The grief of unspeakable choices

When we decided to step in and become Sebellah’s safe place, we had no idea the choices we would have continue to make. For years our daughter battled with addiction and severe mental health issues. This dual diagnosis made it virtually impossible to be the stable nurturing parent that Sebellah needed. I have no question that she longed to be a good parent, but in her agony and brokenness she was incapable of this. We supported her through multiple treatment centers and medication changes, but she kept returning to her addictions like her favorite pair of sweats. Finally we had to make the heart-wrenching decision to separate from the chaos and choose Sebellah, because we were the only ones that would. So in the midst of our complete life upheaval caring for an infant, we were living in a hurricane of anger, grief and loss.
The anger at our daughter and of the unfairness of the situation because at this point we knew this was forever.
The grief of knowing that even this separation and untangling of our lives would most likely not change Beth’s trajectory. Understanding that the agonizing pain she would feel due to our choices could send her over the edge. She never came back from this or the death of her 6 month old daughter Haven…..she eventually overdosed and passed away.
The loss of the dream of a healthy loving relationship with our daughter. The loss of the beautiful parts of her. She was passionate, creative, and so funny.

In your decision to keep your grands safe, you may have to make an impossible choice. To let your child go, giving them to your higher power to care for, because you realize you are unable to do so yourself.
Every story is different, I hope your’s has an outcome of healing and restoration.
Our choices ache, but I would make them again for this sweet girl..

Walking alongside you


Part II – Helping Our Grandchildren Find Their “Calm During Stormy Moments”.

I will be honest and say that Allene is much better at staying calm and helping Sebellah calm down during stormy moments than I am.  I tend to be too emotional in the moment.  There are a lot of resources that can help us in our attempt to help our grandchildren experience “calmness” during their stormy moments. 

So, what can we do to help our children “calm” down during their stormy moments?  Here are a few things to consider:

  1.  Don’t use, “You need to calm down!”  I am very guilty of this and in most cases, it is not effective.
  2. Consider creating a “Safe Zone” or a “Calm Corner” in your house or their bedroom where they can go to calm down.  Create a comfortable space that also has some comforting items such as stuffed animals or stress balls that will help them deescalate their intense emotions.
  3. Practice taking a breath and slowly counting to ten or four, and maybe do it with them.
  4. Separate inappropriate behavior from appropriate emotions.  It is okay to be angry, it is not okay to throw or damage toys or objects.
  5. Take a moment yourself and practice your own calming techniques so that you as the adult, can remain calm and objective.

So, once again, this is an area in which I struggle at times and these tips are good reminders for me as well.  I am also attaching a few links to articles that I found online that might be helpful.

7 Tried and True Calming Techniques for Kids – Moshi (

6 Relaxation Activities That Can Help to Calm Kids During Times of Anxiety | Save the Children

Creating a Calm Down Area for Your Child | Helping with Self-Regulation (

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

Find “Calmness” In the Midst of the Storm – “Lessons from Hurricanes”

During my adult life, I have twice lived on the southern Gulf Coast, once along the Florida Gulf Coast and once along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  During each of those periods of time, I had the interesting experience of being in the direct path of a hurricane.  If you have ever experienced being in the direct path of a hurricane, you know that there are three phases of the experience.  The front side of the hurricane, the eye of the hurricane and then the back side of the hurricane.  In the early hours of a hurricane, as the front side approaches, you experience intense wind, sideways rain, and the unique experience of watching some items in your yard blow away and maybe, depending on the level of the hurricane, some property damage.  After about 45 minutes to an hour, the wind subsides, the rain stops and the skies clear.  A hurricane novice might think, “whew, I am glad that is over”.  The reality is that it is not over.  After about 45 minutes to an hour of calmness, the back side of the hurricane approaches, and the wind picks up, the rain starts again, and you are in for another 45 minutes to an hour of intense wind, sideways rain and watching things blow away.

Our experience of raising a grandchild at times, may feel like a natural disaster, maybe better termed, a “Unnatural Disaster”.  Our experience can feel very intense and very chaotic at times.  Just as in the experience of a hurricane, when the time frame of the eye of the storm moves over you, providing a time of respite from the intensity and chaos of the storm, we need times of “respite” from our stormy experiences of raising a grandchild.  The storms that we may experience may be the aggressive and unpredictable behaviors exhibited by children, our grandchildren, who have experienced their own storms of chaos in their own lives.  Their own unpredictable and aggressive behaviors are direct results of those chaotic experiences that were thrust upon them in their young lives unexpectedly and undeserved.  Our times of storms may be the challenging experiences of dealing with our adult children, the parents of our grandchildren, who are still dealing with their addictions and chaotic choices that affect not only our grandchildren but our lives as well.

My encouragement is that during those times of storminess, we look for the respite of the “eye of the storm”.   In the real-life experience of surviving a hurricane, you have no control over when and how long you will experience the eye of the hurricane.  In our experience of raising our grandchildren, I believe that we do have some control and can “choose” to find the “Calm” during the storm.

So, how do you find calm during the storm?  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Give yourself “permission” to seek the calm.  We need to give ourselves permission to be human and to need a time of respite.  We do not need to be and cannot be, “superhuman”.  We have our limits, and it is wise to be able to be aware of them, recognize them and act when we reach them or are approaching those limits.
  2. Ask for help, when possible.  I realize that for some, this can be challenging.  If you are a single grandparent, help may not be as available, as it may be for those who have a partner.  If you have a partner, let them know you need a break, and ask them to step in.  If you don’t have a partner, it might be wise to make a list of people that you can call during stormy times.  I would encourage your asking a few friends that you trust, if they would be willing to help from time to time, as far as maybe taking your grandchild for an afternoon or something like that, at least be willing to take a phone call from you when you need someone to talk to.  It is worth a shot.  This is also another reason to consider being involved in a support group of some kind.
  3. Schedule activities that provide you a sense of respite and enjoyment.  You can consider taking regular walks, with a friend if possible, so you can express yourself as well as get good physical exercise.  You can journal on a regular basis.  You could write poetry or try your hand at art or some type of craft.  You can pick a new book and schedule a time for reading that book.  You can schedule time with friends to do the things you enjoy doing.
  4. Use your “Six Senses”.  I believe that using our five senses plus breathing, making six, can be very helpful in bringing “calmness” into our lives.  During the storm, sometimes simply stopping and taking a breath can allow us to refocus and react calmly, instead of acting emotionally or too intensely.  Practice regular breathing exercises, such as counting your breaths, exaggerating your breathing, or extending your breathing.  There are a lot of interesting breathing techniques you can try.  We can also use our five senses to calm ourselves.  Choose a sight that is calming by stepping outside to look at the trees or watch the birds, or even looking at a picture that we enjoy.  We can listen to soothing music to calm ourselves.  We can choose calming touch by hugging a pillow, wearing comfortable clothing or by asking for a real hug.  We can use candles or diffusers to produce smells that help us experience calmness.  We can also use taste, although we must be careful with this one, to give us moments of calmness.  Take time to have a cup of coffee or tea or a favorite snack.  The beauty of these six senses is that they are always available.
  5. Finally, although I have already mentioned it previously, seek connection.  We do not and cannot do this by ourselves.  Seek to invest in meaningful relationships with your partner, friends, and other family members.  Research has clearly demonstrated that people who have significant and meaningful relationships live longer, literally.  It is easy to become isolated in our venture of raising our grandchildren.  Yes, our connection with our grandchildren does count, but it is not enough.  You need adult connections that provide enjoyment and support, to have the energy that your role as a grandparent raising grandchildren requires of you.  I would also encourage that you seek connection in your spiritual life and seek time of solitude and contemplation.

This list is not comprehensive and there are many other ways to find calmness.  Be creative and discover your own.  You deserve the respite and moments of calmness and you and your grandchildren will benefit from it!

Also, we need to be able to help our grandchildren learn calming techniques to help them during the times of “storminess”.  I will do a Part II later, to discuss that topic.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

Applying The Stages of Grief to the experience of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Sometimes understanding the process of raising a grandchild can be very challenging. Often, especially early on in the journey, it feels overwhelming and often it is easy to feel like we won’t survive the experience.  Survive we can, and I believe that we can even move to the stage of “Thriving”. 

One perspective that can help us gain a helpful perspective is Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ Stages of Grief.  Our journey of raising a grandchild is definitely one that is dominated by emotions of grief.

The Five Stages of Grief are:






I purposely did not number the stages because believing that the stages happen in a sequential manner is one of the main myths related to the stages. There is a basic progressive manner to the experience of the stages and progressing through one stage does open the door to moving into and through the next stage.  That being said, it is also important to understand that the stages recycle randomly and unexpectedly.  So, more than a predictable sequential progression, we experience them more like the game of “Chutes and Ladders”.  We are moving forward thinking that we are making marvelous progress, and then out of the blue we slide down back to a previous stage and possibly even back to where we started our journey.  Often, we are not actually progressing but regressing.  We have periods and moments when we are moving backwards.  Yet, even with the backwards movement, overall, we are moving through the process of our grief journey, and are ahead of where we started.  Understanding the chaotic randomnous of our journey can help us not be surprised by the grief “chutes” that we fall into and hopefully allow us to find our way to next ladder and step up along the journey.

Another Important principle to understand is that everyone’s journey is unique.  No one’s grief journey is the same as another’s.  Our own time frame and tools and techniques that we find helpful will be different than anyone else’s.  We must give ourselves permission to walk our own path and not follow the exact path of anyone else.  We can learn from other’s journey experiences but we must avoid comparison and judgment, when our path differes and meanders in a new way or not the way someone else thinks that we should go.  Our permission to grieve in our own unique way will be the foundatoin to our healing and growth.

Now, let’s consider each of the stages of grief and apply them to our journey of raising a grandchild.  The first stage is “Denial”.  Denial may even be an important aspect of the stage that precedes our becoming a grandparent raising a grandchild.  Denial of the severity of the situation that creates the need for our stepping into the role may have kept us from becoming involved sooner.  One of the early perceptions that is common is that our caring for our grandchild is only temporary.  The need can be temporary but that tends to be the exceptional case and not the norm.  Of course, we cannot move to permanent solutions in the beginning, but we do need to start preparing for the possibility and maybe even, likelihood that our role will be a permanent role.  We need to consider what are our best options for custody and what will give us the most effective ability to make the necessary caretaking decisions that will be in the best interest of our grandchildren.  Another denial way of thinking that can be unproductive is the desire to help our adult child, especially if they are struggling with an addiction.  Of course, that is a natural desire, and yet, one that is out of our control.  In many cases, adult children do choose recovery and a new path in life.  Yet, unfortunately, many also are not able to find that new path and will continue in their addiction.  The bottom line is that they have to make that choice totally on their own.  When we allow ourselves to think that we can make that choice for them, it weakens our ability to set and maintain the healthy boundaries that will benefit our grandchildren and ourselves.  The opposite of “denial” is “reality”.  We must choose to live in the reality that will best protect our grandchildren and give them the best chance to grow and develop into the precious gifts that they are.

The second stage of grief is Anger.  Anger is a very common, and yet challenging emotion to experience and express during our journey.  Yet, experiencing and expressing anger is a key pivotal stage in our journey.  I would say that it may be the most important stage.  When we can give ourselves permission to be angry, and we can find healthy ways to express that anger, it allows us to move forward in our journey.  When we feel guilt about being angry, and we hold it inside, then we are stuck with it, and are not able to move forward.  Also, when we hold that anger inside, then it often finds a way come out side ways or backwards.  We may unintentionally allow it to come out towards our grandchildren or our spouse or partner.  It may come out backwards in that we turn the anger inward toward ourselves, shaming messages about ourselves as a person or as a parent.

It is common to feel angry about the choices that our adult child is making, or the situation that they have placed us in.  We may feel angry about the consequences of their choices and how those consequences are impacting our grandchildren and ourselves, and maybe other family members as well.  We may be angry about the things that we can no longer do or experience because of the need to care for our grandchild.  It is also important to realize that anger is a “covering” feeling.  There is always a deeper emotion underneath our anger.  It is often pain, fear, shame or guilt.  When we can allow ourselvs to experience and express their anger, then we can access those deeper emotions, and hopefully experience and express them as well.  We also need to recognize that our grandchildren will be experiencing their own grief process.  They too may experience periods of anger and have every right to their anger as well.  We will need to help them identify that anger and learn healthy ways to express it.  Otherwise, it will often come out through aggressive behavior.  Our facing and experiencing and expressing our own anger, will put us in a better permission to face their periods of anger.

The third stage is bargaining. As I think of the bargaining stage of grief and how that relates to grandparents raising grandchildren, I think of the challenge of dealing with our adult children as we are raising their children.  Often, we find ourselves developing an adversarial relationship with our own children, and we enter a battle with them in order to protect our grandchildren.  Especially, if our adult children are dealing with an addiction, they are trying to bargain with them to have more time with the children or they still want to be the ones calling the shots as it relates to their children.  Unfortunately, some grandparents may still struggle in setting appropriate boundaries and may still found themselves thinking that if they can do this, or that, maybe their adult children will get it together and start making better choices.  As I mentioned earlier, that is an understandable desire, and you never really stop being their parents, but we have to let go of the myth that we have a role in their recovery process or in helping them make better choices.  They, being our adult children, are fully responsible for the choices that they are making and we have to allow them to sit with that responsibility.  Yes, we can be supportive when they are genuinely working at making positive choices, because we have primary care responsibilities for our grandchildren, we have to offer that support from a distance, maintaining the appropriate boundaries that will keep our grandchildren safe.

Depression is the fourth stage of the stages of grief.  Most grandparents raising grandchildren experience some level of depression, some of course more severe than others.  There can be many dynamics that can lead to depression, but I am going to keep it simple.  The word “depress” means to “push down”.  As children, we naturally knew how to experience and express our emotions.  We would experience pain when we got hurt physically, we would express that pain, and then we would go play.  When we got angry, we would experience the anger, express the anger, and then we would go play.  It is only later in childhood and adolescence that we started getting messages to not experience and not express our emotions, especially pain and anger.  The result was that we pushed those emotions down, and the result was, we don’t get to go play.  Often, depression can be seen as simply as keeping our emotions such as, anger, loneliness, shame, guilt, fear and pain pushed down and kept under lock and key.  This emotional lock down can lead to the experience of hopelessness and depression.  Grandparents raising grandchildren experience all of those emotions at some time or another.  The key is to find ways to experience and express our emotions, all of them.  We can express our emotions through talking with a family member, a friend or in a support group.  We can express our emotions through journaling or writing poetry or through painting.  The oppositie of “depression” is “expression”.  Healthy experiencing and expression of our emotions will keep us healthy and also be a great role model for our grandchildren.

The final stage of the grief process is acceptance.  The reality is that although acceptance is our destination, there are no short cuts.  We only come to a place of acceptance by experieincing the journey through, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then finally acceptance.  The paradox is that acceptance is actually more of a beginning than an ending.  When we recognize the things that we cannot control or influence, we actually only have two choices. The choices or anger/frustration or acceptance.  Coming to a place of acceptance frees us from the dead-end streets of comparison, “this isn’t fair”, or judgment, “what did I do wrong?”, bargaining, “maybe if I…, then things will be better”.  Acceptance means that we accept the reality in front of us, the reality that we did not create or choose, but in some ways has chosen us.  It has chosen us as the best people available with the best tools and resources to provide a safe and loving home for these precious loved ones, who are our grandchildren.  Acceptance allows us the opportunity to start anew with a new perspective and a new mantra, “Okay, Now What?”  Now, what are my options and what are my resources that will help me be successful in the venture of caring for my grandchildren.  Acceptance is not really the final stage at all, it is the true beginning stage that will allow me to move from “surviving as a grandparent raising a grandchild” to “thriving as a grandparent raising a grandchild”!  We as grands benefit, but so do our grandchildren, and I would also say that so do our adult children, if they are open to it.


Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

“I Am a Young/Old, Grumpy/Joyful Man”

Tonight, I feel like an “old man”.  I am not sure why, but I do.  I am 65 years old and tonight, I feel every bit of that, and maybe even a little older.  Maybe it is partially due to the fact that keeping a seven-year-old entertained and needs met can be exhausting.  At the same time, one of the benefits of raising a vivacious seven-year-old is that I get the opportunity to “play” a lot.  I would say that playing keeps me “young”.  I actually still enjoy building things out of Legos.  There are many days when I feel much younger than 65.  Tonight’s experience of feeling “old”, reminded me of how much of a paradoxical experience raising a grandchild can be.  We often fluctuate between experiences and emotions. 

Tonight, there were moments when I might be called, a little “Grumpy”.  I do experience many moments of grumpiness and I experience many moments of “Joy” and “Excitement”.  I can experience moments of loss and grief, related to what I would like to be doing at this age and stage of life.  And then, I experience moments through the eyes of an inquisitive seven-year-old who very often throughout the day approaches me with, “Pops I have a question”.  Sometimes I have a good answer and feel very smart, and sometimes, I have no clue, and not so smart.  I really don’t know “how many cars are there in the whole word?”  I love Sebellah’s questions, and they do keep my mind wondering as well.

So, the truth is, “I am a Young/Old man, and I am a Grump/Joyful man”, whose life is truly blessed daily through the eyes and inquisitive mind of a precious seven-year-old.  I have for long said, “Maturity is accepting life’s Paradoxes!”  I will choose to accept paradoxes that come with raising a grandchild.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

Brokenness & Resiliency

Yesterday was Sebellah’s birthday.  She received a Disney Gizmo Watch from her Great Grandparents, who actually serve in the role as grandparents in Sebellah’s perspective, since we serve in the role as her parents.  She was so excited about it and has had a lot of fun exploring all the watch can do.  Today, she was trying out her new roller skates, so we decided that it would be smart for her to take off the watch and for me to hold it as she roller skated.  So, I put the watch in my sweatshirt front pocket.  You probably know where I am headed with this story.  Later, forgetting about the watch being in my pocket, I decided to take off the sweatshirt.  I didn’t even hear the tragedy happen.   A few moments later I turned and saw the watch on the concrete laying upside down.  I can’t describe my emotions as I turned the watch over and saw that the screen was severely cracked and damaged.  I tried to find a way to replace the watch “Today”, but that particular watch has to be special ordered.  So, we got online and ordered a replacement watch.  Sebellah did not see the incident and I tried to replace the watch without her knowing that her watch was cracked.  When I realized that I could not accomplish that, I sat down with her and broke the bad news.  Actually, she handled it very well.  She did tear up, but she showed a great deal of maturity for a new “Seven-Year-Old”.  She always clearly communicated her forgiveness for my tragic error.  She demonstrated great “Resilience”.

This incident reminded me of the “brokenness” that grandparents face when raising our precious grandchildren.  We were fortunate enough that we were able to step into Sebellah’s story very early on.  We took custody of her when she was only 5 months old.  We were also fortunate that she never left the care of our custody.  There was a time when we did actually lose legal custody and were working with our daughter to transition her to return to her care.  Sadly, it took the death of her mother’s second child to help the court system to realize that her mother could not care for her appropriately.  The details of all of that are a story for another time.  Yet, it does also illustrate that the kind of brokenness that we face and the brokenness that impacts our lives as well, as our grandchildren.  It was with broken hearts that we took up the fight once again to gain permanent custody of Sebellah.  Fortunately, our daughter came to realize that it was in Sebellah’s best interest to allow us to adopt Sebellah.  We were elated to be able to finalize Sebellah’s adoption in May of 2018.  Yet, that adoption, which was gift to both Sebellah and us, was a dagger of brokenness in the heart of her mother.  A brokenness that I don’t believe she ever recovered from.  Unfortunately, her only means of dealing with that brokenness, was to run away, and she ran as fast and as hard as she could till her brokenness led to her own overdose death.  Which of course, led to more brokenness and pain.  A brokenness that is felt the strongest in Allene’s heart, a brokenness that only a mother can experience.

Fortunately, we have been able to provide Sebellah a very loving and stable home, and I believe that we have been able to provide an environment that has provided the healing that her young heart and spirit needed and deserved.  She rarely shows any signs of the brokenness that she experienced during her first months of life.  She is a great example of the healing power of love and consistency.  We have also had great support from family and friends that have played major roles in that healing experience for Sebellah and us as well.

Much of the brokenness that we experience and witness, can be mended and healed.  Some of it, not so much.  Often, the only path to healing is the experiencing and expressing of the pain associated with the brokenness.  Just as today, I wanted to help Sebellah avoid the pain of knowing her watch was broken, and yet, she had every right to feel the pain of the loss of something that was precious to her.  I believe the allowance of that pain, actually help her move forward to accepting of the reality of the situation.  Yes, it also helped know another watch was coming.   Sebellah is resilient and we need to be reminded that our children are resilient and are capable of overcoming the brokenness that they experience.  We are often the main agents of fostering that opportunity for resiliency.  The gift of resiliency is a precious gift that will last for a lifetime, and yet it is an expensive gift that only is developed through the experience of brokenness and healing.  Not only do our grandchildren develop resiliency but so do we, as grandparents raising grandchildren, and often our own resiliency models it for our grandchildren and invites them to learn the necessary skills to overcome and thrive in the midst of brokenness and pain.

So, as you face brokenness in your own story of raising a grandchild, I encourage you to remember that resiliency is just around the corner.  I encourage you to model and encourage “experiencing and expressing” of our brokenness, therefore opening the door of healing and resilience.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

Being a Professional “Grand”

I have worked in the field of Human Services as a “Professional” for over 30 years. You can ask professionals, what does it mean to be a “Professional”, you may get many different answers. I believe the number one part of being a professional means that you “Show Up” every day, regardless of the circumstances we face or how you “feel”. Being a grandparent raising a grandchild is very much about “showing up” everyday regardless of the circumstances we face or how we feel.

Another aspect of being a professional is doing the best you can with the resources that you have available. Once again, as grandparents raising grandchildren means that we continue to do the “best that we can” every day. Some times it feels like that is not enough, but in reality it is enough. These precious little ones in our care are benefitting immensely from our efforts. Of course, we do need to be open to learning how we can do what we do, better and more effectively.

Another aspect of being a professional is learning how to work with others to accomplish our goals. Effective professionals are not “Lone Rangers”. At times it may feel like we are doing this alone, but we are not. There are resources available that can assist us. The need for a team aspect, is one of the reasons that Allene and I have started our support group for grandparents raising grandchildren. When you feel alone, pause, take a breath, and seek support and assistance from the resources that are available.

The bottom line is that you are a “Professional Grand”, making a grand difference in the lives of these precious gifts that are in our care. Keep doing what you are doing and making the difference that you are making!

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

The Angry Path to Comfort!

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,

Rich (“Pops”)

“Grace and Truth”

One of my favorite biblical passages states that Jesus came full of “Grace and Truth”.  I remember reading that one day and thought, “that’s it, that’s the key to the success of any and every relationship”.  If you think about it, all of our relationships, partner relationships, our friendships, co-workers, our relationships with our adult children, and yes, our relationship with our grandchildren, benefit when there is a combination of “Grace and Truth”.  One without the other, limits the relationship.  Truth without grace turns into judgment, and grace without truth turns into fantasy and unreality.  Truth about how the world works coupled with forgiveness and understanding when we fail or make mistakes, creates a balanced and real life with meaningful and healthy relationships.

In relationship to our grandchildren, they need us to be truthful with them, and yet offer them grace when they fail or make mistakes.  Often, telling them the truth will come in the form of setting boundaries with them.  The truth is, there are real limits in life, and no, we cannot get everything we want, and do not get to do whatever we want to do all the time.  We will also need to, age appropriately, tell them the truth about their biological parents.  It is not our job or in our grandchildren’s best interest to lie to them about their parents or attempt to protect them.  Of course, we also only need to share the truth with them when it is appropriate and called for.  We can also teach our grandchildren about grace by demonstrating it toward their parents.  That can be challenging at times, especially when our adult children continue to participate in their addiction or unhealthy behaviors and choices.  Grace may mean giving our adult children the opportunity to change and grow and become healthy individuals and parents.  We can only give them the opportunity, they have to do the work of the growth and learning that will be necessary to become healthy and functional individuals and parents.  Grace does not mean offering shortcuts and easy paths. 

Continuing with the thought of offering our adult children “Grace and Truth”, we will need to tell our adult children the truth that there are consequences to their choices.  In the best interest of our grandchildren, we will need to set clear and consistent boundaries with our adult children.  They do not get to tell us how to parent our grandchildren, when they are in our care.  That being said, I do realize that the level of authority our adult children have will depend on what legal arrangement you have regarding guardianship and custody.  It is easier when you have legal guardianship or have adopted your grandchildren.  The hard truth is that you may have to distance or even cut off the relationship with your adult children, especially when they are continuing to participate in their addition or continue to make unhealthy choices in their lives.  This principle not only applies to their choices about substance use; it also applies to their choices about relationships and the people they associate with.

We also need to apply the principle of “Grace and Truth” to our relationship with ourselves.  The truth is that we are the best option for grandchildren, and they are fortunate that we have stepped up and offered them a safe and loving home.  At the same time, we are older and tire more easily than when we raised our own children.  Hopefully, we are also more wise and more experienced than the first time around.  We will get frustrated; we will lose our cool at times and we will make mistakes.  Our angel wings will not always be attached, and we will from time to time have to apologize and say, “I’m sorry”.  There will times when we feel lost or confused about how to best respond or meet the needs of our grandchildren.  During these times, we need to offer ourselves, “Grace”.  It is okay to be confused or lost, and that is why we will need multiple resources of people and services to assist us during these times of confusion.

We will also need to apply the principle to our relationships with our family members and friends.  We need to be honest with them about our needs and what we may need from them.  The grace part comes in our understanding that they may not initially understand, and therefore, for that reason we will need to communicate what our needs are and how they can assist us.  Maybe they can offer us a day of respite and watch our grandchildren but may not know that unless we communicate that we would appreciate such a gift.  We may need to be honest with our adult friends who do not have to consider childcare needs when planning their social events, but we do.

“Grace and Truth”, what a wonderful balance for the life that we are walking.  In addition to this principle being a great balance for all of our relationships, we will also be modeling the principle in front of our grandchildren and hopefully, they will practice it on themselves and in all of their relationships as well.

Sharing the Journey,

Rich (“Pops”)

Lessons From Lincoln

One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln. I have read several books about his life and in fact, I am reading one currently. One of the things that I appreciate about the author of the current book is that she portrays Lincoln in a very real and honest manner. She does not describe a fairy tale character, that was only a “Great” man. She portrays Abraham Lincoln as a real man with great strengths and great weaknesses. He made great and brave decisions and he made terrible decisions that had grave consequences. He achieved great accomplishments and he achieved great failures. He made great judgments about some people and was fooled by others. He was a real man who faced great challenges and stayed in the conflict long enough to experience great outcomes, and yet the challenges and battles took their toll on him and the country. The key is that Lincoln was willing to face the challenges that lay in front of him and was willing to take them on, “the best that he could”, nothing less and nothing more.

I would like to say that Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the “4 H Club”. No, not that one, but one that we can all benefit from participating in. I believe the key to his success, and ours as grandparents raising grandchildren, could be summarized in four “H” words, Honesty, Humanity, Healing and Heroic.

Of course, his most famous nickname was, “Honest Abe”. He did appear to be an honest man, and yet, let’s be honest, I’m sure he had his moments when being honest was a challenge for him. As grandparents raising grandchildren, we must be honest with ourselves and with our grandchildren, as well with our community around us. Allene and I have committed to being honest with Sebellah, especially related to the story of how she came to us and the challenges her biological parents faced. Our approach is to wait for her to ask questions and to always, in an age appropriate manner, to give her honest answers to those questions, as challenging as they may be. We have to also be honest with ourselves about the challenges of raising a grandchild, at our age. We will get frustrated and tired and will need help and respite from time to time. We also need to be honest with our community around us about the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren and what needs to be done to meet those needs. Our honesty, as scary as it may be at times, will serve us, our grandchildren and our community well.

When I think about Abraham Lincoln, one of the words that comes to mind is, “Humanity”. Fortunately, although it did take him time to develop, he understood the value of all humanity and had a respect for it. He saw the valued humanity in the slaves, when much of the country only saw them as pawns for their own prosperity and wealth. Lincoln was also one of our most human of presidents. To be honest, not all of his humanity was pretty or refined. In my current reading about Lincoln, the author discusses how much the military leadership thought that Lincoln was an unfit commander in chief, especially in the early days, because of his undisciplined manners and modes of operation. Lincoln did appear to be comfortable in his own skin and seemed to create an atmosphere that encouraged those around him to do the same. In our roles as grandparents raising grandchildren, we must remember to allow ourselves to be human and real. We have great strengths and abilities, and we have great weaknesses and disabilities. We will make some great decisions in our parenting of our grandchildren and we will make some terrible ones. Hopefully, we can be honest about those terrible ones and learn from them. Our permission to be human is also a great model for our grandchildren to follow as well.

To know Abraham Lincoln’s story is to know the pain and suffering that he experienced throughout his life. He experienced great loss in many forms, especially the loss of one of his children. He did experience great periods of depression as a result of his losses. I also believe that his own losses allowed him to develop a sense of empathy and compassion for others and their losses. All of our stories include significant losses, as well as watching the losses that our grandchildren experience. Allene and I experienced the loss of our daughter, Sebellah’s mother, and the loss of a six-month-old grandchild, in addition to many other losses. The key to grief recovery is that there are no short cuts to grief. The only way to get through grief, is to go through it. Walking toward grief is a shorter path than attempting to walk around it or away from it. We will experience periods of depression. The best remedy for depression is “expression”. We must find ways to express our pain and sorrow, so that we can heal and have the energy and strength for the great task of raising our grandchildren. Our own experience of healing can help us grow through our pain, so that we can assist our grandchildren with their healing process as well. Facing the pain and grief is our responsibility, and yet, we do not have to do it by ourselves. We can seek help from family members, friends and professionals. One of the reasons that Allene and I have started the support groups that we have started is so we can be a safe place for grandparents to come and to express their pain and grief, and therefore take a step forward along their path of healing. As painful as our grief is, it can become a part of our strength and a strength that we can share with our grandchildren.

Finally, we get to the Heroic part. The first three “H” words laid the foundation for the “Hero” that we know and celebrate as Abraham Lincoln. He was a hero and accomplished heroic feats as our president and the preserver of our union, as well as the emancipator of the slaves. We too, as grandparents raising grandchildren, our “Heroes”, accomplishing great things that is and will make a difference in the lives of our grandchildren and in our community. Although they may or may not treat you as a hero, your grandchildren will look back on your efforts as being heroic and life changing for them. Our grandchildren also deserve the heroic effort that we are putting forward and deserve the opportunity to live in a safe and loving environment that allows them the opportunity to be successful and to live in heroic lives of their own. So, “Here’s to You, Fellow Heroes!”

So, Go Forth and find your “Inner Lincoln” and be the Hero that your grandchildren deserve. You can and are doing it!

Sharing the Journey!

Rich (Pops)