Searching for Help or Support for Yourself
While you provide support to others, remember that you too have experienced a loss and must also take care of yourself. It is important that you have support for yourself. You may have friends or family that you can talk to about your own feelings. You can also ring the Red Nose Grief and Loss support line 1300 308 307 to speak confidentially to a grief counsellor or trained peer supporter.
“Over the three years we tried to plan a weekend activity for us both, usually outdoors, a tranquil activity, lunch out and walks.
“We still had holidays once or twice a year so we could relax. We drove and didn’t go too far away, always unsure of Holly’s often quick decline in health. Would this be her last visit to hospital? We felt huge anxiety with each infection.
“We babysat as much as possible and we took many photos to help us prepare for the time we would not have our granddaughter. There was a high anxiety level with babysitting but it was so rewarding.
“We have found it easy in the past two years to talk about Holly, especially to our grandsons. We look for her star and celebrate her birthday and death anniversary. Our son just asks that the birthday be the biggest event.”1
Physical ways to help yourself
- Fatigue can be extreme so rest when you can.
- Sleep is often very difficult. You could try reading, getting up or meditation. This is not the time for drugs or alcohol.
- Diet is important. You may need to remind yourself to eat.
- Exercise can help you feel better. When you are feeling particularly angry or irritable, physical activities may help.
“ I found physical activity and feeling useful has helped me..I volunteered to garden and weed at the organisation that has supported my daughter and her family…”
- Touch, such as hugs, has a huge healing power. Swimming or massage may also give you the needed sense of touch.
- Read about grief. It is important to understand what you and your child are experiencing. Red Nose Grief & Loss, and other support organisations, can help you find resources, information and answers to some of your questions. Gathering this information can also reaffirm that you and/or your children are not going ‘crazy’.
- It may be helpful to use activities such as poetry, religion, art, music, gardening, walking, or reading to gain relief and understanding.
“Each time I go back to the shack near where she died, there is a garden…a tree. I go there tidy the garden and leave flowers in her memory.”
Emotional ways to help yourself
- Try not to expect too much of yourself at this time.
- You cannot ‘fix’ all things.
- Nor can you know the answers of all questions. There will be some questions that have no answers.
- Slow down…small steps…set small goals.
- Understand and accept your own limitations.
- Ask for help when needed.
- Give yourself permission, time and space to grieve.
- Be honest and recognize your own feelings. The best way to help your children is to also help yourself.
- Be aware of your different feelings and how you experience them; then you will be able to allow others their feelings of anger, hurt, sadness, etc. without rushing to comfort, challenge, change or defend.
- Express your feelings and thoughts to people who will understand, who will not be judgmental and who will not be hurt by your honesty.
- Develop your own supportive network. This may include other family members, your partner, friends, and an organization you belong to or work colleagues.
- Allow yourself to cry when needed. Letting tears flow freely, even at unexpected times, can bring you some relief.
- Realise that you cannot prevent, cure or skip the grief process. The only way out is to work through.
Seek professional support and/or speak to other bereaved grandparents.
Red Nose Grief and Loss offers support for grandparents and runs specific Grandparent Support Groups. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings, not just about your child or grandchild.
“I realised early on that my son was so full of pain, that there was no room inside him to support me.”1
Grandparent’s Support group
“In the start, I did not come to the Grandparent’s Support Group of my own initiative. I came because my wife asked me to. I thought ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. I had no pre conceived ideas of where the road of the Group would take me.
“I have found it to be very good. It is reassuring that my feelings are normal. It has been good to be able to talk about our granddaughter. I have enjoyed the company of the other members of the group and, because of this; it has been of great assistance in my grief journey.
“What has also been of benefit to me has been the acceptance of me as the only male. There has been no pressure, no stress. You can say what you think and what I say is accepted by others. What is said in the group stays in the group and no one judges any one’s comments.”
“My daughter told me about the support group. This was the one little thing I could do to show her that I was finding out how I could best help her. I was walking on a tight rope with my daughter, frightened to talk to her about anything because I was constantly pushed away. It seemed a relief to her that I was attending the SIDS Group for support. It probably took pressure off her.”
“My daughter knew where I was going every month. When I got home she would phone me at 10pm and ask if I had gone to the meeting and how did it go? She needed to know that I was getting support and this opened up a little channel between us, once a month, to talk about my grandchild/her child. And then she would shut down again.”
“I called my daughter up each day with a feeling of dread – what do I say? When I came to these meetings, it was so much easier to talk.”
“Over two years now, it has warmed the heart and comforted the soul to be participating. Although no journey is the same, we share monthly the similarities of our grief and learn strategies to ‘dull the ache’ a little. We have also shared the subsequent problems of our son’s marriage break up and have attended the June memorial service, which is a public acknowledgement of the journeys of grief, the sadness and then the sense of managing and “recovering” from grief.”1
Helpful Things to Do to Support Yourself
- Write a letter to a friend
- Write a short story or poem
- Write in your diary
- Play a computer game
- Learn or practise a musical instrument
- Paint, draw or write some poetry
- Do some woodwork
- Do a jigsaw puzzle
- Read a good novel
- Read an interesting non-fiction book
- Read your favourite magazine
- Read the newspaper
- Study a language
- Buy or make a present for someone
- Look through your favourite photo album
- List things you have enjoyed in the past
Things to do around the house
- Do some gardening
- Do some handy-work around the house
- Rearrange the furniture in the house
- Have a big ‘spring clean’
- Do some sewing
- Listen to music
- Dance to some music
- Play with your pets
- Sit in the sun
- Phone a friend
- Visit a friend or neighbour
- Prepare a special meal for family or friends
- See a play, ballet or opera
- See your favourite band
- Go to your favourite restaurant
- Play with your children
- Invite friends over for a video
- Hold a Trivial Pursuit or Charades evening
- Go for a stroll, brisk walk, or bushwalk
- Go jogging
- Go roller-skating
- Hire a bike
- Hire a tandem bike
- Do some aerobics or yoga
- Do some weight lifting
- Arrange a game of tennis or squash
- Kick a ball around an oval
- Run up and down stairs for a few minutes
- Join an orienteering club
- Do 10 minutes of gentle stretching exercises
- Play Ping-Pong
- Have a game of golf
- Go for a swim
- Fly a kite
- Go surfing
- Go fishing
- Walk the dog
Things to do away from home
- Walk along the beach
- Go to a movie
- Visit the zoo
- Go to a local flea market
- Go shopping
- Go to the library
- Visit a bookshop
- Visit the art gallery
- Visit the museum
- Watch a game of football
Things to do to pamper yourself
- Have (or give yourself) a facial
- Have a massage
- Have a pedicure
- Have a bubble bath or shower
- Try out a new hairstyle
- Hug your favourite person
- Buy a new item of clothing
- Eat your favourite food
- Buy yourself a special gift
Last reviewed: 13/11/19
1. Quote from participants 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.