“You’re coming home with us,” I said. My husband and I and our twin grandchildren were standing by the hospital emergency entrance. Nine months ago, their mother (our daughter) died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Now their father was gone, killed in another car crash. The life I had known stopped and I was engulfed in darkness.
Like the words of the famous hymn, “Amazing Grace,” I was blind and couldn’t see.
The twins (one boy and one girl) were orphans and we were GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren. Would I have the energy to raise grandchildren? Could I grieve and stay upbeat for the twins? What would become of me? These questions haunted me and all I could do was put one foot in front of the other and keep going.
For me, 2007 was a year of death. My daughter died, my father-in-law died, my brother died, and the twins’ father died. I felt like I was lost in a dark, dense, and brambly forest. Years later, I could see the path, the steps I took, and the journey from darkness to light. You may be raising your grandkids and my tips may help you.
- Eat dinner together. Mealtime isn’t just about food, it’s about family values, sharing news, and learning how to cope and solve problems. We expected our grandchildren to eat dinner with us. I’m a made-from-scratch cook and my grandchildren appreciated this. “I love your salad dressing more than the salad!” my granddaughter exclaimed.
- Support school activities. We cheered for our granddaughter at gymnastics meets and applauded our grandson’s trumpet playing at concerts. Sometimes the twins asked me to help with their research papers and I was glad to help. “I’m only proofreading,” I assured them, “and won’t change your style.” The twins appreciated my help and I was impressed with their writing.
- Set new goals. Making it to the next hour was my first goal. Once I could do that, my next goal was to make it through the day, then a week, and then a month. Step-by-step, I inched my way along the recovery path. Though I took several detours, I kept moving forward. Setting goals gave new purpose to my life.
- Practice self-care. Writing is self-care for me. Friends advised me to give up writing to care for my grandchildren. What a terrible idea. Giving up writing would feel like another death in the family. A week after my daughter and father-in-law died, I sat down at the computer and poured out my soul in words. I’m still writing. Put self-care on your To Do list.
- Embrace silence. Like many who are grieving, I feared quiet times, the pain of these times and the disturbing thoughts I would have. But in silence—a few moments of meditation each day—I found a wellspring of strength I could tap again and again. Instead of avoiding silence, you may choose to make it part of your day.
- Believe in yourself. “I will survive this” was my mantra and you can make it yours. Attitude has a lot to do with how we approach life and I gave myself frequent “attitude adjustments.” When a negative thought came to mind, I balanced it with a positive one. This took practice, but the more I did it, the better I felt.
- Trust life again. My grandchildren’s trust in me enabled me to trust life again. A dozen years have passed since the twins moved in with us. Their energy and interests changed my life forever. Instead of me saving my grandchildren, they saved me.
Both twins graduated from high school with honors. The ceremony was an emotional experience. The man our daughter planned to marry was there and took a photo of the twins. He emailed the photo to me. Every time I looked at the photo I cried, yet I couldn’t stop looking at it. What was going on? I studied the photo and realized I cried because, for the first time, I saw hope in the twins’ eyes.
When I began this journey, I was blinded by sorrow. Today, I am living a new, happy life and immensely proud of the twins. My grandson is a senior at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine. My granddaughter is an independent photographer and the mother of a newly adopted great-grandchild—a darling boy.
Death made me appreciate life. I’m a stronger person than I used to be. Most important, I know every breath, every moment, and every day are miracles. Just as the hymn says, “I was blind but now I see.”