Viewpoint—The Grandparents’ Quilt

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu


CGRA Quilt
Madeleine Bremner, Joan Wilson, Daphne Jennings Hall of Honor, House of Commons, Ottawa.
The few grandparents’ stories featured on these pages are only a fraction of the hundreds of stories told to CGRA over the years.  It’s clearly evident that these grandparents feel very real pain and grief over the ending of relationships to their grandchildren, due to the loss of access. They are confused and cannot understand why, suddenly, phone calls go unanswered and gifts are returned or not acknowledged. As they experience this horrible sense of loss, they are often in need of some way to express and share that pain and heartache.

This Quilt project came to life when Betty Cornelius, founder of The Association to Reunite Grandparents and Families in Ontario, was challenged by the Grandparents Resource Centre in Denver, Colorado to match their similar project. Grandparents from across Canada are represented on this quilt, each with a heartbreaking tale. It was a great idea. As the quilt traveled through the country, many grandparents whose hearts were breaking with the loss of their grandchildren took to the task of sewing a special square with a heart or hearts on it, some with a crack down the centre, to show a broken heart.

As well grandparents who had lost a married child to death, drugs, or to lifestyle choices found they were stepping forward to make a home for grandchildren who needed them, and they shared this experience, too. The squares created by grandparents raising grandchildren usually have a small hand or hands on them, with love notes or similar attached.

Squares on the quilt created by grandparents facing the loss of access sometimes contain a very sad message within a very limited space. One heart reads, “Clarke, There is no heart big enough for us to tell you how much we love and miss you.”

The Grandparents’ Quilt played a very special part in the lives of those who made the squares, whether they contained small hands or hearts with names and a message. They were sharing their grief with other Canadian grandparents who understood and felt their pain and sadness, as young-childrenthe quilt made its way across Canada and more squares were added to it. The quilt became a symbol of love. The Grandparents Rights Association and its volunteers answered a need in Canada and other countries to try and address a wrong within our own justice system.


It wasn’t long before the quilt became known as the “Grandparents’ Quilt.” Indeed, that is what it had become. The quilt has visited towns all across Canada, in the Maritimes, Eastern Canada, Central Canada, Western Canada, and the North. It now measures over 20 ft. long and 7 ft. wide. In order to display the quilt to its full advantage, one needs a very long table or two, an upstairs rail on the landing at the top of the stairs—or a large public space, as it found in Ottawa, to really show it off.


When in a divorce or separation settlement, a judge decides on sole custody for one parent, the non-custodial parent very often becomes alienated as well as the grandparents. These individuals are condemned to heartache and loneliness, some for the rest of their lives. Few understand this better than others faced with the same sorrow.

 Grandparents offer unconditional love, stability, experience, knowledge, patience, a safe home, and care. They have time to listen and family ties to share. The Grandparents’ Quilt is not about grandparents versus parents. Its special symbolism is the love and care grandparents can give to parents and their families.

Mark MacGuigan, when he wrote the position document on Divorce Law in Canada understood, In fact, he was very clear: “ A child should have maximum access to both parents.” In many families who have found it difficult to stay together, divorce happens.We are not talking about abuse here.  Every effort must be made to continue steady visitation between family members. Common sense dictates a child needs both father and mother, and their grandparents, for a happy life. We, the elected Members of Parliament failed them It’s not too late to say I’m sorry, and pass the necessary legislation to correct the Divorce Act.”

A grandmother remembers her grandparents:
“ I believe the relationship between generations is especially beneficial for children. I know that when I was growing up, my parents were both working and my grandparents were the ones I really bonded to. I have affection for my parents, but I have an extra, special, affection for my grandparents.” Sathia Areliah