None of us want to think about our own mortality, but we all have to face it and need to put our house in order.
Thinking about what we want done with those sentimental, precious things is important and for most families it is a passing on from one generation to the next, but it is a very different thing if you are alienated from your adult children and grandchildren.
Many grandparents agonise with the anguish of what to do.
In a perfect world each generation looks after the next generation, but we know all too well that it is not a perfect world.
One grandparent said,
I have no-one to look after me, or even care about me, I am alone facing the last years of my life. None of my children care if I am alive or dead.
One of our dreads is becoming a burden on our children, sadly we have no idea what the future holds for us.
Alienation is a very isolating experience and the unspoken truth is, what happens when I die?
Will anyone tell my children?
Do my children want to know when I die?
Of course we don’t have the answers.
Another grandparent has written her own thoughts on the subject:
I spent last evening sitting in our tranquil garden in France with my husband and our closest British friends. We’d asked them over for pizza and to witness our ‘Last Will & Testament,’ not something any of us want to dwell upon but a responsibility we face as we approach our autumn years. We then broached the subject that has caused long-term and ongoing worry for us. I never doubted that my children would be the ones to help deal with our affairs when we were too old or ill to manage ourselves. After all, they are my beneficiaries and once you’ve done the paperwork you get on with the business of living, knowing that you’ve faced your mortality with minimum inconvenience to your nearest and dearest.
After six years of alienation and a complete breakdown in contact, everything is different. We no longer feel that we can contact the children to ask them if, for instance, they want to inherit personal treasures or even to be told if we are ill. Most devastating is the heartbreaking question. Do they want to be informed when we pass away? Do they want to come to our funerals? I have no idea, therefore I took a deep breath and asked my friend if she would keep a spare key in the unlikely but not impossible event of our having a car accident or both of us being incapacitated together. Would they keep phone numbers of my children and letters to be sent to my sister-in-law and my niece telling them what your next of kin needs to know. My husband has two lovely sisters but he is 72 and they are older than him. My own sisters have made clear that their loyalties lie with our alienators. We also had to face how best to make sure that nobody is out of pocket on our account and that we alone are responsible for that. Like most older people we don’t want to be a burden. I never expected to burden my children. I just thought it would be them that we discussed it all with. It was difficult to acknowledge that we can’t.
By the time we’d finished, our friends willingly agreed to do this for us and to safeguard treasured belongings for my children. We all felt emotional when my friend acknowledged what a tragic and forgotten aspect of alienation this was. How could I ever have known that I would one day wonder if the children I brought into the world might not even care when my time comes to leave it. Of course, nobody knows what the future holds and sadly parents lose children too which is something too painful for most of us to contemplate. I felt so sad that I had to have that conversation and that I have no idea if the letters, memory boxes and keepsakes will ever be wanted or seen by my beloved children. Will my beautiful granddaughter ever wear my engagement ring or my grandson his grandad’s watch? If not, the least I can do is see that they don’t lie somewhere gathering dust but are kept safe just in case. I feel content if I know I’ve made sure that if I can’t gift them myself, it will never be too late for my children to claim something of their mum. I think it’s the loving thing to do. I know I’m not alone in facing this situation and I hope that all parents and grandparents understand how I feel.
I found reading this so very moving, and our thanks go to the grandparent who agreed to allow us to share her words with you.
It is time that alienated grandparents feel able to be open and honest about this unspoken truth.
As a Mum you worry and care for your children
The tiny baby needs you, you listen to every breath
You pick them up as they grow, each time they fall
You protect, and have many sleepless nights over them
How will life treat them, will they have friends
You give up stuff for yourself and focus on them
Soon they are at school and embarking on a new direction
You hope they will be successful.
In no time at all they have left, a feeling of emptiness fills the house
No longer needed.
In the wink of an eye, the roles reverse
You suddenly become a nuisance, someone who needs support
Worst of all, you are a burden.
You become an emotional and financial problem.
Such hurt and pain in my heart.
Was it all my fault?
I only tried my best but it wasn’t enough.
Now I am just a problem.
Never felt so sad.