As with most holidays, Grandparents’ Day can produce many different emotions for me as a bereaved grandmother. While I am so very thankful for the three grandchildren my husband and I have living on earth, leading up to Grandparents’ Day, the hole in my heart seems larger and sharper than other times. I miss all the beginning-of-school things with my granddaughter; no school-clothes shopping, no new back packs, no first-day-of-school pictures of Maddie, no taking lunch to her school and visiting the book fair, and no Grandparents’ Day pictures with her. In January 2008, I became a bereaved grandparent and a bereaved parent on the same day in the blink of an eye. My oldest son, Josh, and his two-year-old daughter, Maddie, were killed instantly by an impaired driver. I was changed forever.
It did not take me long to realize my journey as a bereaved grandparent was different from most of the other bereaved grandparents I had come in contact with. I learned most grandparents who had suffered the loss of a precious grandchild (regardless of the child’s age) experience a double grief. I too had experienced a double grief but mine was again different. I observed and read how grandparents grieve a few things: the death of their cherished grandchild, the future with that particular grandchild, the change/loss of the adult child they once knew, and the change in relationships such deaths cause. I feel blessed to not witness my child being thrown into the role of a bereaved parent. I’ve shared with my husband, Matt, knowing what I know now, that I’d rather me be the bereaved parent and not witness my son go through such heartache. I cannot imagine watching my son living life after the death of his child.
In my opinion, most grandparents’ struggle to acknowledge or even work on their own grief. My sweet mother wrestled with the notion her grief did not really matter because I (her youngest child) was hurting so much. We were both bereaved grandparents but I was also a bereaved parent, something she knew nothing about. Conversations were difficult between us even though we had been so close for over 30 years. My mom needed and desired to do all she could to help me with my pain; after all, that is what mothers do for their children. I had to learn and express to my mother how I thought she could help me. We found common ground when I suggested it would truly help me if she did her own grief work, and acknowledged her own pain, heartache, and loss. Mom soon attended and volunteered at our local chapter of TCF. For that I am thankful. She learned much at the The Compassionate Friends meetings listening to me and other bereaved parents than a private conversation.
Nine years have gone. This journey sometimes feels like it’s all uphill. So I choose to focus on what I need/can do for today. Therefore, today I will recognize the uniqueness I bring to the group of bereaved
grandmothers and bereaved parents. Today I feel free to shed a little light on the pain of a bereaved grandparent to other parents. I will participate in Grandparents’ Day activities with a family friend and
little girl who was born the year Maddie was killed. I will take her lunch, walk with her to the school’s book fair and treat her to a book. This year I think I‘ll buy a separate book and donate it in Maddie’s memory. I’ll miss Maddie deeply. I will do my best to love and enjoy my grandchildren who are walking this earth. I will make memories with them and try to live with no regrets – even with my broken heart.
Lisa Jo Adkison
aka Grammy to Hope, Maddie, Mia and Josh
member of Ft. Worth Chapter
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