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Divorce’s Innocent Victims

Divorce’s Innocent Victims

I am not invited to my granddaughter’s bat mitzvah.


My granddaughter’s bat mitzvah will be held this year. We won’t be invited. Everyone talks about the children as victims of divorce, which is certainly true. But you don’t often hear about the grandparents left behind in the divorce decree.

When my son and his wife divorced, their children were quite young, five and three. Extenuating circumstances meant that they saw their father very infrequently in the first few years after the divorce. They moved to a city far away from ours. Despite our attempts to stay in touch with our grandchildren, and even with a court order in hand, we were consistently rebuffed by their mother. Chanukah presents were returned unopened, checks sent for birthdays remained uncashed, and phone calls went to voice mail.

Realated Article: Why Divorce

When our son regained the right to see his children, the damage was done, so deep that it was very hard to repair. Armed with pictures of their aunts, uncles and cousins, we tried to remind the children of those family members that they could no longer remember who longed to be part of their lives. The children looked at the strangers in the pictures with no emotion. When we recounted stories of family events that they were part of, they had no memories since they were so young when they occurred.

We were treated warily – their mother’s parents were the only grandparents they knew. We were dim figures from their past, who appeared suddenly and wanted to be let into their lives. We bought presents, went out for pizza, tried to make new memories of fun and family, but they never could get past the fact that we had been shut out of their lives for so long. We were virtual strangers.

I no longer believe in my heart that she or her brother will ever come back to us.

I try to accept that their mother must feel in some way that she is protecting her children. Obviously she views us as a negative influence. A bitter divorce has made us adversaries where once we were family. The pain and anger she feels at our son has left no room for acceptance for those remaining as victims in the wake of such powerful emotions.

Years ago when all this was new and the pain was raw, friends told me to let go. Forget about the children and move on. “Someday they will realize what was done to them and come back on their own.”

Years have passed. Her bat mitzvah is rapidly approaching, and it will not even occur to my granddaughter to wonder at my absence at this milestone event in her life. While I don’t know the exact date or venue, I do know her Hebrew birthday. (After all, wasn’t I at the hospital within mere hours of her birth? My first precious grandchild who catapulted me from Ema to Bubbie?) I will glance at the calendar and think about her. I will wonder what she is wearing, what kind of dvar Torah she will give, what kind of person she is becoming.

I no longer believe in my heart that she or her brother will ever come back to us. I have much nachas and enjoyment from my other grandchildren but there is always a little piece of my heart that is aching for the missing two.

These children are innocent victims of their parents’ divorce. And we, their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, are casualties of this war as well.

August 4, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 51

(36) Anonymous, December 30, 2012 6:08 PM

Similar loss happens to some of us, even though no divorce

We happened to inherit a daughter-in-law who wants especially our son esclusively. We expected life to change, but not for our son and his family to be near strangers. And what did we do?? We lived 16 hours away for several years so rarely saw them. Then we moved so we were only an hour away and still saw them, perhaps even less. The children have been allowed to be with us some...but between our son's long work hours and all the activities she has scheduled for him in off hours, there is simply no time. He seems happy though, so we leave them be. But yes, it is a loss not much different than if there was a divorce. A few months ago, we moved farther away. And may yet move even farther in time...depending upon other family needs. And somehow it will be ok. It has to be. We loved our son's wife and were 100% in favor of their marriage (even paid for a third of the wedding costs, and about 75% of the honeymoon of their choice...) Even gave his wife an equal amount of money to spend for herself for new clothes, as what we gave our daughter marrying about the same time. I have learned that you cannot be kind enough, generous enough, loving enough, etc. in life for some. Nothing you do makes any difference. You see, we finally figured it out...we are not HER family. HER mom wants it that way...and that is how it is. Some things in life cannot be changed. My only regret is that we only had 3 children...if we had had more, maybe these things would hurt a tad less. With time we are adjusting. Filling our life with others. This life is short, fortunately.

Savta, January 27, 2013 10:20 PM

you are not alone

but that probably doesn't make you feel any better. Our DIL also rejected us. I naively thought that she would live us as I loved my inlaws. She wants to keep our son only to herself and only her family is "family' and after several years of trying to change that outlook our son has now given up. I learned that you can not do anything to cause someone to love you if she doesn't want to. Everything will be rejected or misjudged or misinterpreted. She will lie to others and maybe to herself. No one can do anything about it. Only G-d. I keep a treasure chest that I fill with birthday cards and little gifts and notes. It helps a little. Thank G-d we have other grandchildren.

(35) Nechama, August 12, 2012 11:44 AM

Keep up the Good Work

The children are still very young if the oldest is about to become 12. Keep up the letters, gifts and outpouring of love. These kids will come back to you when they get older, G-d willing. Remember, young children are naturally very attached to their mothers and won't do anything to endanger that attachment. This is natural. It is also very natural for them to take a keen interest in "the other side of the story" when they reach their late teens. Our son in law had this experience with his 3 children. He didn't give up on them and never said a bad word about their mother. Eventually, they all, literally, came back to him. Good luck and remember everything Hashem does is good. Be grateful for your other grandchildren and look forware to renewing the bond with these.

(34) Eema23, August 12, 2012 3:29 AM

to connect with your grandchildren

I am very sorry for your pain, perhaps as your granddaughter gets older you may be able to connect with her in some manner. At 13 she may have a Facebook page, perhaps you could 'friend' her and at least let her know you think of her with love.

(33) Anonymous, August 7, 2012 8:50 PM

This is why Parents-in-law should make it their business to create positive relationships with their in-law children. Think of them with gratitude for marrying your children and entering what may be a culture shock unpon marrying into your family. IT WORKS!!! Your child may not be the jewel you think he or she is in a marriage scenario. You never know what may be going on behind the scenes in their private lives or if Chas V'Shalom something has happened or may happen down the road to dissolve the marriage. If the custodial or remaining parent feels that based on your behavior in the past you may cause difficulties in the fragile household the in-law child is rebuilding, then they have every right to exclude you. Realize that your exclusion may NOT be out of REVENGE but out of a very real sense that the children need a stable environment and that you have proven to be unequal to helping in that goal. If Parents-in-law and Parents-in-law-to-be would start thinking of the long term goal of assisting their children and their spouses in building warm loving homes of Torah instead of thinking about the gimme list they think their children should be getting, the Yomim Tovim that the OTHER side got, etc. you would be seeing less of these negative scenarios. Unfortunately in the frum community we have an epidemic of Mothers of BOYS who keep their sons stunted as BOYS. By the same token we also have Mothers of GIRLS who underrate the values of their daughters in the race to get them married before an imagined expiration date comes around. The Shidduch crisis we hear so much about today does not end when our young ladies make it to the chuppah in the wedding hall but often continues into the Bais Din for a divorce once the new couple realizes they had missed a few BIG things in the Shidduch process.

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