Grandparents raising their grandchildren: acknowledging the experience of grief

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Publication details

Backhouse, J & Graham, A 2013, 'Grandparents raising their grandchildren: acknowledging the experience of grief', Australian Social Work: Special Issue: Special Section on Working with Children, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 440-454.

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The grandparent-as-parent role is a growing social issue both within Australia and internationally. This paper explores the experience of grief as reported by grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. The data presented are part of a larger qualitative study that investigated the lived experience of 34 grandparents who have taken on the full-time care of grandchildren when their own children have been unable to parent them. In-depth interviews conducted with the grandparent participants and analysed through a three-layer narrative analysis reveal the paradoxical dimension of grandparents’ experience as they navigate the complex issues that characterise their predominantly unanticipated role. While all of the grandparents referred to the benefits, satisfaction, and joy of taking on the parenting of grandchildren, their narratives were deeply imbued with experiences of loss and grief. The discussion analyses this experience in relation to grief theory and posits that the complex and disenfranchised nature of grandparents’ grief means it often goes unacknowledged, including in the policies, programs, and services developed to support grandparents-as-parents.

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