Advice from Amy: Helping Grieving Grandchildren

By Amy Dickinson | January 25th, 2022

These 10-year-old twins recently lost their mother

two sad boys sitting on a rock in front of a foggy lake Photo by Oksanabratanova Dreamstime. For article on helping grieving grandchildren

Advice columnist Amy Dickinson responds to a concerned grandfather, who reaches out about helping grieving grandchildren after the sudden loss of their mother.

Dear Amy:

My wife’s daughter just died two days before this past Christmas due to liver and kidney failure, following a hospital stay of 20 days, mostly in the ICU and under intubation.

She was only 46 years old, and in fair health until she recently developed back pain and then difficulty walking.

At any rate, she had a husband and two 10-year-old twin children.

When would it be appropriate for them to start grief counseling, since it seems the twins need to gain perspective regarding the sudden loss of their mother.

They did not get to see their mother while she was hospitalized.

– Concerned Grandfather

Dear Concerned:

Your entire family must be reeling.

To a certain extent, you will need to let the reeling happen, and not try to fix it. I hope you will be able to stay calm, centered and compassionate toward all three generations.

It would be appropriate for all grieving family members to attend grief counseling, as soon as possible, and to continue with counseling for as long as they want.

The hospital that treated your daughter-in-law should have recommendations for local in-person or virtual grief groups.

For the children, you might want to introduce them to the book, The Invisible String, written by Patrice Karst and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Kriethoff (current edition, 2018, Little Brown). This classic picture book might seem a little “young” for your 10-year-old grandchildren, but its message about the love that binds us should resonate with all of you.

I hope that you and your wife can offer these children a port in the storm. Spend a lot of time with them. Establish rituals and routines that they can snuggle into. Encourage them to talk about their mom whenever they want to and in any context.

And you and your wife should freely share happy memories of her, show them childhood photos if they’re interested, and be as centered and stalwart as you are able.

Tips from Comfort Zone Camp on helping grieving children during the holidays – or anytime

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from when a spouse demands immediate attention to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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