Thursday, April 5, 2007

Today’s SIDS Grandparent Grief ~

While listening to a parent pour out their heartfelt sorrow over the loss of their grandchild, who succumbed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), reminds me of my anguish for my grieving adult children. I desperately want to alleviate their pain of grief and loss regarding their infant son, Brennen.

SIDS immediately forces families to make a transition that feels so unnatural. After all, are not our grandchildren supposed to live longer than we do? In so many ways, our children are our heart and soul of who we are as parents and families. It is frustrating to say the least, when I cannot fix things and tie a pretty bow on their package of grief and loss. Frustrations come because as a grandparent I have not only lost a grandchild, we have lost a part of the hopes and dreams we had planned for our future together as a family.

Our children must walk their path of grief whether we like it or not. I ask myself, “How long will the pangs of grief be alive within our hearts? When will we feel the joy in living as a family again?”

Everyone grieves differently and on a uniquely individual time schedule. After three years, I still have moments of feeling that Brennen is still with us and he is in the etchings of our hearts. Coming to grips with the harsh reality that he is no longer in his body, but present with the Lord, sometimes is just plain painful. I still want to fulfill my human need to nurture and develop a relationship with him, just as I have with my other grandchildren. I have learned feelings of disappointment are a common part of the grieving process.

For SIDS families there are the ambiguous hurdles of all the issues surrounding the very diagnosis of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which makes for the grief journey harder to walk through. There are many ideas about the cause of SIDS, yet there is currently no way to predict it or prevent it from happening. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome remains a mystery waiting to be solved.

Grief never really ends, one just learns to live with it; yet the intensity of the pain of loss lessens over time, as we get use to life without our loved one. If I look back over time, I can recognize my pain of grief and loss is not as severe today as it was the first day, the first month or even the last six months. Nevertheless, there are uncomfortable grief feelings, which constantly remind me that my family is forever changed. I have learned it is normal to have days of feeling disappointed, angry at my situation, or find it difficult to be around those grandparents who are active in the lives of their grandchild who is the same age as mine would have been. I have learned I can do nothing apart from accepting the familial change that is cast upon us and I must set out to discover joy in a new way within our present lives.

My encouragement for grieving parents is to know that by listening to your adult children's concerns and being present with them speaks volumes to them about your support and love for them. Giving them a touch on the shoulder, a quiet nod of the head or a cyberhug through an email lets them know you acknowledge their pain. Giving encouragement to your children to be patient with himself or herself and follow the leading of their inner feelings, is sometimes all that will help them heal; to find what is on the inside needing their attention. Sometimes it helps us find what part of ourselves needs our attention, in order to find joy again in our lives. I personally cannot go there devoid of God's help and comfort, which I receive through prayer and meditation of the words in the Holy Bible.

It is time, with patience, and a trust in God to help our adult children to do their grief work, in order to be able to find pleasure in life again. Sometimes this is all parents can do for their adult children, but at that moment it is enough.

Feeling comfortable with what is adequate grief support is a challenge for most grieving grandparents. Other ideas on how to support your adult children while suffering from grief and loss yourself can be found at The National Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support web pages, Grandparent Grief.

May blessings and peace be yours today.