“Do you know, Inspector, of all the emotions which is the most insidious and entrapping? Shame. It carves its home in the marrow of your bones and rests there for all time.”
Richard Warlow – Writer and creator of the BBC One drama – Ripper Street.
In my research there has been a recurring theme that many try not to mention, or even identify and that is shame, the shame and embarrassment of having a problem within the family, more often than not stops many people from asking for help- that they are somehow flawed as a human being, or that they somehow are responsible for the situation they now find themselves in.
We are all human beings and therefore by default we have flaws, cracks in our make-up we occasionally mess up and we need help or in the case of Grandparents the actions or perhaps circumstances, tragic and otherwise of our kids has led us to becoming a carer for our grandchildren or a grandparent with little or no contact.
Equally it could be an innate stubbornness or an unyielding will that the parent finds repugnant in the Grandparent, I refer you at this point to Phillip Larkin’s famous poem – This Be the Verse.
There is no shame in asking for help and support, there is no shame in highlighting a growing problem in our society.
The shame lies with society for not correctly identifying and addressing the problem, but it is changing slowly, we have apparently come a long way from the Charles Dickens version of the Victorian era, but have we?
Today, the statistics will tell you there are up to 300,000 Grandparent carers, and close to a million non-contact Grandparents, these figures are staggering, but more than anything they highlight the changing face of family life in the 21st century.
2014 will be the 6th Anniversary of when we first went to court to maintain contact with our Grandchild, it has not been an easy six years, there has been a lot of pain and heartache all round, not to mention a great financial strain, in the last two years I ended up representing myself, I was advised nay told to give up on many occasions, (not least of all for my own health and well-being) but because of the nature of the parental split I refused to.
The reason I refused was simple, I had a relationship with my Granddaughter one where I had promised that as long as I lived I would be there for her.
I have learnt a lot along this bumpy road I don’t think I will ever stop learning and growing as a human, and I hope by reading this it will give you pause for thought, particularly if you are a non-contact Grandparent. It is your duty as an elder (not a better) to ease the pain of the children both yours and theirs, you cannot do this if you sit back and hope for the best, but by being there in whatever way it takes, including self-sacrifice, never stop communicating with both parents, by playing a neutral role you can act as peacemaker or pathfinder.
Put aside your own needs and wants, think of the child and ask what are his/her wishes and feelings, I say this not only to Grandparents but to parents too, do not poison a young mind with your bitterness of emotional turmoil, instead seek reconciliation, respect one another for the child’s sake and seek a way to move forward, there is no shame in that!
This Christmas Eve (2013) we enjoyed having a family get-together with our beautiful Grandchild it was the best ever Christmas present!