Grandparents are an essential part of a family. They provide love, guidance and shelter. We can always count on them to listen to us from their hearts, share their wisdom and lend a shoulder to cry on when we need it most. They are the voice of reason. But once they depart, there is a void in our lives that can never be filled.

When my grandfather passed away last year, I was heartbroken - I still am. Saturdays were no longer the same. There were no more visits at the nursing home, no more exchanging hugs and kisses and no more hearing his jokes. It was hard for me to see the only father figure I had left pass away slowly. Imagine how it felt for the younger grandchildren who were with him throughout the entire process. They were affected in different ways. It was the duty of the adults to help the kids understand why grandpa had to go and help them grieve.

Children need as much support as possible from their parents or other adults. However, with the right support, they will come to understand why Grandma or Grandpa had to depart.

Here are four keys to helping your family handle a grandparent's death:


. Your children may want to talk about the good times they shared with Grandma or Grandpa. As much as those stories may affect you emotionally and you can't bear to hear the stories, try your best to listen. Go along with them on the journey. Share your stories with your children as well. It's OK to smile and laugh when going down memory lane. You are only keeping the wonderful memories alive. It's OK to celebrate your grandparents.

Discuss things openly

Never ignore your children when they have questions about the deceased, such as why they had to go. There's no easy answer, but try to respond the best way you possibly can. Be gentle and honest when explaining. Try not to frighten the child. They are vulnerable. My niece and nephew had many questions and my sister calmly and carefully explained why Grandpa had to leave us.

Pray together

. Attend mass or enter a quiet church and talk to your God. Let him know what you feel in your heart. Your God will carry you through the pain and offer you the inner strength to cope with the loss.


. As a child, I didn't speak to anyone about my father's death. I was afraid to ask. I made believe I was fine. I didn't properly grieve. I thought he was coming back. If your children want to cry, give them that opportunity. If they are showing no emotions, approach them. Ask them how they are feeling. Some children hide their true emotions. Let them know it is fine to be sad, confused or cry. Don't be ashamed to grieve along with them. Losing a grandparent is like losing a parent.

Grandparents will always hold a special place in our lives. We were blessed to have a second set of parents cheering us on from the sidelines. But once they are no longer around, we can only hold on to our faith and pray for the courage to deal with the loss. They are gone, but their memories live on. They will always remain in our hearts.

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