Q&A: grandparents moving abroad

Kate writes:

"In one week, my in-laws are moving abroad. This is not a temporarymove; they bought a house there and have shipped their worldly possessions across the ocean. They are moving to a country that we visit regularly, though not terribly frequently, and to which we have many connections--familial and otherwise. We are actually seriously contemplating following them, but we don't know when, anywhere from six months to six years, say.

I am happy for them, although I haven't come to grips with the fact that I am losing free babysitting. My husband is pretty devastated (but out of the purview of this arena).

My 4.5 year old daughter, who to this point has had this set of grandparents living 5 miles away, is starting to realize that the hour is nigh for their move. She's heartbroken. We went to a big send-off for them today, and while she was fine at the party, beforehand she was SO upset about them moving. She knows where they are going, that they will be in the same country as her cousins, that we will try to visit them soon. But she realizes that we won't have the casual drop-in relationship that she has now.

They will have a U.S. VOIP number, so we will of course let her call whenever she wants, time zones permitting. Unfortunately, they're not terribly tech savvy, so I think it would be like pulling teeth to get them to use Skype or some sort of internet video system. But maybe they'll change their tune.

In the meantime, is there something we can do to make this easier for her? (My 2.5 year old son also claims he's sad and is going to miss them, but I am not sure how much is him and how much is feeding off of her. He is also close to them, but doesn't quite have the long view that she does.) We just don't know what to say.

P.S. We are also, for a variety of reasons, driving them to the airport next weekend."

Oh, this sounds so tough.

I wish I had some answers, but my parents have always lived too far away from us, so I don't have anything to ease the pain of the separation. My kids miss my parents, but it's not a new situation, so I don't know how to help the transition.

It seems like it's the transition that's the problem, as she's upset about it now. Kids adapt, and in a few months she'll be used to not having them around, but it's the sadness of the separation that's the problem right now.

Do any of you have any experience with loved-ones moving away when a child is old enough to know that the separation is going to be hard? Is there a way to ease this? Or is it just something that is going to hurt a lot, and the parents just have to be there to help pick up the pieces?