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The double grief of losing a grandchild


Fran Savelson speaks lovingly of her granddaughter Delilah.

“She had the same little button nose as my grandson,” says Fran, with a smile.

Delilah passed away in August 2018, after her mom was diagnosed with placenta previa and was bleeding heavily at 23 weeks of pregnancy. Fran felt very fortunate she was able to meet her granddaughter, and hold her, at the hospital. The meeting helped greatly with her grief process.

Fran and grandchildren

Fran Savelson and her grandchildren

The loss spurred Fran to support other grandparents whose children have had a miscarriage or stillbirth. As a peer counsellor at Sunnybrook’s Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network, she has found new meaning in Delilah’s death. On Grandparents Day, on Sunday, September 10, Fran will guide an online session called “Grandparents cry twice: Grieving the loss of a grandchild and the loss for your child”.

Fran admits losing a grandchild is a complicated mix of emotions, with worry for your own child and their partner, while also experiencing your own grief. “It is really hard not having anyone to talk to. I didn’t want to burden my daughter who was dealing with such heavy emotions herself.”

She has advice for fellow grandparents: “Don’t hide your feelings, talk about the baby and use their name! Do something positive to honour your grandchild. I visit Delilah’s grave and draw little happy faces on rocks. It’s my way of connecting with her.”

Fran also encourages that you take care of yourself and give yourself permission to do what you need to do. That may mean taking a pass on baby showers or other situations that would be difficult. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way, as everyone grieves differently.

Her work at the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network has helped reframe her perspective on losing Delilah. “I feel like I’m doing something positive to honour my granddaughter’s death. I really feel like it’s my calling,” adds Fran, who has five living grandchildren, including the two pictured.

Learn more about support services offered by the Pregnancy and Infant Loss (PAIL) Network. You can sign up for the grandparents’ session here.

About the author

Marie Sanderson

Marie Sanderson is a Senior Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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