Today’s topic is about talking to your grandchildren about your deceased spouse.
Bittersweet moments come out of the blue, especially when you have grandchildren. The conversation of who’s that in a photo of your late spouse can unwind the grief. How do you explain the importance of this person? How do you explain the love, hopes and dreams you shared while reigning in the tears? Holding in the grief of oh honey, they’ll never meet you…they will never see your smile or hear your laughter. They will never see your milestones. Talking about your loved one rips open your heart as you know how very much they would have loved every minute with the grandchildren. Oh, how they would have loved every minute. How they would have loved each one of them.
If you have been following our blog, you might recall that I recently found a stack of pictures that we intended to send with our Christmas Cards the year Bob passed. The picture was a family photo of all of us in Santa hats.
I had placed these photos on the table while deciding what to do with them. While they were laying there, my Paisley found them. “Mamaw, what is this?” My heart fell. What was I going to tell her? “It’s a picture.” (DUH)
Paisley takes a moment and looks at it. She points to each person and says who they are. “There’s Mamaw, Mommy, Uncle Ty, Titi…” she pauses. My heart sinks further. She points to Bob. “Mamaw, who is this?” That is your grandpa Bob. I drop it at that point and she seems to instinctively know that I am not up to it.
When Michelle came to pick Paisley up, I gave her a few of the pictures and apparently Paisley continued the conversation about grandpa Bob with her mom. A few days later, we were on FaceTime when Paisley brought out this picture and again stated who was in the picture. When she got to Bob, she simply said “And this is my grandpa who died.”
Tears fell and I had to get off the call quickly. How was I going to tell her all about him? Dammit, he was missing all of this. And, I knew that this was a conversation that I wasn’t going to have just once. There are other grandchildren…so there will be other stories. They have to be told.
Another conversation similar occurred just a few days ago with three of my other granddaughters. They were asking questions about how I came to be their mommy’s mom as I had adopted my children as preteens/teenagers. We had a long discussion and I mentioned that their Grandpa Bob and I had looked for their mommy.
“Who is Grandpa Bob?” Ugh, here we go again. It seems that the cat is out of the bag (so to speak). The conversations about grandpa Bob seem to come up from time to time now.
So, the pictures come out and the stories are being told. I know that this is how we keep our loved one alive and in the family history. It is just so hard to tell these stories knowing that he is missing out on all of this. Even so, I know that it is important to answer all of their questions…as hard as it might be. So we laugh, cry and tell stories together.
Teresa’s Story –
One holiday together with family we broke out the photo albums and were going through them and down memory lane. We were having a good time looking at daddy as a baby. Evie was 5ish at the time and pointed to my late husband, Kris, and said, “that’s Grandpa Kris who’s in heaven.” Yes, sweetie it is, I choked out as I looked over at Korey & Bo, her parents, questioning how she knew who this was. Bo chimed in, yeah, we’ve talked about Grandpa Kris who’s in heaven and was her daddy’s dad who died. I nodded.
Well, boy, howdy do, there’s that and wow. That awkward uncomfortable conversation with my sweet grandbaby is done. Damn, I wish he was here, he loved kids and would be thrilled to have a granddaughter. I zoned out for a while, tears rolling quietly.
“Mimi, can I have a picture of Grandpa Kris?” she hugged me “Sure sweetie, of course you can, let’s find one you like.” So I found a couple of photos and I put them in a plastic baggie so they wouldn’t get “messed up.”
As the years have gone by, Grandpa Kris’s photo goes with Evie, she talks to him and I find him in her backpack when she comes to visit.
When our family gathers for holidays, the girls and I sometimes like to go back and look through the old photos to learn more about their husbands/uncle/dad and grandpa and the stories that went with them. The stories and memories are terrific. But, there’s that big BUT, Kris isn’t here to enjoy our boys as adults. This just feels sad and hard to talk about. Bittersweet.
Telling the stories of our loved one can be difficult as we know what they are missing and what we are missing by not sharing all of this with them. Even so, it is important to share these stories and to answer the questions. We hope that our stories can help you when or if you have these conversations and let you know that you are not alone. While we wish they were still here sharing with us, we can move forward even while we let others know about our precious memories. Keeping these memories alive is an important step in the grief journey. It’s how we can honor our loved one and also let our grandchildren know they are loved by us and how very much they would have been cherished by our loved one.
Peace & Blessings to you,
Jeni & Teresa
PS: For additional support you can download our free copy of 10 Ways to Move Forward After Loss
In addition, we wrote Torn in Half: The First Days which focuses on the first days after a loss – available on Amazon.