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Coping with the Loss of a Grandchild

Coping with the Loss of a Grandchild

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Question:

My beautiful adolescent grandchild was recently killed in a terrible accident. This is actually the second grandchild I've lost. Please tell me how I'm supposed to be happy?

Answer:

I looked at your e-mail several times and closed it each time. How can I presume to tell you how to be happy after what you have gone through? I can write that I understand your grief and sadness, but, in truth, I am sure that I cannot really understand the pain that you must be living with and I truly cannot really feel the depths of your sorrow. But I do feel sorry for the pain and the sadness that I can only imagine that you and your family must be going through.

You write that your grandchild died tragically quite recently. The pain must still be especially severe and raw at this point, especially after the other tragedy you've suffered before.

I do not think that you are meant to try to erase that pain. We do need to mourn our losses; we cannot simply deny them and go on with life. And that is why according to the laws of the Torah, we can see that our mourning goes through various stages—with the first days and week being the most excruciatingly severe and unbearable; the first month being exceedingly difficult and the first year still very harsh. Time does have a way to heal, though, and though the pain never ceases, it dulls somewhat.

The following are some ideas, culled from the words of our sages, to help cope with the pain of bereavement:

At times, the severity of our pain can be somewhat eased through actions—by doing positive acts in the merit of our loved ones, and knowing that as a result the neshamah (soul) of our departed is getting pleasure from our actions in the World of Truth.

At times, it may also be helpful to speak to others about the departed, about your feelings, about your memories. Just the act of speaking to a friend, or a therapist when needed, can help deal with grief.

Sometimes it helps as well to keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and memories, and to keep reminding yourself that though you miss your loved one terribly, ultimately their soul is in a better place.

Speaking to G‑d, as well, about your pain; praying to Him, crying to Him, expressing your anger and outrage even, can help us reconnect to ourselves and our Source.

And in the right time, it is necessary to keep busy, move forward, keep focused on accomplishing or doing positive things in our world; to erase some of the harsh pain and bring more joy and goodness.

I have never been put through the sort of pain you write about. But I hope that some of these thoughts might be helpful. Let us hope and pray for the Redemption, when you will be reunited with your loved ones and when such sorrow and sadness will be erased from the face of this earth forever.

For more insight, please visit our Death & Mourning section, and specifically the Mourning Readings section.

Chana Weisberg for Chabad.org

Chana Weisberg is the editor of TheJewishWoman.org. She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Discussion (8)
August 12, 2011
Lose of a grandchild'
I have lost 4 grandchildren. The first two were stillborn, but weighed enough that we had to have graveside services for them. On August 6, 2010 I lost both my grandsons. Dylan age 5 and Jaxon age 3. This has just really ripped my heart out. I have a hard time because they lived with my my husband, and my son. Their mother also live with us, she is my daughter. My family struggles everyday. You see there is no noise anymore, no crying, no more saying mawmaw I love you, or poophoo I love you. It has all gone away. Oh how I wished for just one more minute with them. I think about them all the time. The thing that really gets me is that only my daughter and the my grandsons were at home that day and their dad has filed a wrongful death suit against me, my husband, my son and the boys mother. Please be prayerful for my family. We are really struggling.
Anonymous
Smiths Grove, KY
October 21, 2010
What to say to daughter
Laura, tell your daughter what you shared here: "I am so proud ... the most amazing woman I knowl."

We keep going on because that's how Life works . . . not necessarily a rhyme or a reason.

{{{Laura}}}
Marny
Vista, CA
October 14, 2010
loss of my grandson
I lost my first grandson, my only grandchild September 2009 at the age of 4 months. He passed away suddenly from a virus, the common cold.

The shock and grief I felt for the first 6 months was horrific, I didn't think I cound make the pain stop .... yes it has gotten easier, but there are still times when I cry so hard I think I am going to die.

This on top of the grief I feel for my daughter is so hard. I don't know what to say to her sometimes as I don't want to say anything to upset her. I am so proud of her, she is the most amazing woman I know.

How do we keep going on?
Laura
Burlington, Canada
July 28, 2010
Loss of firstborn grandchild
My daughter-in-law had to have an emergency C-Section in her 5th month of pregnancy. The little guy weighed 1.25 lbs. He lived long enough to hold their fingers and smile.

My son asked me if I ever experienced such a loss - "No" ... he asked if my only pregnancies resulted in still-living children - "Yes" -- and then he snapped at me and said: 'Then you have no idea what it's like to lose someone you love!!'

Other than grandparents, all my uncles and aunts, I have lost my mom, only sibling, father, husband, numerous friends, and now my first grandchild -- aside from the obvious -- my son, too, although he's still alive.

When my daughter didn't feel well, I would surprise her with a yellow rosebud -- and said "Love makes the hurt go away."

My son and his wife never told me they now have 2 more children.

G-d gives me strength to keep laughing and enjoying my life. He loves that I am learning all things Jewish-and was with me in Israel at The Wall. First trip.

L'Chaim!
Marny
Vista, CA
April 10, 2010
The Loss of my Grandaughther
My granddaughther took her life on December 17, 2009. She shot her heart with a gun. I feel her pain and I think that she was hurting and thats why she did it. I could not see the signs of depression. If only I could have been able to stop her. I cannot let her go and cry for her everyday. I miss her dearly and pray to her everyday. Please give me advice on how to go on everyday. I cannot dream her or feel her. I want some answers.
Anonymous
Robstown, Texas
February 9, 2009
Loss of a grandchild
My grandson died of cancer after a three year battle with the disease. He was 15. How can this sort of pain be given to a child? It isn't fair for a grandparent ot bury a child or a grandchild. There are so many no-goods on this earth, why take the good ones? As for a god, no god would make a child suffer and die. I cannot feel anything but denial for a christian god who could be so heartless and cruel.
Nancy
February 3, 2008
Death of a Grandchild
My granddaughter was killed on January 3rd. 2008. Her car was hit by a tracker trailer truck. She was killed instantly. She was only 26 years old. It is one month today since she left. The pain is beyond words. I am not only feeling the pain of losing my granddaughter, but the pain of my son. A parent is programed to try to fix the hurts of their children. This hurt can not be fixed by me or anyone. I feel so emply inside. Words can not take away the pain. Everyone tells me to start living again. How can I do that when it takes every bit of energy just to get up in the morning and face the day? I am doing things as much as I can, but it doens't make it any easier. How can I help my son when I can't help myself?
Anonymous
January 15, 2008
This lose
I like much of what Chana has to say...To me, she is saying "there is no simple answer and that the pain has to be unbearable for grandparents ( and certianly parents)"...However, the writer asks for suggestions and I think Chana is correct...you can't erase the pain, but you can try to take the steps of reaching out, doing mitzvot, supporting others, allowing others to support you, prayer etc. These are not "cures" as I believe only G-d can ease such pain...but these are actions that can ultimately not only help you recover to some extend, but result in good, instead of bitterness or withdrawal.

But this is enormously difficult and painful...I am certainly not saying; "why don't you just..."
Howie