This article is the second in a two-part series, you can read last week’s post
Intergenerational Grief – Billy, Part I here.
I saw multiple loses during my years as a Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse. Babies were born prematurely, some died during delivery or soon after, and some like Billy (the little boy I wrote about last week) are born with multiple congenital anomalies requiring extensive hospitalization and surgery.
Parents, grandparents, extended family members and friends are in shock, denial often obscuring their view of reality. Grief, the emotional response to any type of loss, takes them on a rollercoaster of emotion in the days and months ahead.
Education is key when trying to support a disabled child.
In the midst of coming to terms with reality, there is so much to learn, to understand the diagnosis and the prognosis. Sometimes the parents are so overwhelmed and exhausted, that grandparents can feel left out, lacking information.
Resources can offer an important link.
1. Your grandchild’s pediatrician and the hospital where they practice can be a resource to you. Support groups are often based in hospitals or surrounding faith communities, call them to find out what they offer. If not, an article in Parents Magazine entitled, The Ten Best Children’s Hospitals in the US may give you supportive information as well.
2. American Grandparents Association has many articles available about supporting families with children that have disabilities. One of them is called, Special Needs III: A Different Kind of Grandparenting.
3. The National Dissemination Center (NICHCY) for children with disabilities http://www.parentcenterhub.org/resources will continue to be online through September 30, 2014 but after that will be moved to the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR).
4. Women’s & Children’s Health Network – Parenting and Child Health link site has a section called – When your child has a disability, and a heading for grandparents.
What can I do to help?
• Make a point to approach the parents or grandparents if you see them out with their child, DO NOT avoid them just because you are uncomfortable.
• Find something positive to say about the child no matter how small, and always smile.
• Ask the child’s name and use it, looking directly at them when you speak.
• Respite time is a gift, even if you go to their home and just give them a chance to speak to another adult.
• If they share information, acknowledge their feelings and don’t worry about having answers, they just need a listening ear.
• Validate their concerns if they share their frustrations.
• If you can help in any way, offer! Running errands, walking with them around the block or providing a meal are all ways of showing you care.
As I stated in last week’s article, the stress and loss that is going on behind closed doors in our neighborhoods is real and often overwhelming.
I challenge each of you to find a simple yet effective way to lend support to those around you who are carrying the heavy burden of grief.
Maybe there is a widow or widower next door? Maybe the young father down the street just lost his job? Or maybe you have a grandmother down the road, like I do, whose grandchild has special needs?
It is in the small acts of kindness that healing can take place. What small thing have you done to help that has made a large impact?