In my new feature, “Ask GaGa,” I’ve been answering questions from grandmas who need advice. This heartbroken grandma is being denied access to her 7-year old grandson whose daughter has stopped allowing her to visit him.
I have had my beautiful 7-year old grandson in my life since the day he was born. He is my 27-year old daughter’s child. She has chosen over the years on and off to make my life difficult for me by using my grandson as a weapon. I have jumped as high and low to her demands to keep him in my life. It’s never been easy to see him but she usually “allowed” it at some point until last June.
She is using situations from over 20 years ago against me now and has not allowed me to see him at all for the last 7 months. Both my children have been brainwashed with money by their father and his wife since they were young, even though I raised them all their lives.
Now, I have moved closer and have applied for mediation with her to come to some sort of agreement. I have also made application to court for visits. Grandparents rights here in British Columbia, Canada are minimal. My grandson and I have a very special bond. I have been able to talk to him through his father but he doesn’t want to be involved because he doesn’t want to “live in hell” for the rest of his life. My daughter has a lot of power over me by withholding my grandson.
I’ve told my grandson I will never give up on him. He says things like “Gramma, I don’t know why my mommy won’t let me see you anymore.” It breaks my heart. I have 2 years of texts, hundreds of pictures, videos of us together and 25 letters from friends and family who know me and have seen us together over the years. I have read about narcissistic sociopaths and the behaviors fit to a T. I know I am not alone yet I cannot find any local support groups in British Columbia that can help. I’d like to get a little advice or your thoughts on this. Anything that can help would be appreciated.
Dear Heartbroken Grandma
I am truly sorry for the pain you are suffering from not being able to spend time with your grandson. What a heartbreaking loss to experience after seven years of developing a close relationship with him.
If it’s any comfort at all, you are not alone. Dr. Pat Hanson has written a book titled “Invisible Grandparenting: Leave a Legacy of Love Whether You Can Be There or Not.” There are millions of Invisible Grandparents who, because of personality conflicts, custody issues, distance, or consequences of choices made long ago, have no way to pass values and memories to those who mean the most to them. Her book offers support, understanding, and creative ideas to soothe your pain and move on with your life.
All of the resources listed in Dr. Hanson’s book are in the United States. But I suggest you contact Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, Incorporated (AGA) http://www.aga-fl.org/ and ask them if they can give you some advice or steer you toward resources in Canada.
Advice from Experts on Family Relations
Winifred M. Reilly, MA, Marriage and Family Therapist says if your grown child has pulled away, ask yourself this: Is there an unresolved issue that needs to be addressed? Is there something I might do to make that resolution possible? Is there something I need to apologize for or forgive? Difficult as it is, she’s seen many parents remain openhearted to their estranged children, reaching out, inviting contact, expressing their love, with no expectation or insistence that it be reciprocated. Sometimes all we can do is leave the porch light on with a key under the mat.
Author Marina Sbrochi Spriggs feels the parent is the one who can’t stop reaching out, can’t stop going above and beyond to do anything to repair this broken relationship. The parent has to steer this relationship to a better path. The parent must let go of his or her ego. Leave it at the door. Apologize. It doesn’t matter what happened. It is your CHILD. Never stop trying. Be humble. Apologize and profess your unconditional love. When you finally meet, hug your child and don’t let go for a really long time.
Steps Toward Reconciliation
Susan Stiffelman, Marriage and Family Therapist offers the following steps toward reconciliation.
Identify the payoff for reconciling — for example, restored time with your grandchild. Write it down and keep it where it will be in view when you make the first conciliatory phone call.
Express your feelings to someone other than the person from whom you’re estranged. You’ll find it easier to move toward reconciliation if you’ve vented your hurt and anger with a trusted friend or counselor first.
Try to understand your daughter’s point of view. List three reasons why your daughter might think it right to pull away from you. Even if you don’t agree with the reasons, the process will help you step into her shoes and see the situation from her perspective.
Make the call. Dial your daughter and request a time when she might be willing to talk for a few minutes. Don’t force a conversation in this initial call, and stay calm and respectful. If you’re aggressive or insistent, she may resist meeting with you.
Acknowledge the cost of the estrangement and how it would be better for everyone if you could heal and move forward.
Apologize sincerely. Don’t explain. Simply say, “I’m sorry,” without adding your defense. A genuine apology consists of three parts: “I’m sorry.” “I can understand how you might have felt upset.” “How can I make it right?”
Hear her out. Allow your daughter to express the feelings that prompted her estrangement. When she’s finished, resist the urge to debate or tell your side. Simply ask them if there’s more she’d like to say. Don’t rush her or cut her off. Give her time to completely offload whatever pent-up feelings precipitated the rift.
Make things right. Ask your daughter what she needs from you to get things back on track. Listen without interrupting, and let her know you’ll think about what she’s said. Don’t say she’s asking for too much, but at the same time, don’t impulsively promise to do something you can’t reasonably commit to.
Let it go. You may want to hear an apology from your daughter, but don’t try to force it. While it would be wonderful if she would take responsibility for her contribution to the problem, she may not be ready yet. Allow her to apologize in her own time, and be prepared for the possibility that she may never say she’s sorry for the estrangement. It may be frustrating, but remember to keep the benefits of reconciliation foremost in your mind.
Forgive. Staying angry at someone isn’t worth the price in stress, sadness, and wasted energy. We all make mistakes. We all forget to be our best selves out of fear, hurt, or pride. Find the best version of yourself, forgive, and move forward.
These steps are not easy and realistically may not be possible. There is anger and hurt on both sides but your grandson is suffering in the middle. Keep that thought uppermost in your mind as you do the difficult work of reconciling with your daughter.