Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Cut Off from Granddaughter

Sad grandmother looking out the window
Photo by fizkes/Shutterstock

Dear Dr. Gramma Karen,

My older son got married about six years ago. His wife has never liked me, and I have no idea why. When I first met his wife to be, I was very kind, warm, and loving to her. I was not invited to their wedding, and neither was my mother and the rest of our family, with the exception of my sister.

My son and I were always close, but he has completely disengaged with me over the past years. They have never let me lay eyes on my six-year-old granddaughter or hold her in my arms. It breaks my heart, and I have no idea why they have cut me off from her. I have reached out to my son many times and all he does is continue to hurt me and ignore me. Many of my son’s friends tell me that my son’s wife is mean, evil, and they cannot stand her. They don’t like to be around her, so they don’t socialize.

Fourteen years ago, my younger son was killed at the age of 19. My heart was shattered, and I barely survived. I have a strong faith and I turned to my Lord for strength.

All of my family and my friends tell me that I have tried so many times and that I was a wonderful, loving and caring mother. They say something is wrong with my son and he needs help.

I am living in hope that I will be able to meet my granddaughter, to hug her and love her. I bought a journal specifically for a granddaughter from her grandmother. I write in it and express my love for her.

In talking with my therapist about it, over the years he has told me that I have done everything possible I can to reach out to my son and to show love to him, and he has he ignored me and is downright cruel to me. He said that I should not be a doormat to him and that the ball is in his court, and that maybe one day he will really need me.

I am thankful that I have a loving family and friends. My faith is rock solid, and I do pray always for my son regarding everything in his life. And I pray for his wife and my grandchild.

Thank you for any advice.

Dr. Gramma Karen’s Response
I am so sorry for the losses and heartaches you have been forced to deal with, beginning with the death of your younger son, followed by the loss of the close relationship with your older son you enjoyed until his marriage. And now, not being able to have any kind of a relationship with your six-year-old granddaughter. 

You asked for my advice regarding you being denied access to your granddaughter. Much of the advice I give grandparents centers around the changes and accommodations needed, that is, “Do whatever it takes to maintain a relationship with the grandchildren.” Sometimes this means making apologies that grandparents may feel are not warranted, other times it means the grandparents change their behavior in terms of what they say or don’t say, what they do and don’t do. 

In short, many times grandparents need to put aside their own disappointments and explanations for their behavior and accommodate the parents’ requirements. This is not always fair, but often necessary.

Your only option right now is to be patient.

What makes your situation particularly heartbreaking is that you are more than willing to make whatever changes are needed for you to see your granddaughter, but you are not being told the reasons why you are being denied access to her. For this reason, I agree with your therapist that your son and his wife are exhibiting cruel behavior: You cannot make changes if you do not know what issues or problems the changes would address!

If your son and his wife continue to ignore you, your options for immediate recourse are non-existent. It saddens me that the only advice I can offer you is to be patient during the years ahead. I urge you to continue writing in your journal expressing your love for your granddaughter; perhaps to include cards and notes for all important dates that you were not able to be with her, such as birthdays and holidays. 

Your granddaughter becomes a legal adult when she turns 18, and then her parents can no longer deny you access to her. You will be free to reach out to her and say, “For reasons that have never been shared with me, your parents did not want me to be part of your life. As evidenced by this journal and the cards and letters, I want you to know that I have always loved you from afar. I am hoping we can now spend time together.”

I wish I had more immediately actionable advice for you, but under your circumstances, I do not. I hope your faith, your therapist, and your support groups bring you some peace and comfort and help you deal with the many painful losses you have had to endure. I hope that at some point your granddaughter will become a part of your life.

If you would benefit from being part of a community with other grandparents who are excluded from their grandchildren’s lives, Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, Inc. may be of interest to you.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.

E-mail queries to [email protected]
Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is
It’s All About Relationships: New Ways to Make Them Healthy and Fulfilling, at Home and at Work

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