Grandparent Feature

A Sudden Change in Direction

By Kim Bundy-Fazioli & Christine Fruhauf, CSU, College of Applied Human Science

The RV is in the driveway, you are packed, and your dreams of traveling across the country are about to come true. Then the phone rings and it is a person you don’t know asking if you can take care of your grandchild. Suddenly, your life changes direction. As one grandmother shared “It was like Sunday night I got him, on Tuesday we were in court and they awarded us temporary custody.” Your life is now different. You are faced with hurdles that you had never expected. And you also experiencing moments of pure love and joy that give you the strength to get through the day. How did this happen you think to yourself? “It was supposed to be a temporary support thing.”

Along with adjusting to your new lifestyle, change in daily routine, the challenges of daily living, and the energy of children, many grandparents experience feelings of loss. These feelings of loss are normal. Many grandparents experience a loss of freedom, a loss of their retirement dreams, perhaps your relationship with your adult child or spouse, and sometimes a loss in friends.

We recently talked with grandparents raising their grandchildren who shared with us losses related to friendships. As one grandparent shared, “We’ve lost friends on account of their kids are gone and they didn’t want us to bring our grandson over. Well, he doesn’t come, we don’t come. You know. And you’re in a different group of people now. You know, we don’t fit in the new group either…just a couple old folks.”

Another grandparent shared with us, “I miss being a grandma, baking cookies on Sunday…now I’m the one that says “brush your teeth before you leave the house” person and I want to be grandma…that’s a huge, huge hole in my heart”.

If you can relate to these grandparent stories it is important that you reach out and connect with other grandparents. There are many grandparents like you experiencing similar thoughts, similar emotions, and similar losses. Some grandparents choose counseling, some choose support groups, some reach out to the church, some use the internet, and some do all of the above. Whatever you do, just reach out and talk to someone.

In the words of another grandparent, “You know one of the things that has helped me a lot is being involved in a grandparents’ support group. I think that has probably kept my sanity…calming me down . . . and seeing people get the help they need or light up when they find other families are going through the same struggles. You know that’s been a good thing for me.”

There are a number of communities now responding to the needs of grandparents who are now raising grandchildren. Check your community services to see what is happening.

Click here for previous grandparent features.