Maternal Fallout

28 Apr

Letterbalm Black Grandma and GranddaughterDear LetterBalm: My daughter-in-law recently left my son for another man. Needless to say, my 15-year-old granddaughter has been crushed by this. She and I have always been close, and she’ll be coming for a visit soon. She wants nothing to do with her mother – understandably, she’s very angry and feels unwanted. I need to know how to handle this and how to soothe her while allowing her to vent. She needs to deal with her anger, but everything is fresh for her now.

–Sympathetic Grandma

It is the worst possible age for a mother to leave her family. Your granddaughter is at a delicate time in her life – not yet a woman but certainly not a child. It will take great effort for her to get over this betrayal, and Ms. L.B. hopes she and her dad are talking with an experienced family counselor now. Don’t make the mistake of bad-mouthing your former daughter-in-law as a way of showing support; your grandchild doesn’t need to hear this. Be mindful that you may be the one person your granddaughter really trusts, and this is a strong point in your favor. Don’t coerce her into “making up” with mom or “getting over” her anger. She’ll have to decide her course of action down the road, and this will take time. Enjoy the things you always do together and, after a day or two, let her know that it’s O.K. to talk. Be supportive and listen without judgment, something like this:

Tamasin, I’m so glad we’re spending time together – I love seeing you. I just want to say that I understand if you don’t want to talk about your mom. That’s O.K. But if you ever do, I’ll be ready to listen to whatever you have to say, and I won’t judge you. I’m sad that you and your dad are going through such a terrible time. It’s so unfair, and it hurts me to see you both in pain. But I want you to know that I will love you always, and I’ll always be there for you.

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