Death of Grandchild is a Double Loss
By: Sherry Van Pelt
My name is Sherry Van Pelt. I am a wife to my husband Max of 43 years, a mother of three and a grandmother of three. I am also an author and speaker.
April 11 was my second-born grandson, Conner’s, birthday. He would have been 16 this year. Oh, the fun age. The 16th birthday, to me, is when you no longer feel like you are a child but not quite an adult. You aren’t quite sure where to go with those feelings you have inside you. Also, the child seems to change physically.
But I will never get to see those changes in my grandson. As a matter of fact, I never got to share any birthdays with him as he was stillborn. To this day, we do not know what happened on his day of birth, but he stopped breathing shortly before he was born. No reason was ever given.
I can still feel the horrific chain of events of that day. As a grandparent, I wasn’t sure what to do. Where is there a handbook written on “What to do when you grandchild dies?”. As a grandparent, you are in such grief and in such complete shock yourself, you aren’t sure what to do first when you are given the news of the death of the baby – and your grandbaby!
I think I remember sitting on the edge of the bed completely stunned at first thinking this can’t be happening. The pregnancy was so normal, so what went wrong?
The medical staff had taken my daughter into the operating room to do an emergency C-Section, and when the doctor came out to give us the unbelievable news, I wrapped my arms around my son-in-law, David, and sobbed with him. Later, we went to see Conner in his bassinet together and just wept. The pain in my heart was so deep as I watched his daddy hold him; he shook with grief.
Suddenly, my mind whirled as I thought: What do I do now? And what do I tell my daughter when she wakes up?
After awhile, I called my husband and the other grandparents. Then I sat and waited for my daughter to come back to her room. While waiting, I prayed and prayed for God to give me the strength to help my daughter through this. You see, a grandparent has the pain of losing a grandchild and then there is the enormous pain that you have for your own child. I don’t know which hurts worse.
When Michelle (my daughter) came out, she and David cried like I’ve never seen anyone cry before. It tore me up inside. It took my breath away. I felt smothered. Then my daughter reached out to me, and we hugged and she asked me “why?” Again, no answer. All I could do was hang on to her tight and give her my love and support.
I remember on the day we lost Conner seeing all the people in the hospital walking around.
Some were talking and laughing, others having lunch in the café, others leaving in their cars, and I just wanted to yell, “Hey, stop, I just lost my grandson! You need to stop and grieve with me! Can’t you see I am hurting?!” But the world goes on around us.
The pain was at times overwhelming. I felt helpless. I wanted to fix the problem. But I couldn’t. There are some things not even a parent can fix. But with my faith in tact, I went forward and was there for my daughter at all times. I respected her times when she just needed to be alone too.
But I also remembered to grieve for my grandson. You have to. You will go through many grieving steps, and you need to take each one as it comes. Your grief won’t go away overnight, and don’t let anyone try to tell you that it will whether you are the parents or grandparents. Also, friends do console the parents, as they should, but often times forget the grandparents are grieving tremendously. People forget that a grandparent grieves twice – once for the grandchild they lost and again for their own child that is hurting.
I wasn’t upset with anyone, that is just the way it is. I am thankful I was raised to have strong faith in God and that is what I relied on.