7 Things You Should Consider Telling Your Grandparents Before They Pass Away
Many people are close to their grandparents — perhaps they helped raise you or you saw them regularly while growing up. However, when they become ill or get older, there are certain things you'll want to tell your grandparents before they pass away. After all, you may hear of people having regrets for never saying this or never saying that, so opening up about what's on your mind will be mutually beneficial.
Michele Alessi, a former patient care coordinator who had several years of experience, both in clinical and administrative capacities for elder care, says it's so important to be present with your grandparents and saying what you have to say. "In a world where everything is Snapchat, Twitter, text, Facebook, etc., our grandparents have kind of gotten lost in the shuffle," she tells Bustle. "It's important to sit down with them, or pick up the phone and say hello, check in on them, tell them what's going on in your life, ask them what's going on in theirs, and take time to listen and connect with them."
And even if they are on social media, it's still important to take time to connect with them offline. "It's all about expressing their importance in your life and reiterating that no matter what age they are, they matter, and how much you truly love and receive them, she says. "Your kind words and gestures go a long way when trying to preserve their dignity."
Below, Alessi and others give suggestions on specific things to tell your grandparents before they pass away, because, honestly, what are you waiting for?
1. Say "Thank You"
Saying "thank you" may seem like a given, but there are many things to thank your grandparents for, Alessi says. "'Thank you' is the biggest thing," she says. "Thank you for all your life lessons, your advice, your recipes, your handy household tips, financial advice, grooming, babysitting, etc. Thank you for all the stories you shared when we came to you with a problem and you'd offer some life experience and advice. Thank you for the stories you shared as an in-house historian — letting us know what the world was like when you were growing up — and where your values came from. Thank you for being there. Thank you for the unconditional love. Thank you for all your contributions to the world, no matter how great or small."
2. Say "I Love You"
This, too, may seem like a no-brainer as something you must tell your grandparents before they pass away — everyone likes to hear an "I love you," right? — but some people don't say it as much as others. Now, however, is the time. "'I love you' says it all," April McKay-Dudsic, a woman who spent a lot of time with her ailing grandparents, tells Bustle. Glenn Angeles, a nurse at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, seconds saying "I love you."
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and the founder of Access to Culture, agrees about saying "I love you." "Although they may know it or you remind them often, tell them you love them, and also give reasons as to why," she tells Bustle. "This will create a special moment and they will have a deeper understanding of how much they mean to you."
3. Tell Them You Want To Hear About Their Lives
If you have lost a grandparent and wish you would have asked them more questions about their lives, especially their lives before you came along, you're not alone. "The things I've thought of have more to do with learning from them," Becky, a nurse working in palliative care, tells Bustle. "Things like finding out who the people in old family photos are (I have a friend who threw a ton of photos out after her mom died because she didn't know who anyone was, and no one was left in her family to solve the mystery). Learn the details about something that you enjoyed or did together. Mostly, I think that anyone at the end of life wants to know that they're loved and that they will be remembered with love, and however that is expressed is probably OK."
Tess Brotherhood-Wolbach, who'd been close to her grandmothers, added to the above sentiments about asking questions: "Write down the answers," she tells Bustle. "My grandmas told me all sorts of information, and I wish I could remember all of it now that they're gone."
4. Tell Them Anything You're Seeking Forgiveness For & Resolve Conflicts
You may have a secret that you never revealed to your grandparents, or may have done something you want to confess once and for all. "Tell them anything that you are seeking forgiveness for," Lindsey, a hospital chaplain, tells Bustle. Similarly, Schweitzer also believes in talking about conflicts. "If there is a conflict between you and your grandparents, resolve it before it's too late," she tells Bustle. "It might be difficult to forgive others because it seems unfair. But it's important to talk it out so you don't have any grudges or harsh feelings toward them. There's no way of knowing when they'll go — resolve interpersonal conflicts and try to appreciate what they did for you instead of what they didn't."
5. Tell Them What You're Grateful For
You're probably grateful for many things that your grandparents have done for you over the years, so why not tell them? Schweitzer believes in going down memory lane with your grandparents. "Take some time to ask them to share their special memories," she says. "Listen carefully to them. You can also ask about memories experienced together and relive the moment. Whether it's about all the times they baked cookies or let you drive when you weren't supposed to, a smile or laugh may result."
Shlomo Zalman Bregman, a rabbi who's had a lot of experience counseling and guiding people through dying, death, and the grieving process, recommends telling your grandparents how much you have appreciated them. "And be as specific as possible, because it will be more meaningful," he says. "Tell them exactly what they have meant to you, what memories most stand out from your relationship, and precisely why you are so grateful for this."
6. Tell Them How They Inspired You
It's likely that your grandparents inspired you to do something you otherwise wouldn't have. For instance, maybe your grandmother inspired you to cook. My grandmother inspired me to write, and it worked! "Thank them for their inspiration," Schweitzer says. "If they were an inspiration and encouraged you to follow your dreams somehow, let them know! If the main reason you pursued your favorite sport or the reason you went to law school was because of them, thank them for being that light you needed to accomplish what made you happy."
7. Tell Them You'll Carry On Their Legacy
In order to keep their essence alive, you can carry on your grandparents' legacy in several ways. "I strongly recommend asking one's grandparents how they would like for you to remember them, and what values of theirs they hope you will most carry, and convey to the generations that follow," Bregman says.
For instance, when my grandma/"Busia"/BFF died last year, I had a funny funeral card made with her best one-liners, because I knew she'd want people to remember her that way, not by a stereotypical prayer card. Of course, there are many other ways I continue to keep her legacy alive, too.
Like the above tips suggest, there are plenty of things to tell your grandparents before they pass away. Even if you just do one of the items above, it'll help you connect with them more, as well as get closure for when their time comes.