How to Cope With Losing Contact With Grandchildren

What You May Be Feeling and What You May Be Able to Do

Losing contact with grandchildren often results in a stew of emotions. Sorting out exactly what you are feeling and developing a strategy for dealing with your feelings can be vital for your health, both mental and physical. You will feel grief as long as the separation lasts, but these strategies for coping may lessen the emotional toll.


Shock and Anger

Portrait of woman (60yrs) sitting on couch at home

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If the separation from your grandchildren occurred suddenly, you may feel shock. If there was a history of conflicts, you may still be shocked that the parents are willing to take such a drastic step. Shock is likely to be followed closely by anger.

First Steps to Take

  • Realize that anger is your worst enemy, as it may cause you to do something to worsen the breach.
  • At the same time, unexpressed anger can be a destructive force. Talk about your feelings to a friend, counselor or support group
  • Can't find an appropriate group? Consider starting your own support group.
  • Pastors and spiritual counselors can also be appropriate confidantes who you can talk to about family estrangement.

Confusion and Frustration

Often grandparents feel that they have been denied contact with their grandchildren arbitrarily, through no fault of their own. They feel confused and frustrated. Basically, there are two possibilities. Either you are guilty of an error in judgment, and the parents are rightfully concerned, or the punishment which the parents are handing out (separating grandparent and grandchild) has little relationship to the "crime."

Sort Through It All

  • Honestly evaluate the behavior that led to the breach.
  • If you are at fault, apologize, apologize, apologize. Your dignity is not as important as restoring relations with your grandchild.
  • If after an honest evaluation, you still believe you were not at fault, apologize anyway and hope for the best.
  • You may also be able to regain contact with grandchildren.

Helplessness and Hopelessness

If you have tried to work out the conflict with the parents of your grandchildren, and nothing has worked, you may feel helpless and hopeless.

Move Past the Pain

  • Don't allow yourself to become pathetic, which can be destructive to your other relationships.
  • Let go of the problem. Realize that it is out of your control. Turn it over to a higher power if you believe in one.
  • Channel your energies into positive activities that will make a difference in someone's life, even if they will not solve your problem.
  • You can also start living your later years more fully.

Envy and Jealousy

You may feel envy and jealousy toward other grandparents, especially friends, who are able to be with their grandchildren. If your grandchildren's other grandparents are allowed to see them, these emotions may be especially prevalent.

Don't Take It Out on Others

  • Realize that your reaction is illogical. You should not wish to see other grandparents in pain, just because you are suffering.
  • Keep the focus on what is best for the grandchildren. In the case of your own grandchildren, it is probably best if they have contact with some of their grandparents.
  • It is also important to learn how to avoid grandparent competition.

Guilt and Grief

If it is your own child engaging in this hurtful behavior, you may feel like a failure. You may wonder where your own parenting went wrong. You will also definitely feel grief, but unlike the grief associated with a death, there is no closure.

Accept the Situation

  • Realize that your own parenting may not be at fault. In the case of conflicts, married children usually favor spouses over their parents.
  • Keeping a journal is a useful activity for some.
  • Don't stop trying to repair the broken relationship. 
  • Investigate your legal rights of visitation.
  • Join organizations that advocate for grandparents' rights.
  • Don't stop trying to stay in touch. Send cards and letters to your grandchildren. Keep the tone of any communication loving but light.
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