How My Stepson Grieved For His Step-Grandmother

As the anniversary of my mother’s death approaches, thoughts turn to the Mass which we attend each year to remember her.

Sadly my mother passed away unexpectedly in 2013. And so, as we pack to head to Ireland we always ensure we have something suitable to wear to the mass. 

My stepson, now 13, was only seven when my mother died. Of the children, he was the most affected by her death at the time. He and my mother always had a close bond. My mum did so many special things for him, and the children collectively, to make their trips to Ireland memorable.

The one thing that makes me (and them) smile when we talk about Gran was the time she bought chicks for Easter, real live chicks! And not only chicks but also a hen run to put them in. Just to make Easter in Ireland even more special for the children. We were only there for a week and my mum was then left with a hen run full of chicks to look after! 

The children loved handling the chicks and putting them in their coop, looking after them and feeding them while we were there. I don’t know who was happier, the children or my mother at the sight of their delight in the chicks. Either way, it is a lovely memory that she made for them and it is one that they recall regularly and fondly.  

I remember the
day she passed away. We were travelling to Ireland for a holiday. I felt so
relaxed that morning taking the children through the airport with my husband.
We were all looking forward to what was going to be a relaxing fortnight. Our
home renovation had just been completed; fresh air and relaxation awaited us.
We could not wait. 

When we came out of the airport I saw two of my brothers approaching us. My youngest brother was crying. My first thought was that his girlfriend had lost their unborn baby. But no, engulfing me in a protective hug he told me that our mother had passed away that morning.

They had not wanted to tell me before I boarded the flight. When I look back now I feel that the calm I felt when going through the airport was my mother protecting me. I still sigh when I reflect on that day now. It was hard, very hard. 

We did not have anything suitable to wear to a funeral - after all, who thinks to pack funeral clothes going on a summer holiday? I think about it now but previously the thought never would have crossed my mind, and did not. We had to go shopping, urgently. 

Boy standing in a field
The sense of loss that bereavement leaves is engulfing and should not be ignored, especially when a child is grieving so much

My stepson was a rock at such a young age. My rock. He hugged me and helped me to choose the right dress to wear. He was looking after me. I remember just sitting in the changing room of the department store and crying. What was going on? I was so looking forward to spending some quality time with my mother. And now, now she was gone. I felt lost.

A year or so after my mum’s passing, my stepson was not long in bed when he reappeared downstairs in floods of tears. He came and sat by me, crying into my shoulder saying he really missed his Gran.

As I cradled him and comforted him, trying not to cry myself, I chatted to him about my mother and how much she loved him and that she was now watching over him.

He chatted about her and felt happier when he recalled all the happy memories he had. When he was feeling happier I took him back up to his bed and I lay with him until he fell asleep. 

When I came back downstairs my stepdaughter said that this was something that was happening quite frequently at their mother’s, but we were not told about it and were totally unaware. The poor child.

The sense of loss that bereavement leaves is engulfing and should not be ignored, especially when a child is grieving so much. This was his first loss of someone he truly loved and he needed guidance and help to deal with this loss.

I did suggest bereavement counselling but he said he was happy to talk to us frequently and openly and I am glad to say it works. He has not reappeared in floods of tears.

I always did and
still do talk to the children about my mother and we all recall memories of
her. It is okay to say you miss someone, to mourn them, even years on. Time
does not heal, you just learn to cope and try to find the strength inside
to carry on. The loss of a loved one is one you truly never recover

My own son was only 15 months old at the time his Gran died and he has been feeling her loss as he gets older. Reading about bereavement, I read that children mourn a loss of a family member they may not have known or have known only for a short time.

Even though my son only knew his Grandmother for a short while he is aware of her as a grandparent and he talks about her frequently, asks questions about her and likes to look at photographs of her.

Recently I took him to where my mother grew up (I took him before but he does not remember) and he met lots of my family on my mother’s side. He cannot wait to go back and meet more of them.

Kathryn Maile

Kathryn Maile is stepmum to three children and mum to one of her own. She will happily share more 'food for thought' on step-parenting and the challenges faced throughout in her blog.

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