Double bereavement - severed family ties

My sister died a year ago leaving a six year old son. The relationship she had with her partner was difficult and this extended to the relationship he had, and subsequently is having, with the rest of our family. He has been massively limiting my parents access to their grandson and now had decided they are not going to have any access at all - as well as effectively cutting off the rest of the family from seeing him. Until her death, my sister was extremely close to all her family members (we are a very big and close family), and her son, from the day he was born, has constantly been around his uncles, aunts, cousins and grand parents. This contact has now almost completely stopped. I have read about the term ‘double bereavement’ where, in this case, my nephew as well as loosing his mum has now also lost his grandparents and extended family. I just need know if there are any groups I can talk to, and research etc which may outline what effect this may be having on my nephew. Any thoughts gratefully received, many thanks.

Hi Chris,

I’m so sorry to hear about the death of your sister and that your family are no longer in contact with your nephew - what a sad situation.

I’m not a legal expert but, as far as I’m aware, there isn’t any automatic legal right for grandparents and extended family to have contact with a child.

Somewhere like Citizens Advice would be a good starting point for advice on your rights. Perhaps family mediation might also be an option?

I’ve found these articles which may provide more useful information:

I’m afraid I’m not aware of any resources that would give information on how this specific situation might affect your nephew, but here are two organisations that offer general advice on supporting bereaved children - perhaps one of these could point you in the right direction?

Hello Priscilla,

Many, many thanks for this and for all the information. I really appreciate your thoughts.

All the very best and thank you once again,


Dear Chris, I am so very sorry for what you are all going through. Priscilla is quite correct, there is no law that guarantees automatic right to see grandchildren etc. But, time may sort the problem out for you. Your sister’s partner is being spiteful and is not caring about what your nephew or your family are going through, he is just taking his anger out on everyone the only way he knows how and that his stopping everyone seeing his son. He is cutting off his nose to spite his face but he has yet to find out what bringing up a child alone means and once he has to go back to work and take his son to school, cook and clean for him, take him places, he will realise that he needs all the back up he can get his hands on and that is when he will need help. Keep doors open for him no matter what you think of him and tell him that if he ever needs help he only has to ask. Once he gets his head around what has happened and what he has facing him, things just may start to improve, I really hope it does, only time will tell. Regards, Sheila x

Hello Sheila,

Many thanks for your reply and thoughts. Yes I do hope that as time passes he comes to realise that we are not the enemy but part of the family and only want what’s best for everyone.

Thank you again and all the very best,


Hello Chris, I am sure he will because it happened to us many years ago and it turned out fine, we never became bosom buddies but we all tried for the sake of the children. Once the shock, anger and grief has worn off, reality will hit him and he will be grudgingly thankful for all the help he can get. Good luck and my best wishes to you all at this terrible time. Sheila