Losing a Grandparent | Coping with the death of a grandparent

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Losing a grandparent

Many people are often taken aback by their feelings after losing a grandparent.

Losing a grandparent is often considered a natural part of life, but for many it can be deeply painful. When we're young, we often assume that our grandparents will be with us forever, so their death can sometimes leave us feeling very shocked and upset.

Different feelings after the death of a grandparent

  • Distress. Losing a grandparent may mean losing one of the people who thought we were the most special, and who loved us unconditionally. For many this can be shocking.
  • Anger and regret. Alternatively, if we had a difficult or estranged relationship with a grandparent, you might feel a sense of longing for a relationship that never was.
  • Confusion. If your grandparent cared for you growing up, you may feel like you’ve lost a part of your childhood and lost a grasp on your place in the world.
  • Fear of death. As with many types of loss, the death of a grandparent can bring home the inevitability of our own death, and perhaps make it seem nearer than it was before. 
  • Shock. If you rarely saw your grandparents, you may occasionally find yourself thinking they are still alive. It can then be very shocking and upsetting when you realise this isn’t true.

How to support yourself after the death of a grandparent

1. Talk to someone

Talking can be really helpful, even if it is over the phone, internet or social media. You might be able to talk your friends, family or even someone in your community, such as a faith or spiritual leader. Talk to your GP if your health is suffering or call the Cruse helpline if your feelings start to become overwhelming.
2. Find ways to remember them

It can help to think of ways you can remember your grandparent, and keep them as part of your life. This might mean keeping a few special possessions, creating a memory box or special album of pictures, or organising a time for family and friends to come together and remember. You can find more suggestions on ways to remember someone who has died in the Cruse blog.

3. Plan ahead on anniversaries 

Birthdays, anniversaries and religious festivals can be difficult after someone close to us dies. It can help to think in advance about how you are going to manage. Read our tips on coping with anniversaries.

“I was very close to my grandad, and when he died suddenly of a heart attack, I was just seven years old. His death devastated me, but at the time, I packed away all the grief deep inside me, because my granny was so very sad, and my mum was both sad and busy looking after my gran; I thought I didn’t have a right to grieve." 

Chloe, Northern Ireland 

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Losing a grandparent in childhood

  • For many children and young people, a grandparent dying will be their first experience of death and may come as a shock.
  • For some, this may trigger anxiety around death in general 
  • Some children may not quite know how to express their feelings after a death and may become reclusive in reaction to a grandparent's death

Talking to a child about the death of a grandparent

  • Try to use clear language and avoid saying things like 'gone to sleep' or 'passed away'
  • Be honest with children about how you're feeling
  • Allow them space to talk about how they're feeling and about death in general
  • Create a space where they can ask questions and talk about the person who has died

Grief can affect children and young people in a number of ways. Get help supporting children through grief.

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