Grandparents never die, they become invisible and they sleep forever deep in our heart. And even today, we miss them and we would give anything to hear their stories, to feel their caresses and take a look at those eyes full with infinite tenderness.
While grandparents have the pleasure to see us being born and growing, as a fact of life, we must witness how they age and say goodbye to this world. The death of a grandparent is usually the first farewell that we will have to deal with in our childhood.
Grandparents, who assume the active role of raising their grandchildren, leave traces in their spirits, legacies that will accompany them for life as seeds of long lasting love throughout the days when they become invisible.
Nowadays it is common to see grandparents taking part in raising their grandchildren. They represent an invaluable support network in today’s families. Children nevertheless sense very well that the role of grandparents is different from that of their parents.
It is common that grandparents and grandchildren establish a really special, a deep and intimate bond, so the loss of the grandparents can be extremely shocking and delicate in the personality of a child or adolescent. We wish to reflect on this subject with you.
Saying goodbye to Grandparents: the first experience dealing with loss
For some of us who have reached adulthood having our grandparents by our side, we have been truly fortunate, however others, needed to face their death when they were still in the early childhood, when children still do not understand a loss like this in all the magnitude. Often, adults are not able to completely explain what took place and try to soften the death as if it “does not hurt”.
Adults must explain things clearly to their children and they should tell them the truth, this is the advice of Psych pedagogues. Naturally it’s important to understand how to adapt the news according their age. One must, however, prevent making the mistake of many parents in preventing a last farewell of the child with his grandfather in the hospital, or going around with metaphors such as that “the grandpa is in a star or he is sleeping in the sky”.
- We must help the child understand death simply and without metaphors so that misunderstandings are not formed. If we tell them that the grandfather has left, it is likely that the child’s question is, when will he return.
- If we are trying to explain to the child the death from a religious perspective it is necessary to emphasize in the fact that the deceased is not going to “come back”. The explanations should be very short, simple and to the point, remember that a young mind can only absorb limited amounts of information.
- It is also crucial that adults don’t hide their feelings and tears before the eyes of children. We must teach them that death is not taboo. It is important to vent ourselves for the loss of a loved one, we need to suffer and we speak of it freely. Children will do it at the right time when they get a much better understanding of such unfortunate events, on the other hand we need to be their facilitators.
- We need to be attentive to the fact that children will ask us lots of questions and these requests need smart and accurate answers. The loss of grandparents in childhood or adolescence will always be a very complicated matter, and the best thing to do at this moment is to grieve with the entire family and be very cautious to any question or needs of your children.
Even if they are not, they are very present
Even if they are not, grandparents are always in our lives, in those common places we share with our family as well as in the oral heritage we provide to the new generations. To new grandchildren or great-grandchildren who were not able to meet grandfather or grandmother.
Grandparents held our hands during the times while they taught us how to walk, but then, what they held forever were our hearts, where they will live forever giving us their light and their memory.
The grandfather’s presence is in those yellowed photos that are in a frame and not in the mobile memory. The grandfather is present in the tree that he once sowed with his own hands or in the dress that we still keep and that grandmother sewed it.
They are still present in the smells of cakes that stay in our emotional memory. Their memory is also in each of the wise advice we got from them, in the stories they shared with us, in the way we make the knots of our shoes and even in that dimple in the chin that we inherited from them.
Grandparents are present in our feelings in a deep and fragile mode. They never die, they are more than simple genetics. They show us how to walk at their own pace, a little slower, how to enjoy an afternoon in the country, to discover that a good book has a different and special smell, since they have a language that surpasses words.
It is a hug language, a gentle caress, a complicit smile and an afternoon walk sharing in silence as we watch the sundown. All this will last forever and here is where real eternity of people happens.
In the affectionate heritage of those who really love us and who honor us by remembering us every day.