Grandparent Alienation

Grandparent alienation

“I’m over my estranged daughter,” says Cleo. “It’s my grandchildren I worry about now.”
grandparent alienation

Cleo is like thousands of parents around the world who are not allowed to see their grandchildren. A daughter or son’s estrangement, which can happen for a variety of reasons, usually means the grandchildren are also cut-off. It’s a breakdown in the family where innocent children are hurt.

Some grandparents have formed groups, organize rallies and awareness campaigns, and are fighting for changes to law that would support their efforts. And legislation is moving along the judicial pipelines with some success.

June 14: Grandparent Alienation Awareness Day

It’s a tough road when the grandchildren they have so bonded with are yanked away. “I always wonder what the kids are being told and what they’re thinking,” says Cleo. “Are they wondering if I don’t love them anymore?”

It’s not always estrangement that causes the separation. When one parent or both is incarcerated, sometimes one set of grandparents will swoop in and make it difficult for the other.

One mother whose son (in his 30s) went to prison, spent a small fortune in legal fees fighting against his in-laws for visitation of her young grandchild. Although she was an upstanding citizen with no criminal record and a history of emotional stability, the in-laws alleged that if she raised a son who committed a murder, then there must be something wrong with her. Her son’s was a crime of passion, and he had no previous offenses. Do you think what they alleged is automatically true?

Grandparent alienation: What do grandparents do?

Are you suffering grandparent alienation? Perhaps in connection with estrangement from adult children or for some other reason? Some grandparents consider their options, and decide it’s in the best interests of their grandchildren not to pursue a legal remedy. Others choose to fight with all their might as well as rally for more awareness. Each situation is unique. I hope you’ll share your thoughts by leaving a comment in reply to this posting.

For more information on grandparent alienation:

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, Inc.
Offers telephone support calls, news of legal efforts, and groups in 50 states and 22 countries.

Grandparents Rights Advocates National Delegation (GRAND USA)
Legislative news and resources and support in 50 states.

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous Canada
Regular meetings, resources and support.

Bristol Grandparents Support Group (UK)
Championing grandparents rights.

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12 thoughts on “Grandparent Alienation

  1. Peonies

    I went through the same thought process and talked with a lawyer. She basically said, “Sure, you can sue, but you’ll lose” and she was right. In my state, grandparents have no legal rights except under very specific circumstances that I didn’t meet. It’s would be an emotionally and financially bankrupting experience, and I’d lose anyway.

    I love and miss my daughter but losing my five grandchildren is the worst loss I’ve ever experienced and what brings me to my knees in devastation is that they think I don’t love them, when I love them more than they can possibly imagine. They can only know when they are grandparents themselves.

    I’ve gotten a lot stronger about my daughter pushing me away, but when I think about my grandchildren, I go to pieces. I have “visitation” dreams about each grandchild about once every week or two. In the dreams, I’m just hugging them. We’re glad to be together and they might tell me they miss me. In each dream, only one grandchild is “featured” but I’ve dreamed about each one more than once. They’re short and sweet and uncomplicated, and while they are joyous while I’m dreaming, I wake up in emotional shreds. On those mornings, I get out of bed quickly or I’ll inevitably ruminate over everything.

    My grandchildren love me – or they used to. I was a loving, fun, silly grandmother. My motto was “Spoil and Release”. They didn’t choose this and neither did I. A few weeks before my daughter delivered the “You’re out” email, she sent me a link to an article, “Grandparents Who Babysit More Often Live Longer”. I’ll never forget that one week she wants me to babysit more, and within a month I’m toxic and abusive. I have no idea what she’s telling the children about my disappearance from their lives. We only lived about 30 minutes away, so I saw them often.

    In every culture I know about (I’m sure there’s an exception out there) grandparents are the second-most important relationship in a child’s life. Extended families provide love and support, and loving grandparents are integral to a child’s sense of belonging and well-being. My five grandchildren have been denied every single family member on my daughter’s side, as well as on her husband’s. How can not be damaging the children?

    Apparently all of their immediate family members, as wells as cousins, aunts and uncles are all toxic. That helps me realize it isn’t me specifically who has been estranged, and to understand that this total two-family estrangement is irrational, but it helps not one bit when I think of my grandchildren.

    It’s been two years, and I’m better, but not by a lot. I have good days and bad days. On good days, I try to be helpful to others. On bad days, I get support from those same people.

    1. Christy Williams

      I am in my 4th year of being alienated from my grandchildren. My daughter even kept me from seeing my mom the last 7 months she was alive. She passed away September 30, 2017.

    2. John

      It’s been three years since I have had any contact with my daughter. In these three years there’s times , like you said that pain from this is so intense and then there’s times that I guess the expression “coming to terms with it” can be applied. My daughter had done the same thing to my ex-wife some twelve years ago; calling her toxic and abusive and suddenly three years ago it was as if someone flipped a switch and it was me was labeled as toxic and abusive. Four grandchildren , two of which were old enough for us to have a normal and loving grandfather/grandchild relationship have vanished from my life. They live ten minutes away. The disgusting and sick mind of my daughter is as much a source of pain as the loss of my grandchildren. She unleashed a smear campaign like an absolute coward in writing and posts and never once had the decency to say anything to me. The disgust in her actions are with me every day. It’s a feeling of hopelessness, confusion and yet at times determination. I don’t know what the outcome will be but I pray that my daughter will one day in the near future realize just how distorted her mind is and see all she is stealing from everyone; particularly her own children. But with the years adding up the reality is that may not happen in my lifetime. Sorry to go on so long. I hope you and every grandparent,(myself included) experiencing this unimaginable pain finds some peace and the strength to go on. It can change.

  2. Yaicha

    I was cut off from my grandchildren two weeks after driving out of state to babysit. The oldest had her birthday which was the two weeks after I sat. My son didn’t have the nerve to tell me in person but kept postponing “the party.” After weeks – it finally dawned on me I wasn’t invited, I mailed the gift. They had a party with my DIL’s family but we were cut out. Maybe someday, I can give them their cards and show them I didn’t forget them but I am prepared to never see them again. Who knows what was told to them but whatever it is, they will be damaged. I completely bonded with them. I have a recording on my phone of what they sound like but honestly, it’s getting harder and harder to visualize them – especially when children grow so fast. It’s heartbreaking for the entire family. It’s been so long now, I almost struggle to remember – which is the saddest of all.

  3. Stephen

    When I hear grand parents and child estrangement, I started to link some common development with a certain group, like I fall into.
    I hope Sheri (which is one of my go to forums, I go to for advise and to read about the one’s who are in my same boat) can some day touch on this a little more.
    Grand children, means your child got married, which means there is a new spouse. What I read and in my case, the estrangement for a lot of us, did not happen until a spouse came into the picture, then grand children speeds up the case and can be used as leverage or a hurting property. Can they (spouse) be 100% of the blame, I do not believe so, but they might be the one’s who in-acted or initiated the estrangement. I have read a lot where estrangement occurred after marriage or around the time and stopped when a divorce occurred. This says a lot. I have read others, where this has happened and when the divorced adult child found a new spouse and it happened again. As I read these common denominators, you start to realize, it occurs more often, specially when the estranged child meets there other half. Is it a jealousy figure, a “your not good enough for me and my family, is it feelings might got hurt by something that was said out of error? Never the less, a lot of estrangements happen when your child meets and marries their other half. Did it give them courage that they won’t be alone if they estrange the parents, or did the “Other” person talk them into it. Which ever way it occurs, it will come back to haunt them, as this most always backfires! In my case we started realizing how our adult child’s spouse and his family treated us, once we were brought in to an occasion. We were very uncomfortable and put a stop to the pony show, or piñata beat down of the looks of what we got from them of “you shouldn’t be here”. We do not give them or her spouse 100% of the credit of estrangement, as our child allowed it and carried it out, but we NOW realize where it stems from.
    Happy Fathers Day to all us dad’s out here and thank you Sheri for the Fathers Day wishes!

    1. Christy Williams

      Personally mine started when I divorced my husband in 1990. He has a ‘power and control disorder’. He alienated me from my children
      Made up lies and tried to keep them from me. Since then I have been close with both of them off and on. But they both have children. And now off and on, I’m kept from the grandkids. My ex is still in the picture. However, he was mentally and physically abusive. So I don’t understand it, and what it is doing to my grandkids is tearing me apart.

  4. peachy19

    stephen, I have the total different situation my daughter-in-law acts wonderful then after i leave she tells my son all the things i said or did wrong and he runs with it in the past i was excluded from many family functions, all of a sudden she wants to be my best friend inviting me to functions but not my son saying a word i went to my granddaughters birthday and he was cold didnt event look at me, i want to see my granddaughter but do i want to put up with my sons evil eye am i a pawn in there issues

  5. Oceanspeace

    I sympathize and feel deeply the sadness for each of you who have lost contact with grandchildren. My situation is different yet similar. My ED has pulled my grandchildren away from me multiple times, always stating I am the toxic one, the one who “left”,the one who made the mistakes and she did nothing wrong. I have two other daughters that were raised in the same home, same environment that I have wonderful relationships with. But for the ED, the entire family has issues. For nearly 15 years the entire family has walked on eggshells with her, doing things her way, by her rules, to avoid conflict. Any family functions have to be per her time, and her liking. Although she will remember it totally differently. I have always accommodated every wish, and there are many, for the grandchildren. Yet she treats me horribly, criticizes, gives me evil looks, if looks could kill. She always has a need to punish me, and the grandchildren are her greatest tool because she knows how much I love them and they love me. That’s the part that hurts the most and angers me intensely. I can honestly say I may never forgive her for using precious children as a tool for punishment because they are being hurt and punished so unfairly and cruely. I know there is a lot of toxic anger in their home due to her narcissistic issues that harm her relationship with her husband, as well as the way she deals with the children, screaming at them, the oldest is the golden child, the other is the scapegoat and gets the wrath. What makes me even more angry is that my son in law is fully aware of her lying manipulative stories, she has done the same to him, yet he has done nothing in the nearly year of estrangement to try to reach out to let us know that the grandchildren are ok, or that they know we love them, I have sent gifts with no response. I am over my daughter, I really am, I no longer shed a single tear for her, she has broken my heart too many times, but I just really want and need to know that my grandchildren are ok and they know we love them and did not leave them by our choice. I still cry over them every day, it is not getting easier.

  6. Klam

    I am new to this community and I am not sure how to post things- I thought this might fit into the grandparents section- but if there is a better way to put my thoughts out there- my heart goes out to all-

    – [ ] I’ve never been a “should have , would have , could have” person- but tonight this night that is, approaching the anniversary of too many sadnesses for one family to carry – I SHOULD have known of the being of my grandson, his very existence -floating in the beauty of my daughter- I SHOULD have known of his first kick, spin, SHOULD have been jotting down names for all the oh so sweet gifts of love felt for the anticipated Thank you cards that we SHOULD have spent hours at our favorite store, picking out The perfect cards//-I SHOULD have been at least aware of upcoming drs appointments,, I SHOULD have seen something coming ,a blimp in a report – I SHOULD have known he left this world- I SHOULD have known- i SHOULD have been able to guide my first born through the unbearable darkness , I should have known if he took a breath in this world, if my daughter was able to hold him , heart to heart for at least a minute or an hour ? I SHOULD have known if my first life,got to hold her first life- if for just a moment-before he went on to his other life… I SHOULD have know the date – so perhaps this pain can have a specific time and place to be respected vers at every celebration of a friends happiness there is the twinge – “ would this should have been theirs to celebrate—I WOULD have whispered-,cried-screamed-even if only to the setting sunsets, my Aloha/ my hello’s mixed with goodbyes- I WOULD have held him- and her – I COULD have …, so many things —maybe that’s the problem with “ would have, could have, should have’s” in life – you never truly know what would have been of what has happened in the past-/- but this I do know— i would of , could of ,should of – known my grandsons name ….

    1. rparents Post author

      Dear Klam,

      What a beautiful way to put this pain.

      I’m sorry that you suffered this … at any distance.

      HUGS to you dear grandparent,
      Sheri McGregor

  7. rattlesnake

    I guess I’m luckier than many here because I get along with my ex-daughter-in-law and because of her, I am assured I will always have my grandkids in my life. If my ES and his new wife had their way, this would not be the case.

    ES has always had issues, for sure, but we were close and he called me most every day of his adult life. I miss it this time of the day because this is when he called for the last year when we were still talking: on his way to work in the morning. I’m sure it was a time he’d be alone and this witch of a wife would not be hovering over him. Things were headed in a bad direction even before they got married but went down hill more steadily after they married in April of 2018. She was so jealous. At first it was comments that were not mean or horrible, such as: “Those kids ADORE you! I wish they would be that happy to see me as they are when they see you.”

    She is an absolute control freak with rigid ideas about how things should be and I guess having a grandparent who actually helped raise the kids was not in her script so very early on, she informed DS that the kids would need to spend less time with their Grandma, and more time with them.

    Well, a few occasions occurred where I would classify what she and my son were doing to the kids was downright abusive but probably not to the level that reporting it would do any good since most was emotional abuse. They did boot camp style punishments including extended grounding, physical exercises such as running and pushups (for a 8 and 9 year old the first year they were married) and some of the punishments were for things like my GS having a fear of heights and fear of water. He refused to go on a high water slide at an amusement park and the mother and I received a text that saying how awful he was for “wasting the expensive ticket money” and they would think of a punishment for him and let us know. Who does this? My beloved new DIL and my own son.

    The punishment ended up being grounded (of course) and my son was to pick him up from his mother’s every night after work for a week, so he could take him to his house to “work off the money he wasted.” I talked to my son on the phone (not his wife) about this and said, “how would you like it I had you work off all the money you wasted in your life?” We were still speaking then, obviously but he did hang up the phone on me when I asked that. (and just as a matter of fact I “wasted” 45K helping him since he was so irresponsible, in the four years he was single before he met that woman). My own fault there so I don’t expect sympathy for that.

    Then I learned they were taking my grandson to a psychologist for his terrible behavior, and they were planning to do it the week their bio mom was starting a new job and would not be able to attend this! I said to my son to be sure to tell the Dr. what they were doing for punishments. (As if my son would take my advice on that. In fact I sort of suspect ES was not even planning to go, just his wife since he really gave over all his parental rights to her ever since marrying her. Either way, I know they were counting on the mother NOT being there.

    Well, I found out when the appointment was and went to see the bio mom and told her that she needed to go to that appointment, and she did take me seriously and went. DIL started out telling of the bad behavior and blaming the mother for “letting him watch TV when he was supposed to be grounded for that.” That is when she finally spoke up and said she did not agree with the bootcamp and extreme punishment! This set DIL off and she went to the bathroom to bawl for about 10 minutes (xDIL told me about this).

    I’m sure DS and DIL knew that I had something to do with the fact the mother actually went to a dr. appointment for her own child (they have 50/50 custody with the mom having them all weekdays). Nothing could be more obvious than the fact the mother not only had a right to be there but she should have been encouraged to be there by THEM, not just by me. Well, that was the biggest turning point in my entire situation.

    I know my DS was smart enough to know I did nothing he could really consider wrong though they both resent the fact I am friendly with his ex wife. His wife’s jealousy is too strong for her to see this reality (that I did nothing wrong here) and she started a plan for revenge. My son is extremely disorganized and would not plan for anything a day in advance (I’ll skip the examples for now but believe me, I have plenty that span his whole 30 year life). So imagine my shock when I learned that my son wrote an official looking notarized “living will” that detailed who should care for his children if something happened to him and his wife that they were unable to care for them. And this very detailed document never mentioned the bio mom (who would obviously get his kids if anything happened to him).

    There were 8 potential caretakers, and yes, I made the list. Too late to change my username here but if I could do over, my user name would be Number8. Her own mother was #7, but I did know she does not like her own mother so no shock there. Still I wonder to this day if her mother knows about the “living will” MY SON wrote (we are not talking about her living will, it is the one my son knowingly and willingly signed regarding HIS children).

    I know now ES didn’t think I’d ever see it and that is at least somewhat consistent with the boy I knew and raised. An imperfect being, but yes, one who’d try to please his wife and not hurt his mother at the same time (because the document was so stupid why would I ever need to see that?)

    Well she had a different plan. She sent a copy of the document to one of my daughters who lives 10 hours away, knowing full well of course she would tell me about that, which she did. She sent it with no note or explanation. According to my D it was in a colored envelope like an invitation or something with DIL’s pretty handwriting and her own (not DS’s ) return address on it. My D was as shocked and appalled as I was, and yes she took a picture and sent me a copy. The first 4 on the list were people my son barely knows, her sister, two of her bridesmaids, her brother. 5 and 6 were my daughters; at least he knows them. #7 was her mother and 8 was me.

    Well, the rest for another time for anybody who wants to know but yes I absolutely believe the only purpose of that document was to put a wedge between my son and I. When I saw the date the document was signed, it started to fit: right after the appointment at the psychologist for my GS.

  8. Linda is Sad

    I didn’t recognize it happening so don’t have a begin date. I watched my first granddaughter for her first 3 years while her parents both worked. We were very close, and after her mother stopped working and became a full time mother, my granddaughter would still visit and spend the night often. I felt we all had a wonderful relationship for the next 3 or 4 years. I bought a new house and always dreamed of having chickens and farm animals. I noticed first that my son and daughter-in-law’s concern when some of my animals died. The death affected my granddaughter who was sad and upset that they died. I didn’t realize that she wasn’t aware of how sad and upsetting this was for me as well until one day when she asked me if it bothered me. I told her yes it did. I don’t know how she came to think that I might not be. Anyway, at some point she came to me very upset and told me she was no longer permitted to ask to come to my house; that I had to ask to have her over. I would ask and sometimes she would come. Their schedules are busy and I have left it open that any time they have a slot of time, I would be glad to have them over. I hear nothing. On the other hand, my youngest granddaughter was not allowed to come to my house for sleepovers for the first 3 years of her life. My older granddaughter is used to not seeing me much now and the last time she came to sleepover, she spent all of her time acting out. I asked her why she was acting like such a brat and she ended calling her parents to come get her. The whole thing was unusual and I still can’t figure why she acted as she did. She told me she didn’t let her sister go anywhere without her not even with her Poppy. It is hurtful that she doesn’t come to my house anymore. I am still included in the usual family times; birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am invited to some of their school functions. Once in awhile my oldest granddaughter wraps her arms around me and I her and we just stand there for some time — it feels so good. My youngest granddaughter is oblivious that anything is “off.”


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