Viewpoint—Grandparents’ Stories

Grandparents Tell Their Stories

A previous article in Viewpoint by Gerald Culhane related the difficulties and frustrations many grandparents felt as they struggled to help their families in times of change and stress. They learned the courts were not there for them. Many courts did not even recognize the grandparents’ strong role in the family.

The following stories are very sad. They relate how grandparents lost contact with their grandchildren, or had to go to court only to have the courts rule against their right to have a continuing relationship with their grandchildren after divorce, or the death of their own son or daughter. Others were given custody as caregivers for a limited time, perhaps as their married child tried to cope with an issue or substance abuse problem. Some were able to gain access after a costly court decision.

Regardless of the problem, most stories show a lack of understanding by the justice system of the day.  (This is Part One.)

ACCESS TO GRANDCHILDREN

“As a grandmother who understands the heartache of being denied access, I had to be part of the grandparents’ quilt. My grandchildren were taken hundreds of miles away from their family when the mother decided to get a divorce. Until the parents separated, our grandchildren were in our home weekly.

“When I think back on those days when our ex-daughter-in-law denied us access for no reason, other than she had stopped loving our son, I still cry. Only after a lengthy and costly court battle were we granted visitation with our grandson and our granddaughter.

“That was 10 years ago. We have loved our grandchildren and enjoyed watching them grow up. I feel we enrich their lives, and can give them support that only a grandparent can. We have never once regretted spending our retirement money on lawyers for the right to maintain the bond between us.”

FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS—BELOVED GRANDCHILDREN

“Although we are long distance grandparents, the special bond between us and our grandchildren is very strong. We visit them in our distant province when we can, sending them cards, letters, and parcels. Their cheery little voices on the telephone for special occasions or for no special reason except to say, “we love you a whole lot,” warms our hearts. They love having us read to them and chuckle, and help us out when we stumble over big words like Brontosaurus and the like.

“A twist of fate shatters this all so perfect tableau when the children’s mother dies suddenly. We’re devastated by this great loss and must courageously pick up the pieces, especially for the CGRA Quiltchildren’s sake. Their residing in a distant province is no obstacle for us, the maternal grandparents, as we strive to keep the relationship alive. When the children’s world is falling apart, we are thankful to be there for them.

“The bond is reinforced between us and we feel that nothing or no one will ever sever this relationship. Not to be! After the father remarries, all ties are severed. This new marriage has no room for the ex-in-laws and their family. From then on the relationship is one sided, ours. We continue to send cards, gifts to the children, but nothing is ever acknowledged.

We grieve the loss of our daughter, our grandchildren’s mother, and eventually succeed in “letting her go” as it happens in a normal grieving process. But how can we let our grandchildren go? They are still alive.

“It is now 10 years since we last saw our two grandchildren or heard from them. We hope and pray that, one day soon, they will seek us out as a court order forbids us from seeking any contact with them. Oh! God let us have some precious time with them before it’s too late! They are, after all, the only true legacy of our beloved daughter.

“To all those dear grandchildren estranged from us, we, your grandparents dedicate this special quilt as a tribute of our true and unending love for you. We have to believe, with all our hearts, that one day soon there will be a rainbow after all those teardrops, and that we’ll experience— together, this beautiful love we have for each other.”

Forever in our hearts, your grandparents in Ottawa.
( The Grandparent’s Quilt was put together by grieving grandparents.)

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The Grandparents’ Quilt

Background on The Grandparents’ Quilt

CGRA Quilt
Shown with the quilt are, L to R, Madeleine Bremner, Ottawa Chapter Director, CGRA Joan Wilson, Ottawa grandmother, and Daphne Jennings, Director CGRA

Our story impacts every Canadian family, and this is the story behind what we call our Grandparents’ Heartaches and Tears Quilt. The quilt symbolizes a key family issue that brings heartache and tears to many across the country, and the progress being made to address it by, among others, the Canadian Grandparents Rights Association.

Measuring 20×7 feet, the quilt is the handmade creation of grandmothers. It was started by a grandmother in Ontario. As it travelled across the country, and many more squares were added, it became the Grandparents’ Quilt. The quilt represents a sincere and concerted effort at the grassroots level by concerned citizens to change the way family situations play out for their loved ones. It has been displayed in provincial legislatures and Parliament’s Hall of Honour in Ottawa.