Q. My first grandchild was just born – 13 months after my husband died. He desperately wanted a granddaughter, and it hurts that he can’t share my joy at her arrival. How do you cope with this aspect of loss?
Sharing any kind of good news magnifies the pleasure, especially when the other person is just as invested in the event (and feels as deeply about it) as you do. When the happy news involves a new life, continuity, and hope for the future, it’s an incomparable experience for the entire family. Of course you’re going to miss your late husband terribly at a time like this. One widow told me she felt the loss most acutely just after her grandchild was delivered. “That’s when we all thought, ‘Tim should be here, too,’” she recalls. It helped enormously that her sister-in-law called the next day to say, “You know the baby was born on Tim’s mother’s birthday.” The symbolism touched her deeply and helped her focus on the promise ahead. In the weeks that followed, she fit right into her new role as a grandmother.
In my own life, there are so many times when I have an experience that my late husband would have appreciated. I’ll think (or even say out loud), “You would have loved this.” I imagine his reaction and smile. Sometimes I talk to the picture of him that I keep in my bedroom, especially when the subject is my own grandchildren (who range in age from five months old to almost three). I can brag shamelessly to him about how beautiful and brilliant these babies are because he’d feel the same way I do. For similar reasons, I also find it helpful to trade anecdotes about our extraordinary grandchildren with my daughter-in-law’s mother.
Another option is to “write a letter” to your late husband. Sharing your thoughts and feelings on paper at times may help you feel less alone. It usually works for me.
Most important, try to concentrate on the meaning and fun your grandchild adds to your life instead of getting stuck on the sadness of your husband’s absence. Think about the people who truly care about you and are happy for you. Maybe give them a call. No, it isn’t a perfect answer – nothing is – but it can make a difference.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons/juhansonin