One of the common emotions that we experience as grandparents raising grandchildren is anger and frustration. Of course, we don’t like to admit that or talk about that. I know I experience it, and I am guessing that I am not the only one. Often, we are angry at our adult children who put us in this position. In addition to the joys that come with this role, we may also be angry at times about having to be a parent again. We may be angry about the opportunities and activities that we miss out on due to our situation.
As I am doing through this article, one of the keys is to be honest about our anger and to find means of healthy expression of it. Anger is a normal emotion that we all experience. Anger is as healthy as any other emotion. It can become a dangerous emotion only we ignore it or deny that we have it. Of course, there are unhealthy ways to express our anger that can be destructive to ourselves and others, but anger itself, is a natural human experience.
I like to say that anger is a “covering” emotion. In most cases, anger is covering a deeper emotion. Usually, anger is not the deepest emotion. When we deny or ignore our anger, we block the opportunity to discover the deeper emotion. The deeper emotions can often be fear, pain, shame or grief. When we can experience and express our anger appropriately, we can access those deeper emotions and release them. If we block our anger, those deeper emotions tend to simmer and grow, which can be destructive and unhealthy.
As I think of health in general, and particularly mental and emotional healthiness, I believe two words are important. Those two words are “Experience” and “Express”. When we experience our emotions and express our emotions, we tend to stay healthy. Our children in fact are great teachers of how to experience and express their emotions. They get angry or hurt, they experience the pain or anger, they express the pain or anger, and then they go play. They are naturals at it, because it is a natural process. It is only later in life that we start to receive messages “not” to experience or “not” to express our emotions. The problem is that when block our experience, and especially our expression, we get stuck and we do not get to go “play”. This is also a good reminder of the importance of giving our grandchildren permission to experience and express their emotions. Of course, it is important to help them learn healthy forms of expression versus unhealthy forms.
One of the common sources of our anger as grandparents raising our grandchildren is our anger and frustration toward our adult children who have put us in this situation. We may be angry about how their choices have and are affecting the lives of their children and our lives as well. Often, the deeper emotion under our anger is grief. We grieve the loss of a healthy and enjoyable relationship with our adult children. We feel sadness about the unhealthiness going on in their own lives. We feel sadness about what they are missing out on related to their own children and the precious experiences with their children that they are missing. It is important that we recognize the grief that we are experiencing and find healthy ways to express that grief. Experiencing and expressing our anger related to our adult children can also free us to accept them as they are and where they are in their own individual journey. We will still need to maintain healthy boundaries with them that are in the best interests of our grandchildren. Some of the resources we can use to express our anger and grief is to journal, talk to friends, a counselor or join a support group.
I mentioned in the title of this article, the path to “Comfort”. One of my favorite Beatitudes is, “Blessed are those who Mourn, for they shall be Comforted”. Mourning is the expression or externalizing of our grief. We only get to the comfort, when we experience the mourning, or the expression of our grief. In addition to this principle being key to our own mental/emotional healthiness, it is good role modeling for our grandchildren.
Sharing the Journey,