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Managing Parent Loss Over Chanukah

Managing the Chanukah Party After Losing a Parent

It is not fun when your mother or father dies. Not. Not. Not. And just when you think you can get used to this new normal, you realize that there are some very annoying people complicating your life.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was your age I had a very long list of annoying people in my life. Today, my list is pretty short because most of the people on that list are now people that I LOVE to pieces. Like my little sister (she’s not so little anymore because she has a grandkid, but she’s still little to me). Or my mother. Who is now pretty much my best friend. We hang out a lot together.

But anyway, let’s get back to your list of annoying people. Because today, I want to talk about a specific person on that you-annoy-me list. And that person is a grandparent. A grandmother usually. But possibly also a grandfather. And I want to talk about the grandmother or grandfather who was the father or mother of your parent who died (am I confusing you?). Those grandparents can sometimes make life very, very complicated.

Now listen to me. I am a grandmother of a lot of fabulous grandkids. And if I would know that I am on that you-annoy-me list, I would be MISERABLE. So I am going to write such a great article for you, that you can take this article straight to that annoying grandparent and let them read this and then they will totally get it and can stop annoying you. Isn’t that a fabulous idea? Great. So let’s get started.

Everyone handles loss differently

It is really a pain in the neck when you go to your grandparent’s house and whenever they see you they start crying or sniffling because they miss your mother or father. It makes it awkward and depressing to visit them. Especially if you get the feeling that they don’t really see YOU. They are seeing your parent. Like when they talk to you, they expect you to be as good or smart or wonderful to make up for the fact that your father died. Or mother. And really, you are just a kid. A regular kid and being good all the time when you are a kid is way too hard. And overrated.

It’s also hard to visit those grandparents because now that your parent is gone, sometimes for many, many years, unfortunately, it’s like you really don’t know them too well. And if you go to the Chanukah family parties, you are the only one who comes without your parents. And you feel like you don’t really belong, even if everyone tries to act sweet to you. Those grandparents are like these nice, old people you go visit to do chessed. Nice. But nobody you really know and you don’t have much to say to them. Especially when they start sniffling again and say how you look exactly like their son—your father—who died a million years ago. Or yesterday.

Navigating relationships after a loss can be confusing

It is especially hard to keep up with those grandparents when your parent remarries. Because now you have another set of grandparents. And you are thinking, “What normal person has three sets of grandparents?” and it seems easiest to give up those grandparents because you would rather be part of the same family as your little siblings even if you have different fathers, and make their grandparents yours. Especially when you end up at your other grandparents’ house without any parents because it’s kind of weird that your parent remarried so she can’t exactly bring her new husband to her old husband’s parents’ Chanukah party.

You also don’t like having to explain to friends who don’t know that your stepmother is not your biological mother (although she can still be your real mother!), why there is another bunch of grandparents you go visit. Like, who is interested in explaining? Who is interested in looking and feeling different than your friends? Than your little sisters that have both parents alive?

Whew! Remarriages can make that annoying list even longer.

But Chanukah is coming up and it’s Chanukah party time and it’s grandparent time again.

And because I am a grandmother, like I said, I want to help you figure things out with your grandparents that things can be okay. Not great, but at least okay.

How to handle things differently this year

First of all, figure out what makes you uncomfortable about going to your grandparents’ Chanukah party. Is it going alone without any parents? Is it the looks and sniffles your grandparents give you when you come? Maybe feeling like you don’t have anything to talk about and it’s awkward there? Is it that you feel nobody is paying attention to you when you are there because there are so many other people? Is it that you always get the stupidest gifts because nobody asked you how old you are or what you like? Do you sometimes you hear not such nice things about your living parent and it makes you uncomfortable? Is it because there is nobody your type there?

Get what I mean?

Now, find a quiet time and have a talk with somebody in your life that listens to you. It is best if it is your parent. Your stepparent. Older brother. Other grandmother. Teacher. Favorite aunt. And let them know what bothers you about going to the Chanukah party. And then the two of you can think of solutions. Maybe your other grandmother can explain things to your grandmother. Maybe your mother can join you at the Chanukah party. With her new husband. Or without. Somebody can let your grandparents know how old you really are and what Chanukah present would be appreciated so you can really look forward to unwrapping it this year.

Chanukah is about family

I don’t want to make you feel guilty or feel burdened, but those grandparents really love you. And you are really, really important to them. Try to figure out a way they can be part of your life, even when it is annoying. And if you need to explain something to your friends, let your parent help you out with that. If you don’t care, your friends probably won’t either. But your grandparents for sure do.

Hmm. Maybe you can try it?

And if you really feel you can’t, there’s always another chance next year to try. You are only a child and in a sticky situation. Your grandparents are already grown up. Maybe they can think of ways to make things unsticky. You don’t need to worry too much about them because you are too young to be in charge. Got it? Great. Now go and enjoy all your Chanukah parties!

For more on this topic:

Chanukah Survival Guide

Managing Expectations for the Holidays

8 Ways to Say NO to the Chanukah Blues

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This article was originally published through the Links Organization.


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