Becoming a long-distance grandparent broke my heart—at first

They will always remember their Nana, and distance can’t change that.

Becoming a long-distance grandparent broke my heart—at first

It was a year ago in September when my daughter said, “Mom, I got a job in Massachusetts. We’re moving next month.”


I was in a state of shock. My daughter, her husband, and my 6-year-old grandson were moving almost 2000 miles away to the east coast.

I never thought she or my grandson would leave Colorado, leave me.

I made an entry into my journal that day. It was a combination of emotions—mainly self-pity and grief—as I tried to figure out what would fill the void that would surely befall.

I suddenly had a realization that everything was about to change.

Who will decorate the Christmas tree with me?

Who will help me plant my garden and then pick out the fresh vegetables for dinner?

Who will be there to lift my spirits when I need a good laugh?

Sure there will be phone calls and emails, but the distance would remain. I wondered how I would go on without the joy of my grandchild filling the house.

Now here we are, a year later.

I just got back from spending a week visiting my grandson and it was so wonderful to see him again—to snuggle and bond with him.

But this morning, as I spent alone time in reflection, it occurred to me that I am feeling the empty nest syndrome, not just as a parent, but as a grandparent. I think it was something that my daughter said a few days ago that hit me.

I asked her, “Do you miss it here?” She said no, that she has a new home now. This isn’t home to her anymore and she has no desire to come back.

How can that be?

It was your home and it still is to me. Selfishly I was hoping she wouldn’t like it there and would come back…that my grandson would come back.

When it dawned on me that I was feeling the empty nest syndrome as a grandparent, I got online to try to find anything on the topic and found out I’m not the only grandparent feeling this way.

I found blogs of people writing about their feelings of bereavement after their grandchildren moved away, and many like me babysat their grandchildren from the time they were an infant or toddler and went from seeing them several times a week to once a year.

It was comforting to me to know that I’m not alone in what I feel and that there really is an empty nest syndrome as a grandparent.

What I also realized is that as parents, we encourage our children to become independent adults and then (especially in our culture), many of our children move far away from home because of jobs or various other reasons.

I moved many miles away from home when I became an adult. Why shouldn’t I expect that of my children?

Now I’m a long-distance, widowed grandma. I went from being able to see my grandson several times a week to four times a year (and I’m grateful it’s that often).

I still wonder…Will he remember our times we had together?

Will we lose the close bond we had?

But then I think on the past week I just spent with him, it was like old times.

I took him to and from school, drove him to sports practice, read books with him, tucked him into bed at night, said prayers with him and we even played football (yes, 63 year-old grandmas can still play football).

And when I asked him if he remembers our times together at my house too he said, “Nana, of course, don’t you remember when I helped you cook green beans from your garden in the frying pan for breakfast?”

“I sure do,” I said with a laugh.

I may be a long-distance grandma, but I realized I can still be an important part of my grandson’s life, even if it is only four times a year. And I’m learning acceptance. Children grow up and grandchildren grow up.

But they will always remember their Nana, and distance can’t change that.

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