Family

A Heartsick Grandparent, a Family’s Shame — and Society’s Burden

Cut off from her own children and grandchildren, she's 'willing to do whatever it takes to mend the relationship'

About four years into their marriage, we were planning for me to move closer to them to help out with the children. They now have three. At that time. everything changed. My daughter-in-law expressed disrespect blatantly and degradingly, first toward my younger son’s girlfriend, then my younger son, and finally toward me.

My older son shared that she pointed out things about me that needed to change and that she had been complaining to him about me. My first response was to defend myself and make it all better.

As many times as I’ve tried over the years since this outbreak, she has used attack words via email and text, as well as vacillating in superficial kindness. I have apologized (whether I needed to or not) and suggested we all go to family counseling.

I am willing to do whatever it takes to mend our relationship, but she creates ways to keep us apart. She told me not to call her children “your children,” but to call them by name. My older son has withdrawn from the entire family and all of his childhood friends. Sometimes he reaches out to his brother by phone, but his brother rarely calls him because he is not pleased with my older son for allowing the behavior of his wife toward me to continue.

“I am not welcome in their home. I am not allowed to mail gifts or even see my grandchildren.”

I am not allowed to have direct communication with my older son unless his wife is present, including by email copy and no direct texting. I am treated like “the other woman.” I am not welcome in their home. I am not allowed to mail gifts or even see my grandchildren.

This is what prompted me to write to you. The best I know to do is pray through this spiritual battle. I am a Christian and Christ Jesus is Lord of my Life. My oldest son and his wife, who are not communicating with me, are also professing Christians. I know my son was a faithful follower of Christ before his marriage. I am heartbroken.

If you have any encouragement to share, I would greatly appreciate it.  Thank you kindly.

Signed,
A Grieving Grandma

Dear Grieving Grandma,
Your daughter-in-law sounds like a classic spouse abuser. Spouses who abuse isolate their families and turn their spouses and children against family and friends. The problem for you is not really as much your daughter-in-law as your son. He needs to stand up to her and make her quit acting like a spoiled adolescent.

Honestly, you took his family in for months and even allowed her brother to live with you and now she is acting this badly! Shame on her.

Your best bet for making any headway with your son’s family is to do a few things. First, for the time being, try to focus on your relationship with your son. Send him emails or call him and just chat. If you can work on forging a stronger relationship with him, eventually he may confide in you about the trouble he’s having with his wife (and I guarantee he’s having trouble). Your daughter-in-law isn’t just making your life hard; she’s making others’ lives hard, too. Your son will need someone there to help him when he realizes that he is suffering to.

Over time, I hope you can convince him to put his foot down with her behavior. She is bullying you and others and she will continue to bully until someone finally says enough! Your son needs to get there. My hunch is, once he does, you’ll get to see your grandchildren again.

Related: We Grandparents Are Doing the Best We Can

The other hope is your younger son. I understand his anger toward his brother and I do not blame him, but cutting contact does not resolve anything. If he, too, is willing to reach out to his brother and help him see what’s happening, that’s the better for everyone.

I want to encourage you. I have seen this situation before where an abusive wife cuts grandparents and friends away from the family and finally gives up. Once that happens, grandparents reunite with their grandchildren again. Your grandchildren are still young and although it is terribly hard being cut off from them now, I highly doubt that this situation is permanent.

Finally, consistently pray. I know that you are, so keep it up.

God hears the prayers of grieving grandmothers.

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for 30 years. She is the author of the online course, “The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids,” which is part of The Strong Parent Project.

meet the author

Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.

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