Children, Divorce and Alienated Grandparents

Ruth A. S. Nichols, M.A., M.A., CFLE p (Certified Family Life Educator, provisional)

Grandparents play a special role in our lives.

What happens to that relationship in the midst of divorce/separation?

Sometimes, the dynamics become skewed and very complicated. Reshaping the grandchild/grandparent relationship becomes inevitable.

  • Is the role of the grandparent minimized and sometimes eliminated all together?
  • Will the grandchild suffer from the aftermath?
  • Will the grandparents experience grief and heartache because they are no longer viewed as a valuable asset to the child’s life sometimes resulting in alterations to their daily routine?

The answers are an emphatic Yes! Yes! And, Yes!

Divorce and separation have powerful ramifications. Anyone in the path of destruction will feel the impact.

A parent, new or ex boyfriend or girlfriend may become involved, drastically changing communication dynamics and everyday experiences. Or, things may shift because of someone or something else. Regardless of the reason why, the pain of divorce/separation can have far-reaching and long-term effects. On everyone.

Too often, relatives become caught up in the web of confusion that may spin out of control, landing them in the evil vortex of non-existence. This is what happens to many grandparents. They are an integral part of their grand-babies’ lives one day and totally removed the next, with no explanation or notice.

We need to be mindful of the relationship the child has with other family members. When we look at the special bond that exists between a grandchild and grandparent we must expand our gaze and see that the child is not the only one who suffers.

Grandparents’ experience emotional grief too.

Alienated grandparents have become a fast growing group in the arena of divorce. There are now numerous support groups and pages offering advice, emotional support and help.

These confessions portray the feelings of frustration and heartache experienced by too many grandparents.

Note: some responses have been altered and identifying info was deleted to maintain anonymity.

Grandparent alienation - coping with divorce
Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

Grandparents who have been denied access to their grandchildren experience tremendous heartache.

A grandmother who recently discovered the concept of PAS shared “My grandchildren are my heart beat. I can not imagine my life without them.”

Several days later she was still distraught at what some grandparents must experience because they are unable to love on their babies after a divorce in their family.

The heartache of some grandparents is clearly revealed in their responses in describing the separation from their grandchildren:

A devoted and loving grandmother shares her experience of alienation and the impact this has had on her granddaughters. In two words: “Heart-wrenching!”

Other grandparents share in her sentiment responding with:

“Each day that passes without them I feel that a part of me dies.”

“Missing my youngest granddaughter…..hopefully when she is 18-yrs-old or even sooner she will come looking for us. it is like a piece of my heart is gone…..like a big puzzle piece that has to be fit in to complete my heart…..”

A grandparent describes the intense emotional pain after losing contact with her toddler who lived with them since birth: “I miss him dearly. It feels like my heart has been taken away. I am now waiting to see if mediation will take place and it’s the waiting that is killing me (after waiting several months)”.

Grandparents describing their newly started court battle to see their granddaughters: “This is the worse emptiness I have ever felt in my life.”

An emotional plea after 6 months of alienation from their 12-year-old grandchild (a part of their lie since his birth): “SOMEONE HELP…I’M HURTING.”

A simple yet poignant and sad response: “Heart aching-literally!”

coping with divorce and grandparent alienation
Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

Of all the emotions grandparents may experience one of the worst might be frustration.

Frustration stems from situations in which there is no control. Grandparents may be working very hard and with the best intentions to no avail. This is clearly demonstrated in their responses:

“Not being able to see or talk to my Grandson….”

 “Not being able to see the grandchildren.”

“Not knowing.”


“Having my three grandchildren ripped from my life seven years ago.”

 “Not even being able to see a picture of them!”

“Knowing that they live close by and not seeing them. Knowing their other grandmother lives farther away and sees them almost everyday.”

A grandparent reaches out to make policy changes: “Please, let’s get this changed. I need my grand kids like they need us. Let’s get something done.”

Grandparent alieantion
Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

As in many cases of parental alienation syndrome there is a consistent theme of bias and unfairness. These grandparents share how this impacts them and their grandchild:

“The injustice of it all 🙁 Having loved and to have been loved in such a special way only to have it all torn away!!”

 “Our grandchildren do not deserve this. It is not their fault.”

 Grandparents fighting to see their young grandson: “We are devastated. We were a huge part of his life. I don’t understand why mothers do this to their children. It’s so unfair to the children. The mother is not putting the child’s best interest first. The mom is angry. The mom does not get along with the dad. Has nothing to do with grandparents! Now she is brain washing him to be afraid of us. We treated her as if she was our daughter. It’s so devastating.”

grandparent alienation and grandparent rights
Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

In divorce and separation, the holidays can be difficult.

Family dynamics shift. Sharing birthdays and spending time together as a family may be complicated or not even possible. For some grandparents this is an especially emotional time of the year:

“The terrible tragedy is that the grandchildren have been robbed of a relationship with their grandparents. The harm is done and you can’t go back and make up time for the years missed. Everyone suffers. My table on holidays is always missing 1. Grandparents suffer and grandchildren suffer.”

”February 14th is always a special day. For us, it’s both special, and sad. Today is, of course, Valentine’s Day, but it is also our stolen Grandson’s birthday. 8 years ago, he and his sister would not be allowed to be a part of our family any longer. ”

Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

Grandparents are fearful of being left out. They are concerned and deeply saddened at what is said about them to their grandchildren:

“No communication and knowing they are being told we don’t love them anymore.”

“Having a 20 month old grandson and have never been able to see him. I’ve missed so much already it just breaks my heart.”

“I dread to even being to think what my grandsons have been told.”

“The living hell of wondering if they even know about me. I only saw me oldest twice. , my youngest grandchildren, I have never met”

 “How will my grandchildren learn about being a family if all they see is arguing and fighting and being taken away from the two people who genuinely love them.”

Grandparent alienation
Divorce and Alienated Grandparents. Coping with divorce for Alienated Grandparents. Grandparent alienation.

An arching theme of alienation is that there are no winners. No one comes out ahead. Ultimately, the tragedy of alienation falls on the child.

Grandparents of alienation are put in the unfortunate position of dealing with their own grief and knowing their grandchildren are experiencing tremendous emotional pain:

“We’ve missed a year and a half of growth and connection. I will never let it go.”

 “I miss my grand babies more than anything! It’s so cruel to keep kids from their grandparents!”

 “The damage this is doing to our grandchildren.”

“Knowing my grandchildren are hurting, and being blocked from helping them.”

 “Kids ripped from the home they know is safe and sure with a roof and warm bed. My heart is so…hurt. Tears and anxiety won’t stop.”

Final Thoughts

The devastation and utter despair of these grandparents is undeniable. Grandparents across the globe are experiencing heartache and frustration due to the trickle down effect of divorce and conflict among parents in the midst of separation:

Referring to grandparents who keep their grandchild from the now ex-in-law parent: “Grandparent alienation is not natural or healthy no matter which generation is the perpetrator.” 

“New at taking legal action to see their grandchildren “but all I want to do is see their happy faces. I have never hated someone so much in my life.” 

“Grandparent alienators need to love their child more than they hate their parents.”

“The most heart wrenching thing to witness is a grandchild being torn in half! But they will grow up, and that parent will reap what they sow.”

“Grandparent alienators are serial killers of the soul.”

“The pain—Never completely goes away.”

Do you have words you would like to share describing the impact divorce has had on you or your family? Share your confession at: MyConfession@SharedParentingConfessional.com


Ruth is a Certified Family Life Educator and advocate for SharedParenting.  She works in the arena of Shared Parenting focusing on the parent/child relationship in the divorce process.

Ruth actively participates in establishing equal parenting in custody and divorce. She has authored several articles on divorce, Family Court and Shared Parenting and is a contributor at the Huffington Post. She manages 3 sites directed toward the shared parenting arena and created a survey evaluating parents’ experience in Family Court.

LIKE on: Facebook.com/SharedParentingConfessional

Research and information offered to enhance the parent-child relationship.    SharedParentingInfo.com



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