My grandmother journey has not led where I had always envisioned it would. To spoil them and send them home didn’t happen. When my son, Zachary, died in an auto accident April 24, 2014, we not only got heartache and grief, we got his 18-month old son, Anthony. When you are your grandkids’ primary caregiver, it’s not a typical relationship. No letting them misbehave, overloading the sugar, winding them up and sending them home. You get the challenge of day in and day out responsibility, disciplining, tantrums and tears, and establishing safe boundaries. The opportunity to make a difference in your grandkids’ life is beyond rewarding.
I found lots of grandmothers in the same boat — raising grandkids or having an integral part in their upbringing. I became passionate for these awesome women who were saving the next generation. They were laying their own lives and plans aside to provide care for the precious grands placed sometimes at their very doorstep. But many needed support or encouragement for the task was demanding, especially when addicts were involved. I began a blog for awesometo do just that.
I began writing a book with my husband about finding help and hope in the heartaches of life. It’s our story of losing a son, gaining a grandson. The book is called The Summer of Paintless Toenails: Losing a Son–Gaining a Grandson: One Awesome Grandma Making a Difference. When your son dies, you don’t feel like getting your toenails polished. There are insights on dealing with grief, raising a grandchild in your sixties, getting support and recovering from any difficult situation or loss. The last chapter is called “Recovery Room,” which refers to my 40-year career as an intensive care nurse and the unique healing balm you must find to apply to your wound in any kind of grief.
I like acronyms. We all need hope to get through whatever we face, whether it’s simple tasks or life changing. I offer you the letters of H-O-P-E which helped me through my difficulties. I hope they can help you confidently come through your challenges.
Seek support from friends, family, counseling, or support groups. Connections are like plugging in an appliance. It gives you energy to fully function as you are meant to, to accomplish what you need in life. Get coffee and chat with a friend, it helps you process what’s going on in your life and sort through things. Think of the Redwood Trees. They have a shallow root system but they extend to others and entwine roots together so they can withstand the storms in life.
One foot in front of the other. One step or one minute at a time. Press through the haze or pain. The needs of what needs to be done often spur us forward. Anthony’s diaper needed changing and he needed his bottle whether I felt like getting out of bed or not. No matter what we are going through, take baby steps if you need to and you will feel like you are making progress, because you are. If you are depressed, you may feel like you are in a box and it’s comfortable there. That’s just an illusion. Kick one foot out of the box and start the forward motion. Do this and your emotions will follow.
Maintain a positive demeanor. Speak words of affirmation over your grandkids. Do it with excitement and enthusiasm. I sing loudly to Anthony every morning: “You are my sunshine’” with hugs and kisses. It may take time, but the seeds you sow in their life will grow into a healthy harvest causing them to be productive members of society. Science has shown by our positive choices we can change our brain functions. Therefore proclaim positive comments and they will come to pass, for your grands and for yourselves.
Do what you can with this. Even if only a brisk walk. Exercise releases endorphins which literally make you feel better, physically and emotionally. Use this walking time to think and reflect. When you see blue skies, green grass, beautiful colorful flowers and laughing people in front of your eyes, they will bring you a refreshing moment in the midst of your pain.
You have a marvelous opportunity to make a difference in the world around you and your grands. What a blessing to bring healing and restoration to the young ones in your care and see this overflow into your life. Our reward for seeing Anthony progress into a stable, social, respectful, well-mannered little man is way beyond any difficulty we faced. God bless you in your journey. I wish you well!