My granddaughter

12 months ago I lost my daughter, to suicide. The circumstances were horrible, and there is culpability which I hope to get into court.

My granddaughter was 12 when she died. She is now staying with her father and his parents. My daughter’s ex and his parents were extremely nasty and vindictive towards my daughter for years after the split. My granddaughter was never allowed to talk about her when she was with them, nor was she allowed to have anything from her mum over there in their house. Even clothes were changed. Really nasty.
Then her mum died. The paternal grandparents are in regular touch with me, and have been very nice towards me. I, obviously, have to be pleasant to them for my granddaughter’s sake.
Now, strangely, grandmother told me 12 months ago, that she was worried my granddaughter hadn’t spoken about her mum or her death. What did the woman expect?? Talking about my daughter and her name had been forbidden for 12 years! Then she suddenly expected my granddaughter to open up to her! She doesn’t talk about her mum to her father either.
She sometimes talk’s to me about her. She wanted photos of her mum, as there are none over at the paternal side. I got a lot printed of them together for her. And of mum with others, her life. My granddaughter chose multi appeture photo frames to hang on her wall. Now she’s reluctant to take them.

Throughout this, her paternal grandmother has insisted the best thing is to keep my granddaughter persistently busy, so she doesn’t think about her mum. Obviously school work keeps her busy. But special days like mothers day, she was taken off out for the day. So I bought flowers and a gift for mum, which my granddaughter approved of. (My daughter is home with us, in a beautiful urn, my granddaughter also likes that)

My problem is… I don’t know if I’m right to be concerned over the fact the paternal family seem to be carrying on where they left off. Keep my granddaughter busy occupied so she doesn’t think about mum. Push mum to the back of the picture, as before.
Is this right? She is now 13. I have a horrible feeling it will come back and hit her when she least expects it, and it will probably hit her really hard.
Its like she’s been dropped into this situation where she’s living 2 lives, theirs and ours. I’ve observed some strange behaviour for a child her age, I’m very worried she may develop some sort of personality disorder. But feel my hands are tied.

Am I right to be concerned?

I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve lost your daughter to suicide, and about this very difficult situation with your granddaughter. Yes, you are right that it is not a good idea to try to ignore or minimise grief - it’s important for a young person (or for anyone) to have the chance to talk about their feelings and the person they have lost, particularly at key times such as Mother’s Day.

It is good that your granddaughter gets to see you, and that you are giving her the chance to talk about her mum and look at photos. You can’t change what her father and his family are saying to her, you can only be there for her as much as possible and give her the chance to talk to you when she feels able to. Do you see her on a regular basis?

We have some information pages that you might find helpful to read - I realise you might not be able to put all of the advice into practice under your current circumstances, but I hope there will at least be some useful suggestions here:

Thank you Priscilla.

I haven’t known how to handle this situation. I’m struggling desperately myself with my loss.

So far, I have preferred to follow my granddaughter’s lead. Though have from time to time took the initiative to talk about photos or flowers etc. I have photos up, and buy my daughter flowers every week. But my granddaughter has rarely gone further than that. She and I were with my daughter on that last day before she did it. And they’d had an argument. A typical child argument where she called her mum the worst mother in the world. It was only a few weeks ago she just came out with it and told me she believes her mum did it because of that! I was horrified. I’ve had little chance to talk to her about it privately, she won’t talk if anyone else is around Inc my husband, her grandad. I see her at least once a fortnight, not a lot I know, but I think the other family are manipulating that, keeping her busy. We have no contact rights, so we just have to go along with it. Occasionally we have seen her more, but sometimes it’s been less if they decide to take her off anywhere. I don’t believe they see it as depriving my granddaughter, more as depriving us… she’ll be making her own mind up soon, she’s 14 in a few months.

But I know I have got to get her to sit down and seriously talk about what happened that day. If anyone is to blame its the people she got the pills from, and me for leaving her (my reasons for that are in other posts)

The links you’ve sent me may be useful to her. I think rather than ask her if she wants them, I’ll send her them and she may look out of curiosity, or maybe for help?

The links I gave you are more aimed at adults in your sort of situation (wanting to support a bereaved young person). Here are some sites aimed at young people that you could share with her:

It can be difficult to balance following her lead with encouraging her to open up. You can’t force her to talk if she doesn’t feel ready, you can only try to make her feel that you are someone she can talk to if she needs to.

It must be even more tricky that you don’t have any custody rights and are reliant on her father’s family to allow you to be in contact with her. For what it’s worth, it sounds as though you are doing a really good job under very difficult circumstances.

I’m so sorry you have lost your daughter to suicide. I too lost my beloved girl when she took her own life. Gemma has 2 sons aged 22 and 9. The 9 year old has also gone to live with his daddy. We are lucky in that they have remained very close to us and we have a very good relationship. I talk openly to the boys about their Mummy especially the 9 year old. They allowed him to have his mummy’s favourite jumper and he has a photo of her in his bedroom. We do our best. But oh so hard for us and my heart goes out to you. My daughter also died in a particularly horrific way. I am making the boys a book about their mummy. I have found with the youngest that he so misses his mummy but also his old house and school. So much loss for a little one.
I would say stay close to your granddaughter, let her know how much you love her and how much her mummy loved her. At 12 she will understand that and that will give her a solid foundation of unconditional love which will help her in the future. I feel that with Gemma’s boys that I stand up for what she wanted for them.
Good luck and lots of love to you on this very hard road xxx