When we find ourselves estranged from our grandchildren we are bemused by the situation and many of us will look for answers and comfort by talking to others.
It is true to say that women find it much easier to seek out help, to talk about our feelings, but of course it is not just women who are facing this ‘living bereavement,’ what about those wonderful men in our lives, Grandads.
Granddads are always on hand to mend that broken toy, to find important jobs for their grandchildren to get involved in.
There is nothing quite like looking out of the kitchen window watching Grandad and his grandchildren being ‘busy.’
Little children look up to their Grandad, you can see it their eyes when they are listening intently to the wisdom that all Grandads hold.
They always seem to have that special tool for doing a job, the answer to difficult questions, like ” when will the world stop turning?”
So how does it feel as a Grandad when these precious little ones are no longer part of your life?
I asked several Grandads for their views, and I thank them for the honesty and insight.
“I had a great relationship with my grandfather, he was good to talk to, he was a good listener and always had sound advice. He was a well travelled man and was very knowledgeable. Sadly I didn’t know my paternal grandfather.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was about to become a Grandad myself, but when I set eyes on my beautiful little granddaughter I was captivated, she won my heart. I had a vision of being a guide for her, to listen and talk to her, and looked forward to having fun with her. When you are a hard working Dad, you often miss out on the having fun bit!
When we became estranged, I was so upset, I was at a loss to know how to put it right, I kept my feelings to myself to protect my wife and son, they needed me to be strong.
I thought it was unlikely that I would ever see her again, although I never gave up hope really.
There was always a chance.
I am one of the very lucky ones, who is now reconnected, and it feels wonderful, I am a little wary, afraid that it might happen again. We have a long way to go, this is just the beginning.
If I had any advice to other Grandads it would be to be open and honest about your feelings, don’t think you have to be strong, talk to others.”
Grandchildren say it all, I asked them what they thought about their Grandads.
“Grandad, always has very important jobs for me to do.”
“He is taller than me.”
“I like sitting on his lap, there is just room for me.”
“Grandad, mends everything, he has special tools.”
“I like being in the garage with him, lots to do in there.”
Here another Grandad tells his story.
“One only has to look at the membership of any of the many (far too many) alienated grandparent support groups to notice that the members are almost all women. Very few grandfathers are members but in most cases of grandparenting you do get one of each type per family.
Why so few grandads?
I think it’s a combination of things, women tend to be more open emotionally so more likely to talk about their problems. Men of course famously bottle stuff up rather than look “weak”. Perhaps women have more affinity with social media but I can assure you that alienated grandads hurt just as much as the grandmothers.
I and my wife have been alienated for six years now and we have each been destroyed by the experience.
How does being alienated make me feel, as a father and a grandfather?
Our alienation began after my daughter met a man whose values and standards were not like ours. In his house it was normal for his parents to cut people off who disagreed in any way with their ideas,even their own close family. He had also become used to getting his own way with threats of self-harming if he didn’t. But we still welcomed him into our family and meant it.
We were cut off because we gave our daughter sanctuary after he treated her very badly soon after their son was born, he took their young son away from her to “teach her a lesson” and because she came home to us we were somehow deemed to be responsible and that was it.
The day we were cut us off the world lost its colour. Everything turned grey. Like a fog has descended on me, weighing me down with a heavy wet blanket. I drag myself through each day, desperately hoping today might be “the day” something positive happens. We have built a successful business that has kept us as a family, I used to love it, it was more of a paying hobby than work, now I have no motivation other than I have to keep it together for the three people we employ. I really couldn’t care less. I used to enjoy many hobbies but nothing interests me now. My daughter and I used to passionately enjoy sailing, I taught her to sail when she was 12 and for years until she met her partner we would sail together at weekends. The thought that we may never do that again is indescribably horrible when reminders of her are all around me at home.
People say,”move on, forget her,” they don’t know what else to say.
You can’t forget your children.
This is the living bereavement of alienation and it is hell.
My wife is the same though thankfully we seem to be out of phase when it comes to emotional swings, I am up when she is down and vice versa. At least this means we can take it in turns to support each other through the black days.
What really hurts is to hear things being said about you that you know are patently untrue but still they get to you and you do start to doubt yourself. Being referred to by my son in law as a snob and a bully was just childish, projections of himself, essentially the rantings of a very immature person but when he told others I had abused my children it takes on a different feel. Of course I didn’t abuse them as my other daughter will confirm but still you start to wonder inside “…but did I in some way?” “Did I do something that was wrong and I’ve been in denial ever since?”. This is the most wicked thing you can accuse a parent of doing, it eats away at your very soul and it very nearly drove me to end it all.
One thing I wasn’t planning on becoming was an expert in personality disorders but forewarned is forearmed as they say – I need to understand why people do these things to another person who really meant them no harm. It’s called gaslighting and is a technique of the manipulator to break someone down, convince them they are insane. And it works. It has taken me many years to finally believe what all my friends and family have been saying all the time: I am NOT the one in the wrong, I WAS a good and loving father, I WAS a good provider who didn’t abuse his children and who did all he could to raise them in a happy environment. But no matter how good you are, you can’t plan for the people your children meet. Just one person made me doubt myself and now I don’t know whether I should feel pity for them or anger. Or both.
For me what I hate so much about alienation is that it has made me into the person I never was. I was doing just fine in life, we’d raised our family without too much drama, had made something of our business and had a nice house and holidays to show for all the hard work. Now the children were becoming adults and were starting to get on with their own lives while we settled down for the home run. Maybe grandkids would come along and life would be complete. But one person ruined that dream which makes me incandescent with rage. How dare they do that to us. I have always been an easy going person unless someone attacks me, my family or my business. Then I will fight to the end, no quarter given. So now if I hear life is not going so well for the person who caused all this, I find it amusing in a grim way.
And I so hate myself for that because that is not me.”
The real me died that day.
Another point of view, another way of coping.
“The default position for society is still (in the main) that females can express their emotions and feelings much better than males, who will instead clam up and have the stiff upper lip.
Estrangement is loss, a living death, gone but not so you can ever draw a line.
One of the 5 people who have had the greatest influence on my life (funnily enough the only female) was my maternal grandmother and I feel very fortunate that she ha helped make me the person I am today: she is with me every day.
I feel the loss.
I feel the bewilderment.
But I also see my role as supporting my wife as well, so I have a dual role…it is not always easy.
Ask my wife how many grandchildren we have….she will say 4.
Ask me…..I say 1 (the greatest relationship I have ever had): my defence mechanism is that they do not exist
I am of the age where I look back at my various relationships and that I have in effect had four separate goes at being a ‘parent’. I think with granddaughter (no father around) I have got it right. All that knowledge, all that experience, not available to the other three
I hurt as much as my wife
I grieve as much as my wife
I am just not allowed to show it as much (still) by society
I stay strong for my wife as well as myself for her down times.
At that time who is there for me?
Grandparents should be asexual: they are (in the vast majority of cases) the safety net for parents and their children
I am at ease that I will have nothing to do with three; I feel blessed that I have with one.”
Thank you to the Grandads who have opened up their hearts, who have said in their own words how it feels to be a Grandad who are unable to show their love for these precious people.
I hope their grandchildren will one day read these powerful words.