Repairing Family Estrangements

Grandparents, like everyone else, are just people. Grown children often forget this simple fact and expect their parents to be somewhat infallible, but perfection is simply not possible.

Disagreements and misunderstandings, both large and small, are often part of a family’s fiber. Usually, family members work through their challenges before they get out of hand, but sometimes the difficulties are more than some or all of the members can handle, and a once loving family finds itself fractured.

One Grandmother’s Story

Dawn, married for thirty years, mother to ten children and grandmother to two, made a series of decisions that almost tore her family apart. She filed for a divorce from her husband, a well respected physician, and admitted that she had had an affair during the last year of her marriage.

Her children were devastated, and this genuinely loving mother knew that her choices were to blame for their pain. “I make no excuse for my actions and am still saddened I hurt my family so deeply,” says Dawn.

Being True to Oneself

The actions that Dawn took certainly impacted her entire family, but despite the pain she may have caused, much of what she did was ultimately to secure her own happiness. In order to spare her children any additional anguish, Dawn has steadfastly maintained a level of discretion regarding her reasons for ending the marriage.

On the matter, she chooses only to say, “What I can’t disclose are my hurts, the dysfunction, and the secrets of my 30 year marriage.”

Dawn has found happiness, but it took a great deal of courage for her to get to where she is now. During her painful divorce, she sought comfort and strength from her circle of friends—those in her day-to-day life as well as a select group of online friends.

Shortly after she filed for her divorce, Dawn connected with a man she met on a social networking site, and they grew close. That man is now her husband.

The addition of a step-father caused her family to rail against her even further, with many hurtful and untrue rumours fuelling the family’s desire to shun Dawn’s new husband.


Unhappy in her marriage, Dawn made the decision to end it. Divorce is no longer an uncommon event or one that carries public stigma, but in each broken family, there are people who are thrust, often unwillingly, into a situation that is likely to be painful and difficult.

When faced with such circumstances, many lash out. This is exactly what happened to Dawn and her family.

“As the divorce ensued, my husband informed me that he and the four oldest children felt I needed to be in a mental institution and the kids felt I was the most selfish person they had ever known.”

Dawn submitted to psychological testing and was found to be a fit parent. Despite this, Dawn’s daughter LeeAnne, the mother of her grandchildren, decided that the children would not be allowed to visit their grandmother at her home.

Understandably, Dawn was heartbroken, but she accepted her daughter’s decision. “When my daughter told me that she would not be having the children in my home, I told her that I understood and that I loved her. I hugged her and held back the tears. She is the mother of her babies and I must respect her wishes.”

Healing the Hurts

No matter what has happened between them, Dawn’s love for her children and grandchildren remains strong and true.

Because of her deep devotion to them, Dawn has and continues to make conscious decisions to be open, loving, and accepting.

Despite the fact that her daughter was keeping her grandchildren from her, Dawn continued to call her and leave messages declaring her love for them.

Additionally, she actively encouraged the children to maintain solid relationships with one another. “I made certain that LeeAnne’s brothers and sisters were able to spend time with each other.

Those relationships are not about me; they are precious in their own right. The hard part is putting my ego away and allowing relationships to continue and flourish even if I’m not a part of that joy.”

When LeeAnne’s daughter was about to celebrate her second birthday, she invited her mother to the party—but made it clear that the invitation was not being extended to Dan, Dawn’s husband. Dawn chose to attend, but it was bittersweet.

The decision to attend was a good one, for it provided Dawn with her first glimpse of hope. “As I was helping clean up after the party, my daughter stopped me and told me that she now knew the rumours that were circulating about Dan weren’t true.

She told me that it must have been hard for me. I thanked her and went home and cried tears of joy.”

Recently, Dawn’s beloved mother passed way. Her death, though painful, was a catalyst for further healing, drawing the family together in their sorrow.

The past few years have been difficult for Dawn and her family, but they have begun to mend the separation and look toward the future. For her part, Dawn is choosing to be open and available to her children and grandchildren.

She is determined to show them that love and kindness are healing choices. Her ex-husband has found a new love, and Dawn wishes them nothing but happiness. “I don’t know what will happen nor do I assume that the children will be visiting our home frequently, but I will continue to respect my adult children and their wishes. It takes time for relationships to repair and trust to be regained.

There are times I want them to see my perspective as I know what love awaits them. I have learned to be more compassionate toward myself and allow joy regardless of what may transpire in my relationship with my family. I can’t control the thoughts of others, but I can be peaceful and loving within myself.”

See Also
Grandparents holding their granddaughter's hands
Divorced Grandparents
A grandmother and her granddaughter
Developing Relationships with Step-Grandchildren