Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Don't Forget the Grandkids

**This blog post is part of a series on death after a long illness.  This was written while going through the experience.  Just as I shared the journey of losing my Grandma to dementia, I am sharing our journey to healing as well as any tips or lessons learned that helped us cope with the loss.  Your experience may be different.**

As we adjusted to life without Grandma here, it was harder than anticipated.  When you are dealing with dementia and go through the stripping away of the person's personality, you begin to ask for peace.  You want them here desperately but when there is no quality of life, you know they are merely existing.  All of the nurses in the world can tell you they're not suffering but the truth is, as someone who loves them, you never fully buy that.  You get they are trying to comfort you but they don't know that for sure and for me, it always just made me a little annoyed even if well-intentioned.

Fast forward to losing her and the grandkids and great-grandkids sobbing in each other's arms.  While it was difficult, there was also something beautiful about being bound together in that grief we were all experiencing.  Differences that may not allow us to be as close any other time, allowed us to cry on each other's shoulders, share stories about her that made us laugh including her doling out some wooden spoon justice to some of them.  Old school represent, yo!

It is fitting and right that the children and spouse of the deceased are given the greatest comfort with hugs, cards and well wishes from their friends and family.  To have food brought over so that they don't have to think about preparing a meal for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how much stuff is brought and then divided.  As anyone knows who has been through a funeral, you spend days to weeks with time stopped and your brain has come out of protection mode of numbing you and may not adjust well to "getting back to it."

But there are those that tend to be the forgotten ones...the grandchildren.  While we may not have spent as much time with our grandparent as a spouse or child, in many cases there was a bond there that is greater than that of a parent/child.  A grandparent does not impose their wants or dreams for your life on you.  They don't want anything more than for you to be a good person and even if you're not such a good person, they love you anyway.  They love you unconditionally and even though a parent technically does, there are always some emotional strings attached in one form or another.  A grandparent's job is usually to spoil you, give you advice you may not listen to from your parent (even if they say the exact same thing!), smile when they see you in that way that lets you know they are happy for any moment you give to them or some combination of those things.

When you are one of the lucky ones to have a grandparent who loves you so unconditionally, the pain and grief can be unbearable at first.  My grandma was one of two people who understood how stress physically affects me and my shame surrounding it.  I would lament over why I was so weak and couldn't just "suck it up" but she told me I wasn't weak and sucking it up was overrated and just not possible for some people.  She reassured me when I couldn't take care of my mom after a surgery by doing something as simple as holding a barf bucket for her that I wasn't the bad daughter I kept saying I was.  I will never forget crying on her shoulder telling her what a failure I was and it was one of the few times she cried with me telling me I wasn't and I was breaking her heart that I thought that about myself.  When you've had someone like that in your life for as long as most of us grandkids were blessed to have her, the loss of having someone who loved you so fiercely can be devastating.  Even when one of her grandkids who was going through a rather rough patch in their teens and told Grandma to "eff off" (to which I was surprised she didn't belt her back into 1989), she still told her how pretty she was.

A grandma's love can be a special thing.  While it's wonderful that people check in to see how the spouse or kids are doing...don't forget the grandkids.  Those that had a special relationship with them need support too.  They're mourning a relationship that neither spouse nor child had with her and it's hard for them too.

Happy birthday Grandma.

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