Congratulations on becoming a grandparent. Whether or not this is your first grandchild, having a grandchild in the NICU can bring its own set of challenges and worries. You may find yourself looking around the NICU, surprised at all the machinery, and overwhelmed with worry at the situation. Grandparents often experience their own unique set of feelings as you worry about your child and what they are dealing with, as well as your grandchild and the struggles they are facing. Whatever brought your grandchild to the NICU, it is important to take a step back from the situation and determine the best ways to care for you and your family.
Allow yourself to feel and express emotions when the time is right. You may want to be strong for the sake of your child, and while that is admirable and important, it is may not be sustainable forever. Find a time to express whatever emotions you are feeling outside of the NICU. You may find journaling to be helpful, or talking to your spouse, partner or a trusted friend. It’s important not to keep your feelings bottled up.
Make sure you are emotionally available to your child, her/his spouse and your other grandchildren. Remember your child is undergoing intense emotions right now and they need you now more than ever. You are an integral part of their journey. Acknowledge their feelings and allow them to speak freely about what they are going through. It is important to respect the emotions they are experiencing and the decisions they are making for their baby. Accept that you will never be able to fix the situation. Rather than fixing the situation you must be a support and source of comfort for your child right now.
Find ways that you can help. Offer to help with baby in the NICU. In addition to visiting the NICU, you can prepare meals, offer to clean their house, pick up the mail, or run some errands. If there are other siblings, taking care of them will also relieve some of the stress. If you don’t live nearby but still want to help, sending the family gift cards to restaurants and gas stations near the hospital can help relieve some financial burden. You can also offer to be the contact person for extended family to return phone calls and give updates on the latest news regarding the new baby.
Whatever help you are able to offer, it will be greatly appreciated.