An epidemic in the developed world: grandparent alienation

There is an epidemic that is destroying the lives of both loving grandparents and also their precious little grandchildren. This epidemic goes by many names – grandparent alienation, grandparent abandonment, grandparent estrangement, severe child abuse, severe elder abuse, emotional domestic violence. Whatever you call it, it is rampant in our society and other countries of the developed world. It doesn’t just happen as a result of marriage breakdown, or because of teenage rebellion or because of childhood neglect or abuse. It happens in loving families. It has happened to us.

It has happened to our kind loving daughter who never caused us a day’s trouble. She met a controlling man and he quite literally swept her off her feet with his charms and affections. Things moved very fast and within a very short time wedding bells were planned; it was all about him and she fell under his spell. One by one, when he no longer had any need for a member of her childhood family, he would find fault in them and eliminate them. This narcissist managed to convince her that her childhood was unhappy and created the most bizarre and contradictory stories to support the case. She slowly believed that she had always had these thoughts. She was brainwashed; she was unable to see through his very powerful and evil brainwashing skills. She was unable to see what was happening to her life and therefore did not talk to anyone about it. His own family were able to remain in contact but we believe under his strict conditions. He also found faults in her friends and they too were eliminated. He had succeeded – he had isolated her. Their relationship resembled a cult. It was and is a one-on-one cultic relationship.

When children arrived on the scene, the isolation escalated. We, the grandparents, were never informed of an impending birth and have never ever set eyes on one of our grandchildren even though they live close by.

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And so our grandchildren will be growing up under the control of a narcissist. They will also be being brainwashed. They quite likely will be being taught to hate. Children who suffer such alienation will sadly grow up with no cohesiveness and in their family lives and will be unbalanced without the knowledge of their roots. They will only know the splintered and dysfunctional lives their parents have taught them. But alienation is generational. It will repeat in the lives of the children whose parents are perpetrating it upon them. This cycle will continue. It will come back to bite our daughter and her husband.

When I look back over this horrible sequence of events I must find a weakness in my daughter in that she succumbed to her husband’s demands. That she could change from a kind compassionate girl to such a cruel person is so sad and so difficult to understand. This situation has been described as a living death. It is as though she is dead yet we know she is still alive. We cannot grieve properly – there is no body while she breathes in the same air just a short distance from us. We have many times suggested meeting up and talking through the issues but we get no response. We have told her that she is welcome back into our lives whenever she wishes. We will ask no questions.

Meanwhile we, the grandparents, must get on with our lives. I have never held back on talking to family and friends about what has happened. I have never even once had anyone say to me that we must have been bad parents (though one friend joked that we must have been bad people in a previous life). People who have known our family since our daughter was little have all initially reacted with disbelief and shock. In fact several friends have become concerned that the same thing could happen to them when they became grandparents. I don’t expect any of them to truly understand as you have to live this horror to appreciate the enormity of the situation. It was when I first talked to family and friends that I heard of the words brainwashing and narcissism. To date we have also spoken to a total of six psychologists/counsellors and in each meeting those same two words brainwashing and narcissism along with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) were mentioned. I guess I was very naïve. I also had never heard of the term family estrangement before. I had never ever heard of anyone distancing themselves from their family. Sure we didn’t always see eye to eye with our own parents but we would never have eliminated them from our lives. It makes no sense. Family is precious. Yes, I was very naïve. Now I find that there are so many support groups online. When I read of similar stories being told by people on the opposite side of the world I realise that we are not alone and that this situation is a worldwide epidemic.

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I personally find that distraction is the only way I can cope. I plan to keep myself healthy so that I am still here when my grandchildren come looking for me one day – as they surely will.


Thank you to our anonymous contributor for sharing this story. 

Have you ever experienced this isolation? If so, how did you cope? If you’d like to write about it for Starts at 60 – we’d love to hear your stories. See our guidelines here and submit your articles to us here.