I am haunted by a brief, but poignant conversation I had with someone in a parking lot. While walking to my car, I was stopped and introduced to a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren. As I shook her hand and shared with her the days and times that our support group for grandparents raising grandchildren meets, she looked at me, her eyes welling with tears and said, “I just need a little encouragement every now and then…that’s all I need. I do the best that I can, but I need to be encouraged.”
As I hugged her, I assured her that I understood exactly what she meant, because often I feel the same way. As a grandparent raising my two grandchildren, daily we go through the motions of life—making sure the children are well, fed, loved, comforted and cared for, with no expectation of anything in return. We sacrifice, put our own needs on hold for the sake of theirs and, for the most part, keep silent because not many know, understand or even care about the variety of emotions and challenges we go through. Often we feel isolated, restricted, unappreciated and overwhelmed. That’s real. I love my grandchildren, but I continue to struggle—not just financially—but emotionally; for them and for myself.
What struck me about this brief encounter is that this woman knew what she needed and she was unashamed to say it out loud. She was transparent. I applaud her. She wants to be validated; to matter to someone. She wants someone to cheer her on and say, ‘You can do this!” She will never know how much she and the thousands of other grandparents raising their grandchildren matter to me, or how deeply her words touched me. I felt her emotion, I feel her struggle and, without knowing the details of her circumstances, I instantly knew her journey. It’s a familiar road that I’ve traveled often; feeling alone and lonely, tired and discouraged, but nevertheless determined to move forward for the sake of the kids.
As grandparents, we do what we can for our grandchildren because for whatever reason, those who brought them into the world can not or will not. We do all that we can to compensate for the void that is left in the hearts and minds of these children. I have no sense of what it’s like to grow up without the love, presence and support of a mother and father. I have no idea about how a child must feel wondering why they’re not raised in a home with their mom and dad. I don’t know what it feels like to cross out ‘parent’ and circle ‘guardian’ on school forms, and I’ve never struggled to complete the obligatory ‘family tree’ because of lack of knowledge of one or both sides of my family.
Yes, that grandmother needs encouragement because ultimately she carries not only the awesome task of raising a second family, but she quietly carries the burdens, worries and pains of her grandchildren as well.
Encourage a grandparent or relative today who is raising a child other than their own.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Graciously Raising and Nurturing Daughters and Sons (GRANDS) meets every second Saturday of the month at 11 a.m., at 5910 Arden Avenue, in Portsmouth, VA.