It’s been called, the “living death.” I can’t credit the originator of that thought, but it is a perfect description for the pain a grandparent feels when denied access to their grandchild. The world becomes a thick gray blanket of hurt, so heavy and so cloying, it sometimes seems impossible to get out of bed. Let alone, get dressed and get on with daily life.
In our modern world, where the breakdown of the nuclear family and the casting away of the elderly are as common as dirty Kleenexes, thousands of grandparents are being denied the joy of spending time with their grandkids. Some of us are aware of the reasons for this, while others have no clue what is behind a parental decision to keep our grandkids away from us.
I have never seen my youngest daughter’s child. For some reason, completely unknown to me, she doesn’t want me to meet her little girl. And my daughter is protected by law in this decision; a law that emphasizes parents must be able to do their parenting free from interference.
I think this is an excellent law in keeping with the best interests of the child. But in cases where grandchildren are kept behind an emotional wall merely because a son or daughter wants it that way, is an injustice levied on all parties.
Grandparents miss the chance to aid and nurture a child who will benefit from a deeper understanding of his or her roots; parents miss out on the support and wisdom of the older generation. But it’s the grandchildren who are the most cheated since they are denied the extra love and attention of another human being, in a world where love and personal attention are sometimes in short supply.
I certainly don’t mean to say all grandparents should be allowed access to their grandkids. In many cases, where a grandparent has mental issues, sexual issues, or abuse issues, access denial is a must. Children must be protected.
But when “protecting” a child from a grandparent whose only interest is in loving their grandchild, then denial is ludicrous. And wrong. And as emotionally painful as death.
So, what’s a grieving grandparent to do?
The Christian advice is to “let go, and let God.” This is not real helpful advice when the pain is so great, one can barely take their next breath. But it has the seed of something that can help a grandparent cope with the pain.
I let go, but only when I realized I had to put my daughter’s best interests first. I realized that fighting with my daughter for my rights would only cause her angst and misery, strong emotions that might get in the way of her parenting. So, in the best interests of my granddaughter, I let go.
This wasn’t an easy answer. Letting go didn’t happen all at once. It was a slow painful process. A “living death.” It took time to get used to the idea that I wouldn’t be seeing my grandchild, just as it would take time to get over a grandchild’s death.
The good news is that I feel better. And someday, somehow, God willing, I will meet my little granddaughter.
At that time, she will encounter a bank with an account in her name; an account bursting with deposits and compound interest; an account overflowing with her patient grandmother’s love.