When grandparents find themselves in the devastating situation of being estranged/alienated, through a family breakdown, it is a lonely place.
You will probably never have heard of such a thing before, it feels as though it is only happening to you.
As you do research on the subject you soon realise that it is in fact an enormous issue, it is estimated that over one million children are denied contact with a grandparent.
If like me you are desperate to find out more, to find out what you can do, it isn’t long before you discover that there is very little you can do.
So we look for support.
Hopefully now, there are more groups across the UK than they were 11 years ago.
I am only too aware of the courage it takes for grandparents to seek help and support, making that first phone call or writing that first email is just the first step.
Talking to a complete stranger about the most personal things and baring your soul is very hard.
I hope when grandparents do have the courage to contact us, they realise immediately that they are not alone and no longer need to feel so isolated.
I had a grandparent who had our contact details in her pocket for 6 months before she actually picked up the phone.
If you have a local group the next step could be that you decide to join that group.
Of course going to support group meetings is not for everyone, but I know for those who do attend it is a positive experience.
As a facilitator of a support group, there are many things to consider.
One of the most important things is that grandparents feel safe and secure, confidentiality is vital.
All meetings should start with a reminder that everything said in a meeting is kept within those 4 walls.
If a grandparent chooses to talk about their own story to others outside those meetings that is, their choice, not ours.
The enormous rise in social media platforms has meant that many grandparents are joining in with what I consider to be very destructive places.
Photos of grandchildren are posted, the grandchildren are identified and their parents are depicted as villains.
No amount of vetting of such places can give a 100% guarantee of confidentiality, there is no such thing as ‘private’ on the internet. Members of estranged families can and do access these groups.
Can you imagine if you were a grandchild, reading the terrible things written about their parents,how it would make you feel?
Grandparents often say they feel betrayed by their family members who have decided to stop contact, lack of confidentiality is also a betrayal.
There are now many grandparents across the UK running support groups, they too need support. They are running groups because they have been or are estranged/alienated from their grandchildren, and yet it is those very people who have put their head above the parapet, to help others who are far too often betrayed themselves, by the very people that they have tried to support.
Everyone will have a different point of view, will do things a different way, but sometimes we have to agree to disagree.
Confidentiality is clearly not going to be able to be kept on any social media platform, but at meetings it is paramount.
I would like to thank all the grandparents who are running their support groups, they are doing a vital role, and are a lifeline to so many.