How to Cope With Losing Contact With Grandchildren

Learn to recognize what you are feeling and develop ways to cope.

Losing contact with grandchildren can bring up a stew of emotions. Sorting out how you feel and developing strategies for dealing with your emotions is vital for your mental and physical health.

You will feel grief as long as the separation lasts, but here are some strategies for coping that might help 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 might initially be shocked. If there was a history of conflict, you might still be shocked that your grandchild's parents were willing to take such a drastic step.

First Steps to Take

  • Shock is frequently followed by anger, but realize that anger is your worst enemy at this phase. It might cause you to do something to worsen the breach.
  • While you want to avoid rash behavior or actions, unexpressed anger can also be a destructive force. Seek out a friend, counselor, or support group to whom you can freely express your feelings. If you can't find an in-person group, consider looking online or starting your own.
  • Pastors and spiritual counselors can also be helpful confidantes with whom you can talk about family estrangement.

Confusion and Frustration

If grandparents feel that they have been denied contact with their grandchildren arbitrarily or through no fault of their own, it can lead to confusion and frustration.

When trying to figure out the cause, there are two possibilities grandparents should consider. In some cases, a grandparent might be guilty of an error in judgment and the parents are rightfully concerned.

In other scenarios, the punishment that the parents are handing out might have little (or nothing) to do with the grandparent's behavior or actions.

What To Do Next

  1. Honestly evaluate the behavior that the parents claim led to the breach.
  2. If you are at fault, apologize. Your dignity is not as important as restoring your relationship with your grandchild.
  3. If you still believe that you were not at fault after honestly looking at your behavior, apologize, and hope for the best. You might be able to regain contact with your 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.

Steps for Moving On

  • Don't allow yourself to dwell, as it could be destructive to your other relationships.
  • Realize that the situation is out of your control and try to let go. If you believe in a higher power, you might "turn it over" to them.
  • Channel your energies into positive activities that will make a difference in someone's life—even if they will not solve your problem. This will help you start living life in your later years more fully.

Envy and Jealousy

You may feel envy and jealousy toward other grandparents (especially your friends) who are able to be with their grandchildren. These emotions can be especially strong if your grandchildren's other grandparents are still allowed to see them.

What To Do Next

  • Realize that it would be illogical to want other grandparents to be in pain just because you are suffering. Work on avoiding grandparent competition.
  • Focus on what is best for the grandchildren. Even if they cannot spend time with you, getting to spend time with at least one set of grandparents might be beneficial for them.

Guilt and Grief

If it is your own child engaging in this hurtful behavior, you may wonder where your own parenting went wrong and might even feel like a failure.

You will also experience grief. However, unlike the grief associated with death, the grief you are feeling may not have a resolution or sense of closure.

Steps to Acceptance

  • Realize that your own parenting might not be to blame. Grown children often favor their partner or spouse over their parents.
  • You might find it helpful to keep a journal of how you are feeling. Writing down your thoughts can be helpful for looking at them objectively and might help you "let go" of what you can't remedy.
  • Join organizations that advocate for grandparents' rights and look into your legal rights of visitation.
  • Work on repairing the broken relationship if you can. Try to stay in touch by sending cards and letters to your grandchildren. Just keep the tone of any communication loving and light.
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  1. Staicu ML, Cuţov M. Anger and health risk behaviorsJ Med Life. 2010;3(4):372–375.