When her son died in 2012, Denise Villescaz "saw no light," she says. Then, two years later, her granddaughters were born.

I’ve been asking people all over the country how grandparenthood has changed them.

Here’s what I heard from Denise Villescaz, 51, of San Angelo, Texas, who became a grandmother in the fall of 2014, two years after losing her only son.

“How has it changed me? Well, the quick answer is it saved me. Saved me from my grief, my pain, my darkness, my numbness, myself.

On August 7, 2012, we said goodbye to our only son. My oldest, my Vinny. He was 28 years, 6 months, and 10 days old. We lost him to a horrible blood disease that he fought with courage, strength, and the craziest sense of humor imaginable.

He was the most beautiful man who dealt with the ugliest stuff for 13 years. Over time, I became his nurse, his teacher, his caregiver, his voice, his friend, his confidant. I gradually became who I was—good and bad—because of who he was. We were a team.

I can’t possibly recap the ups and downs of fighting a disease like his. He survived multiple surgeries, a 26-day coma, two tracheotomies, and weeks and weeks in hospitals. And sitting or sleeping right next to him would be me.

To say my two daughters suffered heartache is an understatement. We fought this as a family. But on reflection, I know they missed out on having me mentally or physically present in their lives. Somehow, they grew into kind, generous, beautiful young women.

We all died in different ways when Vinny did. We were a family in sorrow. I saw no light. We all spoke of never finding laughter or joy again. He truly was our center.

The girls both conceived—unplanned—around the same time. We were shocked, delighted, and oddly sad, too. We missed Vinny and knew he’d be over the moon.

It was bittersweet when Loretta and Abigail were born. I cried all over again, but this time for what we had as well as for what we’d lost.

Each day is new. An adventure. Laughter once again fills my house. We are once again a family united by happiness, love, silly stuff, and two little princesses who make waking up exciting.

We cherish our memories but now we are enjoying the gift of creating new ones.”