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The Impact of Mental Illness on Grandparent Estrangement

In January I wrote a post about a grandma who was denied access to her grandson by her daughter. My post struck a nerve with many grandmas who could relate to this heartbroken grandma. One grandma wrote such a poignant and personal response to the grandma, I decided to share her letter. Her story represents the challenging roller coaster ride that many estranged grandmas face: the impact of mental illness on grandparent estrangement.

Letter to Heartbroken Grandma

I am in tears as I comment on your post. I can relate. I have a 23-year old single daughter who has mental illness, including a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

My husband and I have been involved in the mental health community since she was 5-years old. I have recently been through an estrangement with her and my 4-year old grandson. The stress and strain of all of the years culminated with a major depression, fibromyalgia, chronic myofascial pain, anxiety, and loss of my job of 30 years.

I was the “other parent” to my grandson until she cut me off for several months. I have dedicated my life to her and my grandson.
He lived with me, my husband, and my son for two years because she couldn’t handle managing her life and the demands of a baby who was starting to crawl and eat solid food. She breastfed him until he was 11 months old then gave him up to me and my husband instead of putting him up for a closed adoption.

He moved back in with her when she became more mentally stable but then she started to attribute normal preschool sexual behaviors and things he said as evidence that he was abused. She accused my husband of sexually molesting our grandson and of doing the same to her when she was a child. Her memories were “repressed.” She is sadly living in a delusion.

When my grandson was 3, his grandfather whom he loved like a father, was ripped out of his life. Fortunately, she continued to allow me to have a very close relationship with him. But our relationship was shot.

My grandson started telling her stories about seeing his grandfather as well as other family members when he did not. After one story, she decided I was no longer trustworthy. She and an art therapist wrote up a plan that required our visits to be supervised. Now we’re repairing our relationship and I’m allowed to see him when she needs something. Once a month the three of us will go on fun outings together.

I never thought my life would be filled with this much sadness. My husband and I attended a family conference on understanding Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ve done research, counseling, and praying to try and understand and work with my daughter.

Grandparent Rights

I live in a state where grandparent have rights. But I’ve been reluctant to go down that path because I’m sure once I do, I’ll lose her and my grandson forever. When my daughter first started refusing any communication with me, I sent my grandson letters and packages in the mail. She allowed him to open them and call to thank me.

Recently, the ice started melting and she has “let” me help her. I still have to work hard to let me take them somewhere fun but it’s happening occasionally. I don’t know what the future holds but I will never give up or stop trying to figure out what I need to do to keep a relationship with my grandson.

The hardest thing for me when she’s not in contact with me, is knowing he is so small and doesn’t have a voice. He doesn’t have anyone except my daughter, and she is mentally ill. It is hell on earth when you are in this sort of situation.

Heartbroken Grandma, I will think of you and pray for you. Please know that you are not alone. That will ease some of the pain but I know it is harder than anything else I have experienced in my life. When my daughter cut me off completely, I felt like my grandson had died but I couldn’t grieve his death or move on. He was still very much alive and very much missing me, my husband, the rest of his family, and his home.

Hang in there. I hope you’re able to find someone who can help you through this horrible situation. Look for the blessings in your life. Lean on your God. Don’t give up. Your grandson will not forget about you. When he turns 18, you can find each other again. You could keep a journal for him so that when you reunite, he can understand that you never stopped loving him and thinking about him.

Some Kudos We've Received

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