Gransnet forums


Dealing with estrangement - Q&A

(114 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 12-Feb-20 11:51:29

Are you feeling isolated and alone, due to being estranged/alienated from your grandchild? How do you cope with estrangement? Where can you go for support?

Jane Jackson is the founder of the Bristol Grandparents Support Group, which focuses on the rights of grandchildren to see their grandparents. She set up the group after losing contact with her grandchild when her son separated from his wife in 2007. At her first meeting six grandparents arrived at her home. To date she has been contacted by over 7,000 grandparents and there are now 13 groups across the UK.

Jane was reunited with her granddaughter in 2018.

She will be answering your questions on estrangement - leave yours on this thread before Weds 26 Feb. We will post the answers here too.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 00:01:42

Riverdance, I think you're in the wrong place by error. Please go back to the list of Forums and click on the Food group instead. IMO, your questions will fit in better there.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 00:18:45

Notsoold, I'm another one who is glad you have come to a place of peace.

I find it hard to understand, Funnygran why some women have no interest in letting their kids know their dad's side of the family, even in the case of divorce, and enjoying their love and attention. Perhaps, though, it's enough for XDIL to work out her new life, right now, and, hopefully, some visitation for your DS. In fact, I hope your DS will get ample visitation, Funnygran and be able to share some of it w/ you and, if he wishes, other members of your family. And meanwhile, I hope you find that community support group that you're asking about,.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 00:28:07

Flygirl, my heart is breaking for you and DH! IMO, you have been given a lot of good advice here. And I'm glad you and DH have come to realize that you have to back off for your own health and sanity.

It seems to me that there were a lot of tensions and mismatched expectations between you/DH and DS/DIL. You expected to see them and your GSs more often and for longer periods, DIL expects you to say things like, "How did the boys enjoy Christmas?" even when your wondering why DS is only stopping by to get their gifts and go. DIL feels it's enough for you and DH to see DS and your GSs on the rare occasion that they have you over, but you don't agree and feel she should at least take a moment to say, "Hello." Sadly, you have had to practically beg to see your GSs in the past, but just as sadly, that begging probably made the tension worse.

Hopefully, now that you are backing off, DS/DIL will calm down and, in time, reach out to you. If not, I agree w/ the poster who said that, eventually, your GC may reach out to you (when they are old enough). Since you have had some lovely times together, I'm sure the GC have fond memories of you. No matter what adult issues their parents gripe about (if they do), those cannot spoil such memories. Hugs!

Flygirl Fri 21-Feb-20 01:32:31

Thank you all for your kind support and advice. The suggestion of the Memory Box is already up and running! My eldest grandson had his 10th birthday last month and I bought 2 identical cards. I wrote identical messages in them...I sent one, (doubt that he saw it) and card #2 is already in the box.

My daughter also had the great idea of maybe setting up an email account for them (she will help with it). Only she/I will have the password. Whenever we feel like it, we can then write little messages to them. If they do contact us when they are older, we shall give them the password. Hopefully, they will then have a healthy "inbox" to read and digest for the years they have missed being with us. In the meantime I have always had a small savings account for each grandson, which I add to monthly, (in lieu of the money I would be spending on them if I was allowed to take them out) and for birthdays/Xmas/Easter, I will continue to put money into their savings, instead of attempting to deliver presents which are never acknowledged. It will be there waiting for them when and if they come to me.
In answer to the suggestion that we write to my son and DIL, it was already done, several years ago. It was a kind, well thought out, heartfelt letter, but we never had a response. I was told by my son that it had gone straight in the bin. (Considerate, isn't he...)
I recently dug my copy out, after our disastrous Christmas, to read it once again. With dismay I realised nothing has changed at all in the years that have passed, and everything in that original letter still stands today.

I had forgotten to mention, that our youngest GS who is 4, was baptised in December, 3 days before Xmas and 4 days after my husband's milestone birthday, which was not acknowledged. We were only informed about the baptism by text, the week before, and we were not given the time of the ceremony. We only found out the time 2 days before; again, having to ask. Sadly my hubby was too ill to attend, and I had to go alone. DIL totally blanked me, did not make eye contact, nor did she say hello or even nod/smile. After the ceremony, I was wondering what would happen - (as in, if we would be going back to their house for a little Christening celebration). Apart from me, only DIL's close family were there (the ones that are apparently everything we "lack"). Her sister + boyfriend were Godparents. It was dark now, about 4.30pm. I waited patiently in the rainy car park for one of them to say something to me, but they just literally jumped in their cars and drove off. I was back home again within the hour. I know from my daughter that they all went back to the house, as she lives nearby and saw them all arrive and go in. The lovely personalised gift (that I had jumped through absolute hoops to get made in time), has not even been acknowledged to this day.

So, dear friends, you can see that we have come to the end of the line. I am acutely aware that some people I have spoken to are probably thinking "there must be more to this than meets the eye" or, "they must have done something to cause this bad feeling", but, hand on heart, we truly haven't.
Thanks for your help and virtual hugs, I have taken it on board. Xx

Smileless2012 Fri 21-Feb-20 10:10:02

It does looks as you say, that you've come to the end of the line Flygirl. There's only so much any of us can do and you can't do anymore.

The email account idea is brilliant, I'll have a word with Mr. S. about that.

It's difficult for some people to accept that an AC would estrange their loving, caring and supportive parents and in many cases their entire family, without 'good' reason.

I still remember how relieved I was 7 years ago to find here on GN other EP's who were going through what we were and it still helps to talk about it here.

Flygirl Fri 21-Feb-20 11:35:40

I noticed that the support group in Bristol (the reason this thread was started) says on its Home page that it is mainly about the grandparents who are estranged from their GC due to the separation/divorce of their adult children, which has caused friction.

I just wanted to point out that, in many cases, the estrangement can still happen when their children are still very much together in their relationship. When this is the case, as it is in our situation, we are totally powerless to change things, as grandparents have no rights at all.

If adult children both 'agree' to ignore you and make access difficult, when they are still very much "together" in their relationship, and they manipulate situations by using their children like pawns in a game, the situation is hopeless.
I just wish I didn't feel so terribly sad all the time. Yes it certainly does help to talk. I don't want to keep harping on to friends and boring them to tears, but seeing them all enjoying normal relationships with their grandchildren is sometimes like a dagger through my heart. (My friend has a grandchild living in Hong Kong, and she sees that little boy more often than we do living 2 miles away).
Hey ho. Thanks all.

Smileless2012 Fri 21-Feb-20 11:49:15

That's a very important point to make Flygirl. The general assumption appears to be that GP's become estranged from their GC because the children's parents are no longer together, and one of the parent's refuses to allow the parents' of their former wife/husband/partner to have a relationship with the children.

I totally agree that "if adult children both 'agree' to ignore you and make access difficult, when they are still very much "together" in their relationship, and they manipulate situations by using their children like pawns in a game, the situation is hopeless"sad.

muffin Fri 21-Feb-20 13:22:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Smileless2012 Fri 21-Feb-20 13:25:42

I often think about that muffin surely the GP's who are seeing our GC must realise how heartbreaking it is for us not to be able to see them!

Maybe they do say something and are ignored or maybe they're afraid to say anything in case they become estranged too.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 14:16:16

Glad that you've started the Memory Box, Flygirl and that you're saving money for your GC instead of sending gifts. Very good ideas, IMO.

I'm not sure how the parents will react if they discover the "secret" email account. It might be better to wait to set that up till the GC are old enough not to need their parents permission to keep in contact w/ people. Hopefully, when they are older, they can also find you on FB.

I'm sorry your son and family ignored DH's milestone birthday and that you were treated so badly regarding the Baptism. Actually, under the circumstances, I'm surprised they invited you and DH at all. Either they disagreed on whether or not to invite you two or (sigh) just did it out of a sense of duty. In the first case, there may have been a compromise, as in, "Ok, we'll invite them to the ceremony but not to the house afterwards." In the second case, it may have been more a matter of doing the bare minimum of what they felt they "had to" do. Then again, maybe they are just conflicted w/in themselves. Who knows? Whichever it was, I'm so very sorry.

I'm also sorry you haven't received a TY, but (sigh) I doubt that you will. Please just take pleasure in knowing you got to be there for GS and gift him for taking this big step in his life.

muffin Fri 21-Feb-20 14:19:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 14:26:40

Agree w/ Smileless' post, muffin. Also, want to add, sorry to say, but you don't know what your ED and ESIL are telling the other GPs about the situation (if anything at all).

I'm not sure how you know that they spend "all their time" w/ his family since you don't get to be there. Is someone telling you this?

"... the wedding was amazing but i worried where all the money was coming from, none of our family were invited, only my husband and daughter but nearly a hundred of his family and friends,..."

Perhaps his parents paid for some or all of the wedding? Also, I'm a bit confused... are you saying your DH and DD were invited but not you (you don't mention yourself)? And if it's not too painful to say, did DH and DD go w/o you?

Sorry if I'm asking too many questions. And I know we're really waiting for Jane Jackson. I'm just trying to get a clearer picture for my own understaning.

Starlady Fri 21-Feb-20 14:30:27

"... but don't think they would estrange her because of all she has promised to buy for them."

Don't be so sure of that. Maybe that's why she has promised so much - b/c she fears being CO (cut off). I've heard of more surprising estrangements when parents/GPs have been doing a lot for an AC and family.

Then again, she may simply not think it's her place to get in the middle.

muffin Fri 21-Feb-20 14:48:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OutsideDave Sat 22-Feb-20 04:22:17

Smileless isn’t it just as likely they agree with the decision, or; even if they don’t - respect their AC enough to make the right decisions for their family?

Sparkling Sat 22-Feb-20 07:46:18

The grandchildren will grow up and most likely, move away, their own parents won't be seeing so much of them, that's how it goes. What you are left with when you are estranged, is that lonliness of not having your child care whether you are alive or dead. There are few people who can ever forget their own babies as toddlers, children and all the closeness and love they shared, then to be cut adrift. Estranged. If you have your partner you have someone, but if either of you die you are completely alone, you feel as if you have no future, unless there are other children or family you are close to. It's so bad for your mental health, your
sense of worth. I wish there was a campaign highlighting this situation, but people won't speak out about it, it would be as if admitting you failed, when in fact most have tried everything to reestablish contact. It's almost as if it's a taboo subject. That's why Gransnet is so valuable.

Smileless2012 Sat 22-Feb-20 09:17:59

Yes it is possible that the GP's who do see their GC agree with the other GP's not doing so OutsideDave. It would I suppose depend on what they'd been told and whether they actually knew the other GP's and felt there were genuine concerns/reasons for denying contact.

Before our ES got married and of course before we were estranged, his wife had all but cut her parents off. He told me if they ever had children he wouldn't allow her parents to see them.

I told him I didn't agree with him. If he had concerns he could insist any children were never left alone with them, but they would be their GC and IMO it would be wrong to deny them contact.

Ironic of course as it's us who aren't allowed any contact whatsoever with our GC. Had things gone the other way I wouldn't have felt comfortable with the other GP's not being allowed to see their GC. There'd have been nothing I could do about that of course, apart from asking them to reconsider, which is what I would have done.


OutsideDave Sat 22-Feb-20 18:43:43

I don’t know that I follow smileless- why would it depend on what they had been told; or felt there were valid reasons? You don’t think it’s feasible that a set of GPs wouldn’t just trust their AC and their CIL to make reasonable decisions, and assume that if they made that choice there had to be a good reason, regardless of what they were told about that decision making process or whether or not they knew the other set of GPs? That’s....interesting.

SparklyGrandma Sat 22-Feb-20 18:53:57

I only feel isolated when say the GP or social services have asked where is your family, when say needing post op support.

Otherwise, I have accepted that my estrangement from my DGChildren and AC will not change. I have resolved about 5 years ago, after lovely support on GN, to not upset myself any further about the situation. I refuse to let it spoil the life I have left.

I am happy to support others. In order to normalise estrangement, it’s important to know that there are about a million estranged grandparents in the U.K. It helps to know we are not alone.

And when someone asks me, tries to maybe make me feel ashamed about the situation, I quote that figure.

ForestsLakesandMountains Sat 22-Feb-20 19:09:55

could this be complicated if the grandparents are parents to the other abusive parent who is no longer allowed contact with the grandchildren?

Flygirl Sun 23-Feb-20 02:14:37

Sparkling, you are spot-on when you mention the loneliness of estrangement. The realisation that your child really doesn't care whether you're alive or dead - or even if you may be seriously ill. When you think back to when they were young and all the love, care, fun and protection you naturally give them/share with them as parents. I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined this tragic, toxic outcome later in life. It's totally alien to me, having come from a loving home, as did my hubby. Don't get me wrong, as parents we expect no "reward" as such for our investment in our children, but surely, just to he included in their adult lives, and the lives of our grandchildren, would be reward enough? - and yet sadly we are being denied that, too.

My son was on the autistic spectrum. In 1982 when he was diagnosed at the age of 2, precious little was known about the condition. Many "experts" at the time told us they knew what was "best" for him, (and some even accused us of not knowing what was best for him!). Many of their suggestions just did not sit right with us. They were reading from a textbook and did not know our child and his abilities like we did.
I may have been swayed by them, had I been a single parent, but my husband was stronger and understood my son and his needs. Together, we fought his corner, tooth and nail, often going against their advice. By the time he was senior school age he had progressed beyond what they all had predicted. He went on to Uni, got a degree, was fairly comfortable in social situations, has a good job and his own company now as well, and as you know, has a partner and children. Many people patted us on the back and said we had "worked wonders"... but of course, it wasn't us, he did it all by himself. We had only helped to create the environment where we knew he would flourish. That is why all this hurts so much now. Especially knowing that his eldest son is quite severely autistic. We can see him struggling to make sense of life around him. He says very little even though he is now 10 years old. No real conversation at all, no "chit chat", just monosyllabic answers. We could be such a great support to them, if only we were invited and included into their lives. Alas it is not to be, for whatever reason.

Starlady, I am not sure we were actually invited to the baptism as such, to be honest! We received a text about one to two weeks before the actual ceremony, which was more of a statement...i.e. "Jack is being baptised". There was no mention of the time of the ceremony. We had to ask about the timings several times (by they never answer their phones when they see it's us on the end of the line). We were kept hanging until 48 hours before the baptism, when we were finally 'allowed 'to know the time. It's all played out as a bit of a game, to keep us hanging. The fact that we had had the original text, we interpreted as meaning we were actually "allowed" to attend. I think both 1) and 2) scenarios were relevant. There had obviously been lengthy discussion as to whether or not we would be invited back to celebrate afterwards (obviously not) and I am sure also that they wanted to do the bare minimum as to our involvement...hence not knowing until so late, when plans had obviously been in place for some time. I believe them both to be true. Maybe because they think we would have found out about it if they had kept quiet and not told us?

Regarding the e-mail idea....
As you know, my lovely daughter has also been cut out of her brother's life (and nephews' lives) because she dared to point out a few years ago how deeply sad the situation was making everyone (at the time our parents were alive and also affected by their attitude, too, rarely seeing their great grandchildren and not undrrstanding any of it). She has had a lot to deal with lately, including dealing with the venomous message we both received at Christmas. Unlike her, but she had a one-off session with a counsellor to try and make sense of things.
The counsellor has suggested that my son's partner is definitely a covert narcissist, playing cruel games, and possibly my son is too....(or he goes along with it as he won't rock the boat). It was the counsellor that suggested the email set-up, so that we can all write little blogs about our lives, or if we are just thinking about them, to write it down as a message. It is unlikely that the email addresses would be discovered, as they can be obscure and only we would have the password.

Regarding what the other grandparents think about the situation....
In our case, right from the "get go" when the first pregnancy was announced back in 2009, we got the feeling that DIL's mother wanted control...and that did not include us. Even a day or two after his birth, we waited patiently for a couple of hours to see our new grandson at the hospital, whilst a steady stream of all their aunts, uncles and cousins from afar went in to see him before us..saying when they left "oh, sorry, haven't you seen him yet?"
DILs father keeps out of it all (he had to wait patiently outside, too). There had been an acrimonious divorce. However, he sees the boys regularly now. He keeps his thoughts to himself. DIL's mother is not approachable and we feel she could be behind it all. After all, behaviour breeds behaviour.

Starlady Sun 23-Feb-20 03:34:34

Wow, Flygirl. It definitely seems as if they just told you and DH about the Baptism, maybe so you couldn't say they didn''t. Also, it appears as if they weren't sure whether they were going to give you the time, at first, and then decided last minute that they would. So sad.

I still don't fully understand about the email idea. If the children receive emails from you, won't they show up in some sort of Inbox? And if the parents check their Inboxes, won't they see them? Perhaps I'm ignorant about this, but I don't really get how this would work. Since the therapist suggested it, however, I imagine it's feasible.

Sorry to hear how controlling DIL's mum seems to be. This may, indeed, be part of the problem. As you say, she may be directly involved in it. However, it may also be that it's hard enough dealing w/ just her. Your son and DIL may simply feel they can't have to deal w/ any other parents/GPs. Not fair to you and DH, I know, but that might be the issue.

Starlady Sun 23-Feb-20 03:44:38

ForestsLakesandMountains, I know I'm not Jane Jackson, but I just want to be sure I understand your question. Are you referring to a situation where the parents are divorced/separated? And the non-custodial parent is an abuser who is not allowed contact w/ their kids? Are you saying that in that case, the GPs who are parents of the abuser might lose contact w/ the GC, as well? Sort of a "collateral damage" thing?

Smileless2012 Sun 23-Feb-20 13:33:15

I think it's feasible that one set of GP's wouldn't be comfortable with the decision to deny the other set of GP's their GC OutsideDave, thereby questioning the reasoning behind that decision.

As I said in my last post, that's what I did and not from the perspective of an EP/EGP as at that time we weren't estranged and weren't GP's.

I knew our ES's p's.i.l. for several years before he met their D and knew her mother very well. I was aware of 'issues' within that family but didn't believe that not allowing them any contact with GC was a reasonable response from our son.

I would have understood and supported a decision for only supervised contact but would not have felt comfortable with them not being allowed any contact whatsoever. Had this been the case of course I realise that apart from asking them to reconsider their decision, there would have been nothing I could do about it.

IMO the accounts we read here on GN are evidence that there isn't always good reason to totally deny GP's their GC and those children, their GP's.

Flygirl Sun 23-Feb-20 13:38:30

Hi Starlady, the email address would not be linked to the children in any way, or even by name. An email address can consist of anything...for example [email protected] would know your true identity from that? The way I understand it, for example, it could be set up as a private second email account for either me, or my daughter, or both of us. Only I/we would have the password until such time in the future that my (then older) grandchildren make contact with me.... (if only!) when I would pass it to them for access to the email account. In the meantime, we shall be able to send messages and blogs to this new account, when we feel like it..(say, if I/we just want to put into words what we are feeling, or thinking about them on their birthdays, telling them about our days out, etc.) Just as if they were there with us. Then in the future, hopefully, we shall be able to supply them with the email address and password and they can then read our little diary, created just for them over the years, if they so wish. It will just be an untraceable account until then as there will be no direct hints in the email address and they'd have no idea we had set it up. (Anyway we haven't set it up yet, but my daughter says it's simple to do. Will advise!)

As for DILs mother, she has been heavily involved in the GCs lives from Day 1. I/we have absolutely no problem with this at all. In the normal scheme of things, daughters normally gravitate towards their mums for help and I totally get that. It is not a competition for attention and we are not jealous people. However, the whole set up/family dynamic has been to exclude us. We have never been invited to be involved at all, to do all the "normal " grandparent things. As I stated in my first text on this forum. There is a very unhealthy undercurrent. I once duscovered a lovely picnic spot next to a river with boat trips, tea rooms, etc., and suggested to my DIL we should all take the boys there for a day out! (Trying to do something normal).... "Wonderful, she replied. It sounds great. The boys would love that! As would I" (this was during one of the rare times a few years ago she was dangling a carrot, attempting to be friendly, only to snatch the carrot away again). Next thing?? She, her mum, and sister took the boys there for their day out, posted it all over social media with lovely photos, and hadn't asked us to join them.
Enough said.
Thanks for your replies and support. It means a lot.