After my father passed away, there seemed to be an endless supply of questions by well-intentioned family members who’d ask if my 3 and 4-year-old sons remembered their grandfather. And while I appreciate that they care enough to ask, I really wished that everyone would stop asking me this question.
When I first learned that my father was diagnosed with cancer, I was devastated. He and I had a rocky relationship when I was a kid, but we had grown very close in the past few years. From the moment he became a grandfather to my children, I was able to see the amazing man he was and understand how much love he had to give to his family. During the final year of his life, I made it a point to visit him as often as possible. These visits weren’t just for me; they were also in hopes that my children would be able to make memories with him that they’d remember too.
At the very least, I knew the pictures and videos I took during this time would be priceless. I knew that one day, when they asked about my father, I would have a way to share these moments. But what I didn’t expect was how quickly they adjusted to the loss of their grandfather. Children are much more resilient, and my 3- and 4-year-old sons didn’t have have the capacity to retain clear memories of their grandfather.
But what I didn’t expect was how quickly they [my kids] adjusted to the loss of their grandfather.
When someone in your family dies, especially one who holds such an important role, there is so much pain and heartache that you have to process. Grief is complex and affects each person differently. Support from family and friends is appreciated (and crucial), but sometimes, well intentions can trigger grievers.
For me, being reminded of the loss and asked if your children remember almost seems like a test I will always fail. If my children do remember and miss their grandfather, I hate that they have to cope with the grief. If they do not remember, I mourn them missing those memories later in life. Asking whether or not my kids remember their grandfather is actually quite painful to process and answer.
How to Help a Grieving Friend or Family Member
Often, people don’t know what to say to others grieving a loss. But there are so many different ways you can show you care. Here are three things that have really helped my family as we grieve my father—my children’s grandfather.
Share pictures of their loved one
My brother’s girlfriend was such a sweetheart after my father’s passing, and we were all so touched when she printed out two small collages and put them in frames for us to keep. By being there for us in this way, she showed she cared, without us needing to do anything in return.
Share your memories of the person who passed away
Sometimes, having a conversation with family and friends about the person who passed away is the most comforting way to show support. Knowing that the person you cared about is missed by others who remember them fondly is a wonderful way to keep that person alive in your memories. Offering your own stories instead of asking intrusive questions puts less weight on the immediate family to share things that they might not be ready to.
Offer to cook a meal they loved
Food is often a nice way to help families feel connected. Cooking a meal that reminds someone of their loved one can be the perfect way to show you care and create an environment that encourages them to share their feelings without the pressure of persistent questions.