We may miss them starting school, learning to drive, bringing home their first boyfriend or girlfriend. There will be no wedding and no grandchildren. There will be no aunt or uncle for any other grandchildren if we have them.
Sharon, who lost her only child, reminded us:
There are no guarantees that our children will ever want children of their own. But when you lose your only child, you also lose all hope of ever becoming a grandparent or great-grandparent.
Mary does have grandchildren, but finds it difficult when they talk about their cousin and uncle and auntie because they also have an auntie they will never meet. She says:
Sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed by the thought that my daughter will never be an auntie, nor will there ever be grandchildren from her. It is easy to become jealous of the other grandparents who now have grandchildren by both their children.
Margaret told us she wonders what type of grandparent she would have been if Emma had not died:
Our first grandchild arrived only two months after the death of our youngest daughter. For me, the overwhelming feeling at the time was fear. I was so scared something would go wrong and I would lose my eldest daughter as well. Thankfully this did not happen and my new granddaughter proved to be a blessing and a joy.
At the time, several people commented on how my granddaughter’s birth must be helping me to ‘get over’ Emma’s death. I didn’t find this a comforting thing for them to say. It did, however, highlight how difficult it is to understand such a traumatic event as losing a child if you haven’t experienced it personally. In lots of ways, however, it was comforting to realise people were trying to help and, in their own way, attempting to help me realise life still had some purpose and it was worth living.
Harry and Angela’s circumstances were quite unique:
Our son Mark and daughter-in-law Emma rang one evening to tell us that they were going to be parents. Emma was just six weeks pregnant. However, about 3 a.m. the next morning we awoke to the telephone ringing and Emma telling us that Mark was very ill and she had rung for an ambulance. She thought we should come quickly. We drove 50 miles to the hospital where Mark was and were told that he’d had a brain haemorrhage. His life support machine was turned off the following evening.
We were all devastated. What would happen now?
Emma moved further away from us, back to her home city, and Rosie Hope was born eight months later. Emma asked us to come to meet our granddaughter and we were at the hospital just a few hours after her birth! Mark and Emma had chosen the name ‘Rosie’ and Emma had added the name ‘Hope’. Hope for the future, hope in God. We were delighted. But we were also saddened, because Mark was not there to see his beautiful little girl. She looked just like him.
Over the last five years it has been an extraordinary journey. We reckoned that if we were to have a good relationship, first with Emma (who is more like a daughter than an in-law) and then with Rosie, we must be prepared to travel to see them. A new mother and tiny baby could not do the journey on a regular basis.
As Rosie is now older, we interact more with her and our relationship with Emma is lovely. Emma always thinks of us and, whatever her own parents do, she wants us to do similar things. Babysitting is something we can only do when we visit though. We are not around the corner to come if needed, or to collect Rosie from school unless we go especially.
It is still hard when there are special occasions – like Rosie in her first nativity play at nursery or her first day at school. There seem to be so many things, so many firsts, but we thank God for Emma, who always tries to include us.
We have a great relationship with Rosie, but it did not happen overnight and we shall always have to work at it. Rosie is a lovely little girl, who is now at school. And so it goes on. New things lie ahead, but sadly always without Mark. We look forward and embrace the new things, the new seasons of life with our beautiful granddaughter and most gracious daughter-in-law. We are truly blessed.
Harry and Angela told us that Emma has also found support from Care for the Family through Widowed Young Support, which offers help in a very similar way to Bereaved Parent Support.
If we once dreamed of having grandchildren, we may have hoped that they would have gone on to do great things and make a positive impact on our world in the future.
Our lives have changed. Although we were powerless to do anything about it when our child died, we aren’t powerless about how we choose to live in the future. In time, we can decide to bring about positive changes, in whatever ways we can, to make the future a better place for generations to come.
That ability to bring some kind of positive impact from our child’s death can, for many of us, be a part of the hopes that we had for our potential grandchildren. One mum who set up a charity following her only son’s death said, “My charity became my child; his legacy for eternity … It is my Sunday lunch for him, his roast potatoes and my attempt to feed him and make him loved forever.”