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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.

OutsideDave Sun 23-Feb-20 18:17:20

I truly can’t understand feeling it appropriate to weigh in on an AC’s marriage or IL relationships. Assuming you feel you did a reasonable job as a parent, if your AC said ‘we’ve made this decision that doesn’t impact you at all’ it seems strange to intervene in something that isn’t your relationship, and rather then being in the corner of your child you are more interested in the feelings of the other grandparents. Perhaps that’s why it’s not uncommon for folks to go NC with one set of Ils first, then the other- upon the discovery that the first set is toxic, the reaction elicited by that change by the other set is often a clue that a relationship previously believed to be respectful is in fact not so respectful and has its own problems. It’s always hard to see someone think they had an IL problem only then realize they’ve been in the FOG with their own FOO; but it just looked different in their own family.

Chewbacca Sun 23-Feb-20 18:33:25

What on earth is FOG and FOO please?

OutsideDave Sun 23-Feb-20 18:48:14

Foo= family of origin
One exaplanation of FOG here

Smileless2012 Sun 23-Feb-20 19:08:51

If giving an an opinion is seen as weighing "in on an AC's marriage or IL relationships" then I'm glad to be out of it and wonder how on earth parents of married AC manage TBH.

You are right to assume that we did a reasonable job as parents, in fact we did better than reasonable. For 27 years we had an excellent relationship with our now ES. When he was older it was one of mutual respect and an accepted openness from both sides to express our opinions. If he hadn't wanted my opinion on that particular issue, he wouldn't have discussed it with me.

Our ES didn't go no contact with his in law's, it was his wife's decision prior to their marriage and is a pattern of behaviour she has repeated on more than one occasion.

Our ES didn't have a problem with us, his entire family (apart from the little contact he has with his brother) and friends he'd has from childhood until he married. He was never in a FOG with his own FOO.

I didn't expect you to understand because you always seem to hold the view that AC don't estrange from loving, caring and decent parents. Well they do and there are numerous examples here on GN that demonstrate that.

OutsideDave Sun 23-Feb-20 20:16:24

So, you felt the need to offer an opinion to you son on a relationship between your DIL and her foo and a decision to go NC? Why?

And I didn’t say I assume you did a reasonable job as parents, I said i assume YOU felt did a reasonable job. Which was correct- you felt you did a good job, which is why I feel it strange you felt like it was was necessary to second guess his support of his wife’s decisions to estrange from her parentsZ

Smileless2012 Sun 23-Feb-20 21:21:18

You really should read posts properly before commenting OutsideDave.

It was our ES who said he didn't want his future in law's to have any contact with any children they (he and his future wife) may have.

It was his wife who estranged her p's and the conversation I referred too was the one with our now ES about their future children, not his wife's estrangement from her parents.

I haven't said anything about an opinion I may or may not have had about his wife's decision to estrange her parents. I didn't "second guess his support of his wife's decision to estrange from her parents". I really don't understand how you manage to read things into a post that aren't there!!.

Bentleyfox Mon 24-Feb-20 21:15:35

I am not entirely estranged from my elder daughter who lives with her family in-the USA but it’s close. We now only communicate by WhatsApp. Her father and I are divorced and both remarried but i suspect she has a good relationship with her stepmother. I am concerned that if I loose contact wit my daughter Iwill lose my grandsons too . I was very cruelly treated the last time I visited and suspect it was designed to put me off ever going agains and it has. I really do not know what to do as I suspect she will poison my grandsons against me eventually. The rift between us began when she was about 14 and she is 43 this year. I was a ‘bad mother’ and ‘it cannot be fixed’she has said. Its has broken my heart.

Flygirl Mon 24-Feb-20 23:00:37

Really empathise with you Bentleyfox. It's heartbreaking for those of us experiencing all this. My son has always been distant, even as a child, but I made excuses as he is in the spectrum. But since meeting his partner, who wants nothing to do with us at all, (and moreover does everything to make sure we have no opportunities to build a healthy relationship with our grandsons), it has all gone up to an entirely different, cruel and nasty level. We have tried everything over 10 years, but all to no avail.

By hanging in there by a thread, for the sake of not losing contact with your dear grandchildren, you are further enabling her abusive and manipulative behaviour towards you, and worse, she can use them as pawns in the game. A familiar pattern we have encountered... (For us, we have now admitted defeat, as they can't or won't see any other point of view). We have finally realised that we simply cannot be minimised and treated so badly any more. But.... I'd be lying if I said it doesn't hurt like hell. No easy answers here.

I just need to find peace within, but really don't know how.
Dreadful, isn't it.

Smileless2012 Mon 24-Feb-20 23:29:15

Bentleyfox and Flygirl my heart goes out to you and all GP's who are estranged from their GC or fear estrangement when you've got to know and love them.

I really believe we are fortunate that we never knew our GC. It's painful but is so much more painful for you I thinkflowers.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:24:07


Fortunately, I'm not estranged from anyone at the moment. But I have a few unfortunate friends IRL who are estranged from their AC, CIL, and GC. For that reason, this sentence caught my attention:

"Jane was reunited with her granddaughter in 2018."

I'm wondering how this came about? And what is Jane's advice, if any, for other GPs who want to reunite w/ their GC?

Thank you for your question. Our GD made the decision for herself when she was 17, she contacted us via Instagram initially, a phone call followed, our son who had also been estranged from his daughter for 11 years went to visit her
ASAP, she lives at one end of the country we at the other. She then came to visit us, and found that her family had increased somewhat in those 11 years. She had a half-sister, and two twin cousins. I can honestly say, after some enormous butterflies whilst I waited for her to arrive, as she came through our gate it was as though she had never been away. Older of course, but I opened my arms and she fell into them. People ask me if we talked about the years that had past, I always say, you must be led by your grandchild, They let you know when they have

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:26:03


I hope this is OK to ask. I was alienated from grandparents {and other family} by my mother. I still saw them very occasionally because my mother wanted to be a benificary in the will but she took me less than once a year and told me lots of horror stories about them which made me stop going at all. As an adult it makes me sad as I remember warm smiling faces and they have been gone a long time.

My mother was severely emotionally and sometimes physically abusive to me and as an adult I came to see how often she lied and how stories changed. My own children and I are now estranged from her and my children have been part of and happy with that decision.

What I would like to ask is, what do you think of proposed changes to grandparents rights and how can they be implimented while still protecting children like mine from abusive people?

Thank you for your question, and firstly I would like to say how sorry

I am that you had to face estrangement from your grandparents, the relationship between grandchild and grandparent is unique and a privilege. However uncomfortable it might be, we have to also acknowledge that for a variety of reasons there may well be good reasons to estrange your children, particularly if there is a safeguarding issue. The safety of children must always come first. The proposal for a change in the law is not for grandparents to have rights, but for grandchildren to have rights to a continuing loving and caring relationship after a family breakdown in all its forms. In France it is included in the Civil Code. When I answer questions I try to be as honest as I can, and in truth I believe we are looking at a cultural change, so that it becomes socially unacceptable to deny contact, just as it is for drink driving, or for getting in a car and not putting your seat belt on. Children need to be educated from a very early age, that when they have their own children, they have a responsibility to allow all family relationships to continue, should their own relationship break down. It is about putting the children first, not putting the adults first.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:27:47


I do not feel isolated and some days I do not give myself time to be alone, I have several supportive family members that always urge me to look forward with my life and to make the best of things.

It is still early days for me and the estrangement has been for four months, the difficulty within the relationship with my daughter had been happening for a long time until it seems there was nothing left to do but just stop seeing each other.
My grand-children are 7 (almost 8) 6 ( almost 7) and 2. and because of the breakdown with my daughter I was then denied contact with the grand-children.
Christmas 2019 was the first year of not seeing them since the eldest has been born and I coped better than I had expected maybe because I knew there was nothing else I could do. I had been preparing their presents throughout the year and had everything so the third week of January I sent everything to her by another relative which I know she received. I thought she may send me a small thank-you card or perhaps a call but still nothing.

I had played the role of grand-mother in the children's lives
and helped my daughter a lot and although I know I have to accept the situation not a day passes when they are not in my mind.

I am still at the point when if I am shopping or doing something like that and I meet someone I know locally they will always ask me "where are your grand-children?" are they okay? and I am still at a loss as what to say, I just reply "Yes they are okay" and then hurry off. It bothers me when I dwell on the thought of never seeing those children again but only time is a healer so one day at a time is all I do.

Thank you for your question. You will of heard estrangement and alienation being called a ‘living bereavement’ and it is just that, you face the different stages of grief just as you do when someone you love dies, the difference is we mourn someone who is still alive. Support from friends and family are vital,
and I am pleased to read you have both. I have a problem when grandparents are told to ‘move on,’ I don’t think you ever move on, I think we have to try and ‘let it be.’ I like where you say, I had played the role of grand-mother,’ and yes you did. We can not be responsible for other people's behaviour, but we are responsible for our own. When grandparents call our Helpline, they will often say they feel ashamed, I think it maybe because as a grandparent we think we can make things
better, but when we realise we can’t it is so hard. Many grandparents when asked about their grandchildren, will say they don’t have any.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:29:12


What are the ideal steps for reconciliating estranged parties, both on estranged and estrangee sides?

I don’t believe there is a one size fits all, communication is key, of course many of us have found that communication has broken down completely. One important thing to remember is, your grandchildren never forget you. They are in an impossible position, they love both their parents and grandparents, they find that if they talk about us, they will get into trouble or it upsets their parent. So they learn very quickly to say nothing, but you are still in their hearts. Many grandchildren do seek out their grandparents when they are older, and I know only too well, that is of no comfort if your
grandchildren are still young. The memories that you may have made with them are never forgotten. As I have said in a previous answer, be led by the children. Absolutely don’t say anything derogatory about their parents, they are still their parents.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:30:24


My estD was brainwashed by her jealous husband, so my question is; will she, my D, ever think for herself and remember how close & loving we all were. Also will she every see the damaged she has done to her daughter, my beloved granddaughter, that has had all her birth family that loved & adored her & that she loved & adored back, ripped away from her & also had her named taken from her, as she was named after me, taken by her stepdad due to his jealousy.

Thank you for your question. In most of these circumstances it is about control. So one partner controlling another, we have no idea what goes on behind closed doors, and we all know how difficult relationships can be. In this technical age we all live in, all children can find out anything about their families, one sad thing for me is that when the grandchildren find out we aren’t the monsters we have been painted as, they then turn on the parent who has caused this heartbreak. They realise they have been lied to by the very people who should be protecting them. There is never any winners in this.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:32:16


My son will be in court in three weeks time hoping for an interim contact order to see his two boys who he hasn’t seen properly since November apart from an hour in January. His soon to be ex-wife has ignored all his and my messages about having them to visit - they live in another town. The last time she replied to me she told me in no uncertain terms that grandparents have no rights. The situation isn’t helping his mental health and they have cousins here who miss them. We feel very frustrated by the situation and would love to know if there is a support group in South Yorkshire.

Thank you for your question. Firstly, I am so sorry to read that your son is going through this awful process, and I really hope he is getting support himself. His, soon to be ex wife, is right in a way, when she says grandparents have no rights. Grandparents do not have a legal right to see their grandchildren. You can apply to the court for ‘leave’ which is just another word for permission, to then apply for a Child Arrangement Order. If you decide to go down the legal route, go into it with both eyes open. You must go to a Family Lawyer, most high street lawyers will give you 20 minutes free advice. It can be very costly, very stressful with no guarantees.
The truth also is that even if you were successful, if the resident parent decided not tot urn up and the agreed time and place you're back to court. Now, there will be some grandparents who have gone to court and it has worked out ok. Running a support group for grandparents you don’t actually hear very often of the success stories. There is a link on our webpage for support groups across the UK.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:33:51


Oh my goodness. Where do I start? Despite my son having a happy childhood (we think!) (with wonderful, warm and loving grandparents, aunts and uncles, who contributed to his life and well being, and whom he saw regularly) he and his long term partner have NEVER invited us to be part of their children's lives.
Our eldest grandson, who is autistic (but it is not discussed), is 10, and his younger brother (not autistic) is 4. For almost 10 years we have had to almost beg to see them. At best, we have been given a "time slot" for an hour, at the most, usually at really inconvenient times in the evening and when the boys are tired, before bed. (They only live 2 miles away, btw).
We have never, ever, been invited to babysit, attend a school production, pick them up from school, have them for a few hours in our home and/or take them out for the day (despite always asking, and being given endless excuses as to why we can't). Have to almost beg and negotiate to see them just once in the summer school holidays. They have never even been in our car. We probably see them 3 or 4 times a year, for an hour, and always accompanied by their father. We have asked why this should be (we both felt so inadequate) but weren't given a reason. We have only seen our eldest grandchild on 2 out of his 10 birthdays. We have never been invited to celebrate with the youngest boy on his birthday(s). My DIL's mother and sister are there every single day and have always been "trusted" to babysit daily, from birth, especially when DIL returned to work part time. They are also invited to all the "normal" events including birthdays and Xmas, as is my DIL's father, who is divorced from her mother. As you can imagine, over the years this has caused such resentment to develop within us, as we simply cannot understand why we are not wanted or even needed. We feel that we are good, honest people who could offer our gorgeous grandsons so, so much love and fun (especially as we understand autism, as my son is also on the spectrum, albeit high functioning).
They never contact us, even to ask how we are. We always have to make that first call and almost beg to see our grandchildren. My dear daughter, who is a bit younger than my son, has also tried to get him to see reason, on our behalf, and for her efforts she has also been "pushed off the radar" for daring to voice an opinion. So the 2 boys are now 'minus' a wonderful, warm, caring aunty, too, and we found out (youngest grandson let it slip) that they are not allowed to speak about her in the home, either.
If my husband and I ever do go to their house (a very rare treat) our DIL "hides" upstairs until we go. Doesn't even shout "hello" from above. At Xmas they never even enquire what we will be doing, or if we'd like to see the boys at some point. (I work shifts, sometimes away from home, and often my husband, who is 70, is totally alone). They know this but never make contact, even by phone. This last Christmas, 2019, we asked so many times when we could see our grandchildren, to at least give them their gifts, but were continually fobbed off. I had to hand over my grandsons' Xmas presents to my son, on my doorstep on Xmas Eve, as he "couldn't stop". (He didn't bring the boys with him, either, and to date, we haven't even heard if they liked their gifts). ?. No thank you's, even by phone.
However, nothing could have prepared us for a totally unexpected, vitriolic and hateful message we received from our DIL early on Boxing Day morning, accusing us of "not even caring enough to ask if the boys had had a nice Christmas" (I was still in bed when her message was written!!), and "thank goodness for her mum and sister, who give her children SO much more love than we ever could, and are apparently everything that we 'lack' ". She told us not to bother to respond to her message as she wouldn't be reading it. My son always backs his partner up, which I guess is normal, but he shows absolutely no feelings or empathy for us and makes no effort to make things right. We haven't heard from either of them since the hateful, cruel text, and have finally had to accept that after 10 years of trying, for our own health and sanity, we have to completely stand back, withdraw from this toxic situation, and let them go. We really feel something is very wrong with their whole family set-up. Something just does not sit right with us. I would go as far as to say I think that one, or both of them, have mental issues to be able to be this cruel towards us for no reason. We truly can't think of anything that we have, or have not done, other than wanting a normal relationship with them. I can only think that we are dealing with the worst kind of narcissm here. Even if we take our needs as grandparents completely out of the equation, they are actually denying their own sons the opportunity to get to know and love us, their other grandparents, and to enable us to enrich their lives. That in itself is cruel? My fear is that our darling grandsons will grow up being told such terrible lies about us and also our daughter. We have all tried so hard to become part of their lives, but, that said, we have never intruded or just "turned up" unexpectedly. We wait patiently for invites, which, of course, never come.

How on earth do we go forward with this impossible situation? How will I ever get peace inside, and sleep properly again? With zero contact, how do we let our grandsons know, that we love them dearly, and have always wanted to be part of their lives? We know we have no 'rights' but I am hurt and completely broken. My husband is more matter-of-fact and is dealing with it better, but I know he is very angry and hurt,, too.

I have to add...whenever the grandchildren have been (rarely) in our company, they are totally relaxed and at ease with us, and we have such fun and giggles, even though it's only ever for an hour or so, 3 or 4 times a year max. When we laugh, my son sits there, stoney faced. I actually asked him in October (the last time we were allowed an accompanied visit) if he ever smiles or laughs around his children? The answer? "Sometimes".... ?

We are totally at a loss to understand all this. Bereft. For me? It is almost like a bereavement. I've lost them.

Thanks for listening.

Thank you for your question. If you read my response to another question you will see that I have written that the grandchildren never forget us, and they don’t. You have spoken about what wonderful times you have had with them in the past and the laughter and the giggles, they too will
remember them. There does come a time when grandparents need to self- protect, not something many of us do! If we carry around this devastating loss, it takes over our lives. We can forget that life is still there, just different from what we expected. If we are lucky we have other family members
around us who love us and care about us, and they hate to see us suffering. We owe it to ourselves to find a way through this dark place. We have a 7 step plan called, ‘I will survive.’ Please do let me know if that might be helpful.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:35:18


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.

Thank you for your comment. Family breakdown can be caused for a variety of reasons separation or divorce, drug or alcohol dependancy, domestic abuse within the home, bereavement, or family fall out. Family fall out is just what you describe, and there are thousands of grandparents who
lose contact with their grandchildren as a result of their own adult children causing the problem. You say that you don’t want to keep ‘harping’ on to you friends about it, and most estranged grandparents feel the same. It is why support groups work, sitting a room where you are not judged and there is total empathy for you is a very powerful thing. It is also perfectly natural that you find it difficult when others talk about their grandchildren. No one fully understands what it is like to be apart from these precious little people, I had no idea it even happened until 12 years ago. It is terrible when people say stuff like, “well you must have done something?” Or “ Just go and knock on their door.” You and I know that is not going to happen.

JaneJackson Wed 26-Feb-20 17:35:59


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

Thank you to everyone who has asked a question, can I just say that the support you give one another on this thread is fantastic, talking, writing, communicating in any way helps others so much. Your comments and support I know will be so valued.

Yennifer Wed 26-Feb-20 20:37:56

Yes I would be happy for the rights to be had by the children not the grandparents. My children would probably never want to exercise those rights as they never had a close relationship or even much of any relationship but if they chose to see my mother as adults it would be none of my business. I would then have to hope that I have raised them strong enough to recognise and protect themselves from abusive behaviour. Honestly don't think they would reverse their decision, they remember how relieved they were to not have to be seeing her again and they remember everything they witnessed x

Starlady Thu 27-Feb-20 03:55:40

Thanks for answering my question, Jane! Yours is a beautiful and moving story! Sorry you and yours had to go through estrangement at all, of course, but what a delightful reunion! I hope it's ok if I tell it my friends who are EGPs. IMO, it's very inspiring!

Starlady Thu 27-Feb-20 03:58:47

Oh, and I really appreciate your point about being led by the GC.

Starlady Thu 27-Feb-20 04:17:33

"Bentleyfox and Flygirl my heart goes out to you and all GP's who are estranged from their GC or fear estrangement when you've got to know and love them."


Flygirl, thanks for explaining about the email. I realize I misunderstood before. Sorry. Now I think it's a great idea!

Bentley, my heart aches, too, for your broken relationship w/ your daughter. Please treasure the WhatsApp connection though and avoid any arguments w/ her. Are your GSs able to join in on the WhatsApp conversations as yet? If so, then I doubt their mum can poison their minds against you, they have their own experience of you. If they're not old enough yet, then, hopefully, they will be very soon.

Flygirl Fri 28-Feb-20 18:38:03

Thank you so much for your responses Jane, which I have only jyst seen. I am certainly very interested in your 7 step plan, so yes please, any info on that would be welcome. Please advise if you need contact details and how I can supply these to you (I'm a bit of a technophobe!). I would also like to know if there's a local support group to me in Essex. Thanks again!

Flygirl Fri 28-Feb-20 18:45:39

Hi Starlady! My daughter has now set up the email address for us both, and the email address would not give anything away to anyone as to identity. Only we have access and password for the time being.
I am going to just write a few lines to them from time to time, as if we were chatting in the same room (I wish). I dusted their (very outdated) photos today and gave them both a kiss....(I may may just tell them that in my little message ?). A bit sentimental I know, but it has to come from the heart. smile

Starlady Sat 29-Feb-20 03:27:54

Ohhh, Flygirl, that's beautiful!