Parenting

Dealing with grandparent guilt

Online Editor Jenny Charlesworth grapples with family guilt, and wonders if donating her time to a charity might be the fix.

Photo: Yuri_Arcurs/iStockphoto

Yesterday was my grandmother’s 94th birthday — and it was the first time in memory that I didn’t wish her bonne fête.

Not wishing your grandmother a happy birthday is the quickest way to feel like crap about yourself. But with me in Toronto, and Grandma Win all the way in West Vancouver, in a care facility, it’s not exactly easy to just drop by. Nor is it easy to call her up to celebrate her incredible milestone. Between hearing aids on the fritz and “good days” vs. “bad days”, a phone call risks the chance of leaving her confused and me, well, heartbroken.

But the idea of Grandma Win wondering why I didn’t call, wondering where I am, and, worst of all, wondering if I care, well, that’s some serious immobilizing guilt — the kind that sends you to therapy. With this weighing on my conscience (despite dropping a special birthday card in the mail), it’s no wonder a Facebook post by the Calgary Senior Resource Society asking people to “Adopt a Grandparent” caught my attention today.

The CSRS has a “Christmas Cheer Up” program to help isolated, low-income and/or mobility-limited seniors. They’re hoping to recruit volunteers to spend a few hours with seniors this holiday season (there are other ways to offer support, too, such as making a charitable donation).

Thankfully, there are members of my extended family on the west coast who can visit Grandma Win (and my amazing 98-year-old Grandpa Ches, who visits Win each and every day as he lives nearby in a different care facility). But I can’t help think about other seniors — many of whom are grandparents — who are separated from their families over the holidays, and don’t know how much they’re missed by their far-off family.

Sadly, I won’t be returning to Vancouver this December so I won’t see Win and Ches in the coming weeks (so phone calls and holiday cards and lots of “I love yous” will have to do). But I’ll be on the lookout for a similar organization in my community. I’ll also be making donations to other charities this season, and I encourage your family to do this, too.

Need help getting started? Here are 7 things you need to know about charitable giving.

What charities do you support during the holidays or year-round?

FILED UNDER: