Grandparents Denied Access to their Grandchildren

Deciding to Be Happy

Deciding to Be Happy

I just finished wrapping Christmas presents. I turned on holiday music, spread out all materials, cards and gifts and got to work..

I spent a lot of time shopping for and trying to figure out what on earth to get my grandchildren. I will mail the gifts in the hopes that they arrive on time. I feel like I’m in a vacuum: Will they receive the gifts? Will they like them? Will they be tossed aside, forgotten among the heaps of presents they receive?

So, Christmas music is playing, the gifts are wrapped and ready to be mailed. I am feeling detached from the festivities of the holiday season. When I look around at all the hustle and bustle, it seems a bit forced and disjointed to me. I see people running around, shopping feverishly or just looking exhausted. Yet, we do this year after year.

I believe that we continue to observe these traditions because on a deep level, we want to feel love and kinship. Ideally, the giving and receiving of presents is symbolic of the love we want to express to one another.

Inscribed in our neurochemistry is the need to feel safe in the social order. When we feel unloved or disrespected, we get surges of cortisol, creating stress in our bodies. If we feel accepted and loved, our brains release serotonin, and we feel more relaxed and happy. We are constantly trying to balance the two.

For those of us who have been alienated and are estranged from our adult child and grandchildren, the holidays are a time when our brain chemistry is on high alert. We are at risk for depression, even illness, because we feel disrespected and abandoned. Our bodies, minds and hearts are severely compromised. This holiday is supposed to be a day of connecting with loved ones, yet how do we have ourselves a ‘Merry Little Christmas’ without them?

Well, we just make a decision to enjoy the day in the company of those who love and respect us. We decide to be happy anyway. After enough time has gone by and there is some distance from the dysfunctional mess of alienation, we can allow ourselves some fun, laughter and merriment.

There are times when I feel like Humpty Dumpty who fell and had to be put back together again. Picking up all the pieces after our hearts have been broken is tough. Being unfairly alienated from our little grandchildren is heartbreaking and recovering from the shock and betrayal is no small task. Yet, we’re still here, alive, hearts beating, doing our best to rise above the pain. We are accepting life on its own terms. We are finding our way. We are coming back to life.

This is a magical season. Trees are decorated, the crisp smell of evergreen permeates the air, fires warm us. When I hear old favorite carols, I remember the thrill I once felt. True, that feeling has faded, but I have a new appreciation for this season: I have survived many Christmases without my family, which was difficult. I’ve come through a baptism of pain and hurt and have a new respect for myself and for my own inner fire.

While Christmas lights twinkle all around, the light within me twinkles and shines over the mantle of my heart. I have lifted myself up. I am alive and well which is the greatest gift of all.

I honor all parents and grandparents who are wrestling with alienation and estrangement. I honor your courage and wish you love, healing and peace.



9 thoughts on “Deciding to Be Happy”

  • I’m a daughter in law who is estranged from my in laws per the joint decision of both my husband and I. The majority of our grievances are with his mother. Is there a way I can email you to ask you some questions? We now have three children who are in the picture and are very conflicted as to how to go about managing a relationship with his family. I don’t want to put all of our business online but I really do have questions I would love to hear your perspective on.

    • Thank you for writing. I honor your willingness to get another perspective from an alienated mother-in-law!

      Yes, I understand that you have grievances with your mother-in-law and that you felt the need to make a difficult decision regarding visitation. However, I think that, unless your mother-in-law is in some way dangerous to your children, depriving them of their grandparents is an unconscionable act. The relationship between children and their grandparents is an important, archetypal relationship and to take it away from them is detrimental to all concerned. Are you thinking of your kids and the long term effect this might have on them?

      I write from the perspective of a grandmother who has been wrongfully accused of imagined offenses. You may think you are protecting your kids from your in-law’s behaviors, but are they real or exaggerated offenses? Who are you really serving by cutting your husband’s parents, your children’s grandparents, out of your lives?

      I beg you to reconsider your decision. You might negotiate, (or re-negotiate if that’s the case), with your in-laws, maybe find a good mediator. Learn to live with them if you can. We all make mistakes; we all blow it at times. Can you let go of your grievances and learn to forgive? I hope so, for the sake of your children.

      By alienating their grandparents, their blood, you are setting a precedent and teaching them by your example. Do you want to model alienation or do you want to model patience,love and forgiveness?

  • Dear Beth,
    Thanks so much for writing. Your situation is indeed heart-breaking. It’s difficult to understand these alienating behaviors, and try as we may, it’s a puzzle we may never solve.
    It sounds like this alienation is relatively recent, and if I understand correctly, both of your daughters have alienated you. You will naturally be broken hearted and devastated at this point. It’s still early and you will be grieving for awhile. Hopefully, things will improve and you won’t have to suffer too long. I have a feeling that, since you were once so close to your daughters, that it might be short lived. We can hope for that.
    In the meantime, allow yourself to cry when you need to. Maybe take hot baths, dress in warm, comfy clothes when at home, eat well, sleep, pray for a miracle. Also, if you can muster the strength and perspective, ask yourself what all this may be teaching you. What are you being asked to let go of? Do you have any guilt you need to acknowledge? Are you being a victim? And I love this question: ask yourself not “why is this happening to me?” but “why is this happening for me?” And finally, understand that you are helpless to change your daughters. You may know the saying from al anon: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.”
    I hope this helps and I will join you in praying for a miracle. Take care of yourself so that you’re ready when it happens.
    Keep me posted.
    Blessings to you

  • Dear Nancy,
    This is my first Christmas without my girls and grandchildren…I feel so lost and everywhere I look is a reminder.. I just don’t understand how this could even happen… Our family has always been so close … I helped raise my first granddaughter and saw her and my eldest daughter, a single parent, almost everyday for the last 8 years… They lived with us for the first two years , then got a home very close to us so I could continue to help..we picked her up from school everyday we all went to Disneyland last summer and were planning to go again this year…
    Then my other daughter had a new baby which we were all looking forward to… We had a beautiful baby shower…went to dr. appts and took her to work when she asked.. bought maternity clothes …was there at hospital when our new granddaughter was born ..went over to her house when she asked for the first 5 weeks of my new granddaughters life…then Bam!!!! My husband and I are out…totally out….out of their lives.
    After counseling, Alanon, reading everything we could get our hands on We realize now my eldest daughter may have some mental health or addiction issues and our youngest daughters husband may be the root of the problem. About 2 years ago my daughter called crying for help and my husband went to their house and had to threaten to call the police if he wouldn’t leave. He had pushed my daughter who had just been diagnosed with RA (she was severely ill). I had talked to him too when he had made her cry when she was sick and would call for us to come and get her. Apparently he has kept that against us but we weren’t aware of the extent of it until this happened.
    I can’t believe this is my life… I pray for acceptance…I don’t want to have anything but love in my heart for my children…but my heart is broken… I need a miracle!
    Thank you so so very much for your blog… Your words, your sharing, your heart….. You’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know!

  • This is my first Christmas without my girls and grandchildren…I feel so lost and everywhere I look is a reminder.. I just don’t understand how this could even happen… Our family has always been so close … I helped raise my first granddaughter and saw her and my eldest daughter, a single parent, almost everyday for the last 8 years… They lived with us for the first two years , then got a home very close to us so I could continue to help..we picked her up from school everyday we all went to Disneyland last summer and were planning to go again this year… Then my other daughter had a new baby which we were all looking forward to… We had a beautiful baby shower…went to dr. appts and took her to work when she asked.. bought maternity clothes …was there at hospital when our new granddaughter was born ..went over to her house when she asked for the first 5 weeks of my new granddaughters life…then Bam!!!! My husband and I are out…totally out….out of their lives. After counseling, Alanon, reading everything we could get our hands on We realize now my eldest daughter may have some mental health or addiction issues and our youngest daughters husband may be the root of the problem. About 2 years ago my daughter called crying for help and my husband went to their house and had to threaten to call the police if he wouldn’t leave. He had pushed my daughter who had just been diagnosed with RA (she was severely ill). I had talked to him too when he had made her cry when she was sick and would call for us to come and get her. Apparently he has kept that against us but we weren’t aware of the extent of it until this happened. I can’t believe this is my life… I pray for acceptance…I don’t want to have anything but love in my heart for my children…but my heart is broken… I need a miracle! Thank you so so very much for your blog… Your words, your sharing, your heart….. You’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know!

    Sent from my iPad

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  • Dear Angela,
    Thanks for writing.
    I’m sorry that you are involved in a court battle. It’s true that we grandparents have no rights, (happily, some states have passed laws allowing visitations, but we have a long way to go). I hope it turns out well for you when you return to court in January.
    The fact that you are dealing with a daughter with substance abuse complicates things even more. When dealing with addicts or anyone who is using mood altering substances, you can count on chaos and often abuse. It’s terribly difficult, as I’m sure you know, to reason with a them as they often find fault with and blame the people closest to them for real or imagined offenses.
    I know you are feeling hopeless and desperately heartbroken, and you will grieve deeply for a time. There is no way that you can control your daughter’s behavior. You might win visitation, which would be wonderful, but you must get yourself to a place where you can accept whatever happens. You must grow some courage.
    Please don’t allow these events to destroy you. I almost died from the grief and pain, and I pray that you don’t allow that to happen. Take care of yourself: eat right, sleep if you can. Take walks. Write, find support from people, groups (al anon), books, friends. Watch funny movies, join a chorus and sing, go out dancing – find things to enjoy. Surrender to what is and, if you can, pray.
    Of course you miss them, and I’m not sure the pain ever goes away completely. You have to learn to live again, and fully, and that takes practice – everyday. I know you have a hole in your heart, as I do, but you can find happiness again. Learn to honor yourself; have compassion for all that you’ve been through, Forgive yourself; love yourself. It’s the only way to find peace in all of this.
    Keep me posted and I’m sending prayers and blessings to you.

    • Thanks Nancy for taking the time to respond to me. It makes me feel so much better to connect with someone who is somewhat walking in my shoes. Like I said, I know my daughter is afraid for me to be close to my grandchildren since she knows I am aware of what she is doing and is in denial. Anyway, I wanted to quit but I am a fighter to the bitter end and just have to see it through, although I will probably lose in the end but, at least, I am giving my daughter a run for her money, so to speak. Please continue to write/journal because I know I really enjoy reading your posts. There have been times and, I am sure you have felt this way too but I don’t even want to live but I push myself to keep on trucking, although it is very difficult, especially with the holidays coming.

      Please keep in touch.

      Angela

  • Nancy, I enjoy reading your posts. They are uplifting. However, I am still grieving the loss of not being able to see my two small grandchildren and had to even go to court, which I have another hearing scheduled for January 25. It is an ongoing battle because in PA there are no grandparent’s rights but I had neglect issues which I was told may help me in someway. My daughter refuses to give in, even though she is blaming me for having to interfere in their lives and putting out money for attorneys that they do not have. Ironically, she would rather go through all this then let me see my grandchildren once a month, which is all I was asking for. I have shed so many tears over this because my daughter has substance abuse issues and many other issues but she refuses to face them and blames me for everything. She knows that my grandchildren were close to me and old enough to talk and she also knows I have observed her behavior. Even the judge observed her erratic behavior but she just passed the case on to another judge and another hearing. I wish you peace which I am so desperately trying to find but really have been unable to as of yet. It has only been since last April that I didn’t see my grandchildren so maybe I will need more time but I don’t believe the pain will ever go away. I can only hope and pray that I survive without getting really sick because I believe you can die of a broken heart and I have observed that happening to one of my close friends.

    I also wish you a very healthy and peaceful holiday season!

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