It is unbelievably nearly 5 years ago that we met Dame Esther Rantzen and did two features on the BBC One Show on grandchildren suffering emotional abuse that is denied contact. Esther and myself will never forget the emails and letters we both received as a result. There were hundreds and hundreds of them.
The most poignant were the ones from grandchildren themselves, some are now adults and recount their feelings.
Here are a very small number.
“ The experiences that I shared with my grandparents each summer are the most memorable, looking back through the photos. From early morning walks to evening board games, I absolutely adored spending time with my grandparents. However, things changed when I was 9 or 10. That’s when my parents’ relationship became a bit rocky. I’ll spare you the details because I don’t like to think of it myself…My grandmother still sends letters and occasionally we speak on the phone…I do miss them very much, and hope that some day I will be able to go visit them again, and share more wonderful memories with them.”
“ I am 15, and the pain of not seeing my grandparents was too much and I decided to run away to them, and I now live with them. My little brother is still with my mother and he is not allowed to see our grandparents either.
Me and my grandparents constantly think about him. My grandparents who are very supportive are helping me through my exams. During the 3 years of me not being able to see them, I had constant contact without my mother knowing, seeing them on a nearly every day basis!”
“My name is ……. I am 27 years old and am just getting to know my grandparents on my father’s side. Something happened when I was younger that stopped me from seeing them, I, nor my grandparents are aware of what happened. I met my partner, now fiancée, several years ago and she has helped me gain enough confidence to go and meet them, much to my mother’s displeasure. Unfortunately my granddad was severely ill with cancer and sadly passed away. I now am living with deep regret that I never really got to know him, the few times I met him were amazing and I feel like I have missed out on so much with him. I am still going to visit my nana, and am so happy that I am finding about my family, I just wish I had done it sooner. My mother does not see eye to eye with my father’s family and is now treating me badly, I am getting ignored and made to feel so bad just because I am getting to know them. I feel like I am getting punished when I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“I am 40 and have 3 children of my own, but the story relates to my childhood.
My parents separated when I was 5, but we continued to “function” as a family for several years. I have wonderful childhood memories of my paternal grandparents, they were fun and had so much to offer. My grandfather was a vet and he used to take us on his rounds, as young boys that was a very exciting adventure!
For whatever reason though, at some point, things went sour. The last time I saw my paternal grandparents I was 10. My grandmother died when I was 12. We were not allowed to go to her funeral.
I remember my grandfather tried the legal route, and as is the case now, I believe found he had no rights whatsoever.
My grandfather died when I was 16, again we were not allowed to attend the funeral. I remember asking my mum if I could see him before he died. I was not allowed.
I love my mum very much, and maybe she had her reasons for the decisions she made.
I implore the parents of any child to think again if wishing to distance their children from loving grandparents to think again. It is not only the grandparents that suffer, but also the child.
As parents, they have absolute power over who the child will see. As a child you are powerless to insist that you see your grandparents, however much you may want to.
These feelings have stayed with me all my life, and I’m sure they always will. I feel a sense of deep loss, guilt and regret. I truly hope that my grandparents still knew of our love for them, and that we were powerless to do anything. The scars run very deep.
Please use this example, if you feel you can to convey to both parents and grandparents. For the parents how the abuse of power can lead to emotional scarring that can last a lifetime, and to the grandparents that their grandchildren will undoubtedly always love them and have them in their hearts.
I am divorced myself, I insist that the children have full and meaningful relationships with their grandparents that want to.”
“Last year my daughter died of breast cancer aged 40. I had a loving relationship with my grandchildren.. My daughters wishes were for me and my husband to love and watch out for her children after she died. She feared her husband would stop contact, unfortunately she was right. As soon as she died, her husband started to become aggressive to us and pushed us out of the children’s lives.
Our granddaughter aged 4 was mystified where her mummy has gone and also grandparents and aunty. When she died it was a double loss – you have the loss of your daughter to deal with and the loss of contact with your grandchildren.”
“ I cry myself to sleep….for the past 3 years I have not seen either of my grandchildren. I found that the address I had been sending parcels to was no longer their home and my letters were continually returned. It hurts so much when I have to ask someone to try and search for a photo on facebook, which I cling onto as I have nothing else. Why oh why can a complete stranger access her photos but I cannot? My grandchild probably doesn’t even remember me. She might well think I am dead. I just want a hug, a cuddle, the knowledge that they are both well and happy…and the ability to share some family history and stories that would be so lovely to pass on to the next generation. I cling hold of my faith…without that I would surely fall to pieces, but deep down I am empty, bereaved. Yes, ashamed that I could not hold the family together, and so desperate for even the tiniest scrap of news, hoping and praying that one day the prodigal child will return. ”
These are real life experiences they speak volumes.