Updated: Sep 14, 2022
When I was told I was going to be a grandparent for the first time, I was nervous and excited. I began making plans of what I could teach my grandchild. Of what we could and should do together and how I would be a better grandparent than I was as a parent. I was full of hope. I pinned things in Pinterest of ideas that sounded like fun. I researched when a child should be taught certain things and the best way to teach them. The thought of a child coming into my life at a time when I had more time and wisdom (or at least I thought I did) to give the child was exciting.
When your grandchild comes, it is a blessing more than you can imagine. The focus of your life changes and you love that grandchild down deep in your soul. A place you never knew existed. Suddenly you have more patience than you ever did parenting your own children. While at the same time you see your child sometimes struggle with the balancing act that parents have between work and home life. You support your child in this new role of parenting and say you lots of prayers for your child, for your grandchild and for yourself.
As he became more of a teenager, I saw the influence that others had over him, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. He had great teachers and coaches that pushed him to give his best and a patient Mom that loved him with every fiber of her body. He had friends and teammates that he enjoyed and yet he also became quieter and didn’t tell his grandma everything like he did as a child. I missed that.
And then the struggles surfaced with his mental health. He began treatments, he was supported at school and at home. There were times when I thought, yes, he is going to beat it because of xyz and then a choice was made and we saw him struggling even more than he had before. He had a circle of support that would do anything to keep him healthy and alive, although I don’t know if he really knew, understood or at times wanted the support. He attempted suicide a couple of times and we did what we could to help him. There were doctor appointments, someone taking him to school and practices and picking him up afterwards (no more unsupervised bus time). I thought we were covering all the bases but I saw him become quieter and quieter. The hoodie was always up as almost a symbol of him going further into the darkness. The smiles were less frequent and more forced. It was hard to watch him and what it was doing to my daughter.
Then the call came one Saturday morning from my daughter and she couldn’t talk. I knew instantly what happened but didn’t want to believe it. I selfishly needed her to say it because I didn’t want to believe the worst thing in the world happened, but it did, my grandson had died by suicide. My emotions were all over the place, but my anger at my grandson was running at full speed. In an instant my focus changed from being a Grandma to being a Mom whose child's child choose to leave this world. There is no greater joy than becoming a Grandma and there is nothing worse, than watching your child go through an unimaginable hell and there is nothing you can do.
I didn’t know what to say or do. I didn’t know how to support and to be honest, I still don’t. I’m a fixer by nature and there is no fixing this. Your heart rips when your grandson’s heart stops and then it continues to rip as you watch your own child make decisions that she should never have had to make. There were people with good intentions but I could see it hurt my daughter and yet she showed kindness and grace to everyone. I struggled and continue to do so, with how to help my daughter and helping myself as I go through all of my emotions that come with loss. There are moments of happiness when someone shares a story about my grandson and we laugh. The first school year, school events, holidays, birthday and Mother’s day were times of struggles. And then there are moments with no rhyme or reason that hits you like a ton of bricks and you burst out crying in the middle of a store, work video call, really anytime. You do the best you can and try and focus on the good times, until the next time it hits and it will.
Now, I want to learn more about mental illness and what I can do to help others. I want mental illness to become a topic as natural as the latest sports scores or newly found recipe. I want us to do better, be better, so no other family will go through the most unimaginable hell that we have.