When Anne Hawkes heard the news that her granddaughter Jess had been born with special needs, she grieved for both her child and her grandchild. Anne then went about setting up a group - SNUG (Special Needs United Grandparents), to provide support and advice for other grandparents in similar situations.
Every grandparent can remember how they felt upon hearing the news that their new grandchild had arrived into the world, but how do grandparents feel upon hearing the news that their grandchild has a disability? Shock of course, but how about alone, afraid, confused and anxious? These are just some of the feelings that I had upon finding out that my second granddaughter had been born with an underdeveloped brain.
Initially we were told that she might never sit up unaided, walk, talk, or hold down a job. No one knew what the future held for her. Fortunately, she amazed us all by eventually sitting up on her own, then crawling, then standing, and she is now fully mobile. At 5 years old she is still non-verbal, has global developmental delay, but she is a loving, happy little girl with a strong personality and we adore her.
What is less talked about is that grandparents grieve too. They grieve for their grandchild and also for their own child...
As you can imagine, being a parent of a disabled child is difficult. It is a lifelong struggle to get them the best care and support. It is often said that parents of a special needs child go through a process similar to grief, and although they love their child they also grieve for the child they never had.
Being a grandparent of a child with special needs is also difficult. What is less talked about is that grandparents grieve too. They grieve for their grandchild and also for their own child who has suddenly been thrust into the world of disability - not the life we had envisaged for our daughter. Often, grandparents will grieve in silence as they somehow feel it is not right to share their worries with others, especially when they are expected to be strong and supportive.
After talking to a couple of grandparents one day at my granddaughter’s special needs nursery school, I soon realised that my husband and I were not alone in our grief. I decided I wanted to do something to bring grandparents who had special needs grandchildren together and so SNUG was born!
The group is currently in two parts and both provide a platform for help and advice, and for sharing the good times and the bad. Joining is simple. All that is required is that you are a grandparent of a child that has special needs.
The closed Facebook group allows grandparents worldwide to be able to connect with one another. To join the Facebook Group search for SNUG (special needs united grandparents) then click join.
This sounds like it may be helpful, I have two grandchildren with special needs - thankfully not major issues but life changing for the kids nonetheless. My granddaughter (son's daughter) at 16 has type one diabetes and is coeliac - the two conditions often run together, and she is having trouble accepting the conditions. My daughter's first son, now 5, has been diagnosed as having Aspberger's Syndrome and has become increasingly challenging as he grows older, now displaying overt rejection towards his 18 month old brother. Worrying for us all, but we've learnt that to share the experiences with other similarly effectuate families is helpful.
SNUG also have informal meet ups in Stafford town centre during term time giving Grandparents the opportunity to get together. Sometimes we have guests give informative talks, at our last meeting we were given an insight into Sensory Processing Disorder by a local Occupational Therapist. If anyone would like further information regarding local meetings or SNUG in general then please contact me at [email protected]