How I grieved for my grandchild while supporting my child

By Caroline

Apart from the huge grief of losing a grandchild, also watching your adult child in such pain is so very hard.

Just over two years ago our youngest grandchild, Marley, died suddenly and totally unexpectedly aged 10 months. He was a healthy, active, beautiful, precious little boy and his death is totally unexplained – described as ‘Sudden unexplained death of an Infant’.

The shock, loss and grief for his parents and big sister was immeasurable, with the rest of the family, grandparents, aunties, uncles and little cousins all left reeling too. It is so very hard to reflect on those early days with so many unknowns and practical things to try and deal with on top of the raw grief that we were all experiencing. We are all still here though and life is continuing.

Apart from the huge grief of losing a grandchild, also watching your adult child in such pain is so very hard. As parents we always want to make things better for our children whatever their age – but it’s impossible to do that in this situation. As a very practical person some of my very early responses were to try to do things that might in some small way help – have memorial jewellery made, plan a garden area in his memory. On reflection it was much too soon to do these things, and to some degree caused added stress, but the jewellery is nevertheless treasured, and ‘Marley’s Garden’ is evolving beautifully.

It is so important to respect that the parent’s grief is the deepest and allow them to deal with it in whatever way they can. The parents and sibling may need to ‘lock down’ to a degree and I believe for our family that is what they needed to start any healing process. Stepping back and letting them have this time was very hard and as the parent of the grieving parent there was a constant need to try to ease their pain… sadly impossible! Things do change in time though and relationships continue positively as long as patience and compassion underpin everything. The ripples within the wider family following such a tragic event can be painful and unexpected. Although I would never say time is a healer, time does give distance and we all develop coping strategies.

Anniversaries are so very hard. I know that I spent a lot of emotional energy trying to do what was ‘right’ – although I don’t know what is ‘right’.

Anniversaries are so very hard. I know that I spent a lot of emotional energy trying to do what was ‘right’ – although I don’t know what is ‘right’. I do know though that it is so important to mark every anniversary or special date with a text, a card or a gift just so they know we haven’t forgotten him, and continue to include Marley’s name in family cards or Christmas cards. On the second anniversary of his death his parents organised a fundraising day in his memory – it was a wonderful day with a huge number of family and friends involved. Such a positive and brave thing to do.

Almost a year ago my daughter had a new baby – a little sister – she has been a great source of joy and hope for all of us. They will always have three children and we have seven grandchildren not six. I was told that he would find his place in the family and reflecting from here that is becoming so true.

Marley is never out of my thoughts – he is mentioned so often by all the family – loved and never forgotten.