My 17-year-old granddaughter is pregnant. My son and his wife are doing their best to support her, but they are torn up about it, knowing the tremendous uphill struggle she's going to face. I’m furious that they let this happen — they’ve been distracted with their own life issues — and as much as I want to support my granddaughter, I’m furious with her, too. Any advice?
A blessing — and a curse — of growing older is the fact that we have a more somber understanding of the implications of impulsive decisions. When we’re young, it's easy to move through life as though we're immortal and bulletproof; it’s nearly impossible to grasp the long-term ramifications of our actions. But as we mature, it becomes clear that seemingly innocent choices can alter the course of our lives.
As a loving grandmother, it's difficult to manage your worry and disappointment. It sounds like it’s hard for you not only to support your granddaughter, but also your son and his wife, given your thoughts that they somehow failed to properly supervise their daughter.
I will not try to argue you out of your feelings of anger and fury. When we feel helpless or upset, it’s normal to look for someone to blame. I imagine you could list the many ways your granddaughter has ruined her life. And you could also make a case that this situation could have been avoided if your son and daughter-in-law had been more attentive.
As true as these thoughts might be, when you keep thinking this way, your blood pressure rises, you get knots in your stomach, and you end up robbed of your equanimity. Of equal importance, when these negative, "if only" thoughts take root in your mind, you're left with no room in your heart for hope or love.
There is no way to ignore the fact that your granddaughter has a challenging road ahead. But you are now faced with an important decision: Do you want to stay trapped in a cycle of anger, blame, and disappointment, or do you want to find a path to acceptance and forgiveness, so you can offer your granddaughter and her parents the support they need?
You're not dealing with an actual death, but you are faced with the death of the dreams you had for your granddaughter. Whether you imagined her going to a wonderful college — which you now fear may be harder for her with a baby in tow — or you’ve always held a picture-perfect image of her wedding day, you are facing the loss of what you thought your granddaughter’s life would look like as she matured into a young woman.
When people cannot move beyond their anger, I find it useful to refer to the stages of grief outlined by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. These five stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Although we don’t necessarily move through them sequentially, we will experience all these stages when we’re grieving if we’re eventually to arrive at Acceptance. This requires not only getting in touch with the anger you’re experiencing, but also acknowledging the sorrow that comes when you fully face the reality of your loss.
I encourage you to feel your anger and your sadness, and to give yourself the gift of moving to Acceptance. While your granddaughter’s life is irrevocably changed, no one — including yourself — will benefit by perpetuating the blame.
Work through these difficult emotions of loss with a trusted friend or counselor, and find your way toward forgiveness. With caring parents and her loving grandmother’s support, your granddaughter will forge a new path for her life — one that reflects wisdom, maturity, and the humility that will allow her to receive important guidance from her family.
For more on family quandaries, read what to do when disaster strikes.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.