NANA’S HOUSE by Teresa Kindred
If these concepts are unfamiliar to you as a grandparent, consider yourself blessed.
They represent some of our worst nightmares as grandparents, and it’s exactly what many are dealing with right now. Here’s how one source attempted to define it:
“At heart, estrangement from grandchildren reflects estrangement from adult children, the gatekeeper middle generation that can promote or deny access.”
Every so often I receive an email from a grandparent that breaks my heart. Recently I received a long, detailed message from a grandmother who had once been very involved in her grandchildren’s lives, and now is no longer allowed to see them. She closed by asking me for advice.
I didn’t respond for several days because I wanted to mull over my answer. I finally replied, but truthfully, I’m not sure I helped her at all. It isn’t that I didn’t want to help her resolve her problem. The truth was, I couldn’t. Her problem is with her adult child, her grandchild’s parent. And until the two of them can find some way to work through this, nothing I could say would make a difference.
But I do know this: She’s not alone. This happens to so many families.
Who does grandparent alienation hurt the most?
In my opinion, it hurts grandparents the most, because children are resilient and they’re able to adapt and bounce back quickly. Does that mean they aren’t hurt by what’s going on? Of course not.
One grandmother I know writes letters to her granddaughter and keeps them in a safe deposit box. She hopes she will be able to deliver them to her granddaughter herself one day, but if not, they will be delivered to her after her death. “It’s important to me that she knows how much I loved her and wanted to be a part of her life.” She’s been writing letters for over ten years now and says she cries every time she writes one.
What can the rest of us do?
Many of you reading this are likely in this situation right now. But if not, you probably know grandparents who are. There’s not a lot we can do to help resolve those family situations, but we can do something. And here’s what I would suggest:
Pray. I pray for these families each and every day. I wish I had a magic wand to fix these problems, but I don’t, and prayer may be what they need most anyway.
Be a friend. Make sure the grandparents around you know that they aren’t alone. Be a good listener. Offer resources when it’s appropriate. But mostly, just be there for them and listen.
As grandparents, we get to experience a lot of happiness, and I wish that’s the only emotion we feel. But that isn’t how life is. Sadness comes to us all in one form or another.
Hugs to each of you, friends, and an extra big hug to the Nana who wrote to me. I’m praying for you.
Teresa Kindred is a freelance writer, former teacher, and author of several books, including The Faith-Filled Grandmother. She’s the mom of five grown children and “Nana” to seven precious grandchildren. She and her husband live in Kentucky. Her blog for grandparents is at NanaHood.com.