Q: What was the situation that first led to you being denied contact with your grandchild?
A: When my son and his wife separated and subsequently divorced communication began to break down, my granddaughter on her last visit to see us in 2007 told us that she had been told to ‘dump her family in Bristol.’
During one of her visits I noticed that she kept turning the TV up and often didn’t hear me when I spoke to her, I asked my son if his ex had mentioned it to him, and she hadn’t. They were barely talking to each other at this point. I worked as a Teaching Assistant at the time, and I spoke to my Head Teacher about my concerns for my granddaughter, and asked her if she thought it appropriate for me to telephone my granddaughters school. She said that she would certainly be keen to listen to a concerned grandparent in the same circumstances’. So I did.
I asked if it would be possible for my granddaughters teacher just to keep and eye on it, to see if her hearing was indeed a problem.
The Head was very nice and said that she would pass on my concerns to the teacher.
She also told my ex daughter-in-law that I had rung, needless to say she contacted my son and was furious with me. and said that would be the last time he or any of us would see her. And it was.
(There was in fact a problem with her hearing and she had to have grommets inserted to put it right.)
My granddaughter asked me why her daddy didn’t buy her things and I reacted completely the wrong way, I said that her daddy sent money every month to her mum to help buy her things, and that he certainly was not mean.
Of course I should never have responded that way, I will never forgive myself.
Another abusive phone call to my son and our daughter in law said that would be the last time he or any of us would see her.
And it was.
Q: What steps did you take to avoid this being the case?
A: When I realized that we were going to lose contact with her, I emailed and wrote a letter to my ex daughter-in-law, saying that whatever I had said or done, I was truly sorry and that could we not talk and sort it out?
There was no response.
Some time later I found my step grandson, (my ex daughter-in-law
had, had another child before she met my son) on Facebook and
sent him a message, I received a very abusive reply.
Q: Did you ever partake in family mediation to gain access to your grandchildren?
A: No. Mediation can only take place if the two parties agree to this, and my ex daughter-in-law had made it clear she would never speak to me again.
Q: Did you apply for a contact order – if yes, why? if no, why not?
A: No. I made a conscious decision not to, for me my granddaughter had to live her life, to be able to grow unhindered. If I had gone down the legal route, it would have caused her enormous emotional upset and confusion., I felt she had gone through enough. To have her mum and grandparents fighting over her was something I couldn’t bear. It was the most difficult decision I have ever made.
Q: What do you feel you are missing out most on, in terms of being denied contact with your grandchild?
A: Not being able to watch her grow, to witnessing her milestones, to not being able to give her a hug and make her smile. Not being able to share things with her, family things. Not being able to know if she is safe and happy. Not knowing if she thinks I don’t love her and that I let her down.
The whole family have a huge gap in their lives.
Q: What do you feel she is missing out on?
A: She is missing out on the love and support of her extended family, her aunts , uncles, cousins etc. On her identity, her history on her background. Memories of older members of the family.
Q: Would you have done anything differently?
A: When these awful things happen in our lives I think we always think we should have done something differently. Being wise after the event. You can of course do nothing about the past, it has gone we can only look to the future. If I had the luxury of having that time again, I would have spoken to her Mum, not her school, how ever difficult that would have been.
Perhaps the more important question might be, would it have made the outcome different? In my case, no I don’t think it would.
Q: Do you have any advice for other grandparents out there who are in a similar situation to you?
A: My advice to other grandparents who are denied contact with their grandchildren, is to stay calm, try not to get embroiled in the blame game. It is not helpful to anyone. Try to keep the lines of communication open. Remember birthdays, Christmas etc, send letters , cards. If you can . Anything you send photocopy and keep in a memory box. If you think letters etc don’t reach your grandchildren use a company who sends cards, that way they are sent from the company so it is not your postmark on the envelope.
Remember that if you have had a relationship with your grandchild/children , they will not forget that.
Grandparents DO regain contact with their grandchildren, there is hope so never give up.
Please do not feel you are alone, you are not, join a support group to help you through those difficult times , you can get support by email, on the phone ,via Skype, by attending meetings, if there is one near you. We also have a befriending service. Being able to talk to other grandparents who are experiencing the same thing is helpful and you will also be supporting someone else who may well be truly desperate.