Involuntary estrangement

The very painful matter of family estrangement is one that is sadly close to my heart. I find it astonishing to comprehend that in the UK the current estimation of grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren is one million. This heart-rending statistic is usually as a result of family breakdown or bereavement.

So many questions, how did this happen, why did this happen? Feelings of anger, pain, helplessness and confusion are overflowing at finding yourself in this situation. The heartbreak of being kept away from your grandchildren is undeniable but sadly with fragmented families on the increase it is becoming more common. Grandparent estrangement does not benefit the well-being of the grandchildren unless of course there is good reason such as the presence of violence or abuse.

I have noticed several articles recently about celebrity family rifts. The singer Olly Murs and his twin brother Ben have not spoken for several years and it has torn their family apart. After being estranged from her family for 9 years ex-Spice Girl Mel B has decided to resolve the feud with her relatives saying that she realised ‘life was too short’. Boxer Amir Khan’s wife has demanded that he choose between her and his family after a particularly bitter feud. Whatever the reasons for these three feuds are they all have one thing in common – children missing out on interaction with their grandparents.

It is difficult to understand how people who were always so close could end up so far apart. Healing the rift can feel like an impossibility especially if the cause of the relationship breakdown seems unjust or confusing. The conflict can really only be resolved if both parties are prepared to talk. Although if this is unlikely then seeking help via mediation could be a way forward.

If you are currently experiencing the distress of separation from your grandchildren, then there is support out there for you. The Grandparents Plus Support Network brings together grandparents who have lost contact with their grandchildren, to share experiences and provide them with useful information. They provide a Grandparents Contact Helpline on 0300 033 7015 which is open on Mondays and Fridays only between 2 – 4pm. Their team of trained staff and volunteers can offer confidential support.