting your other grandchildren in their grief will also assist your adult child, as they may not be able to be very supportive at this time.
Children can be very protective of their parents. Grandparents can take a key role by being with their grandchild, providing security, hugs and someone to listen to.
“When our little girl died, our son wrote a short essay at school and spoke about being “scared to go to sleep at night”. He spoke about having nightmares and being afraid of becoming sick. He also wrote “…but I don’t want to tell my mum because I don’t want to upset her any more”. When I read this.. I cried to my mum and asked her to help me… to be there for Tim”1
As Grandparent to Other Grandchildren
“We found it difficult to get as excited as the next 3 grandsons were due before Holly’s death. At nine months and two years after Holly’s birth, our daughter had two premature babies due to pre-eclampsia, the second causing concern for seven weeks before the birth and the older one requiring intensive care and hospital transfer for three weeks. Although not life-threatening, we did so much more worrying considering our previous journey. The fourth arrived early, free of worry and perfectly healthy. I will never forget that relief! So I guess you are worrying as parents, feeling SO HELPLESS to change the situation for your children; probably feeling that for the first time in 30 years you cannot do much. I experienced a desperate feeling to take their place. Our first grandchild had such an uncertain future. I would often look at this pretty girl, physically developing normally at first, and thinking, ‘ I cannot believe there is so much wrong.’ I also marveled at her development physically with only about a third of a brain.”1
Last reviewed: 29/5/20
1. Quote from a participant of a series of Bereaved grandparent workshops held in 2015 at Red Nose Grief and Loss, Malvern, Victoria, and Red Nose Grief and Loss offices, Australia.