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Loneliness as a grandparent

March 23, 2017 | By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
After learning her son plans a permanent move overseas, a grandparent feels a sense of loneliness and loss.

QUESTION

Hi Dr. Levine,

My son and his wife took overseas jobs nine years ago for what I thought was an adventure they wanted to live out in their late twenties before family, etc. After eight years, they took jobs back in our home state. In less than a year they accepted jobs again in Europe.

My son just set me straight in a recent phone call to make sure that I accept the fact that they have chosen this as a permanent career move. During these past nine years, they have had their two children who are now 5 and 8. It feels SO HEAVY. I am really SO disappointed.

I have had to deal with clinical depression for most of the past 20 years. I’ve been doing well. However, for the past couple of years, life in general is much richer and much less complicated when I’m not on medication. But this new reality has created a sense loss that I just can’t shake it off.

I found your blog today in a search about loneliness as a grandparent. I can hardly believe that this describes me. I’m only 65, married, and retired from a successful career in teaching and sales. My retirement was over five years ago now so I should be adjusted to that but I do admit I miss the stimulation of my career. I have three sons, two of whom are stateside with their families, but nonetheless, we don’t see them but every few months.

Signed, Maria

ANSWER

Hi Maria,

When people retire, their social worlds often constrict as they lose day-to-day contact with workplace colleagues. If you were in sales and teaching, your work life must have been filled with people.

Some retirees find pleasure in individual hobbies and pursuits. Others crave interaction and make efforts to stay actively involved with co-workers, friends and/or family.

Coming to terms with an adult child (and family) who decides to relocate overseas can be an unexpected jolt—even if you understand the basis for his decision intellectually and realize that your offspring need to live their own lives.

Every life transition, including this one precipitated by your son’s permanent move, requires a mental adjustment. Do you have the energy to reach out and engage with other people aside from your immediate family to distract yourself and fill empty hours? Do you have any interests that you want to pursue?

Disappointment is understandable but if you feel a profound sense of loss that doesn’t abate with time—especially given your long history of clinical depression—you may want to check in with a mental health professional to see if your depression is making the loss that much harder to adapt to.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: Coping with loneliness

Comments (7)

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  1. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry for each of you. Depression is on a see saw type of thing. Anxiety lurks on the opposite side. A good therapist is key, true. It took years for me to try any medication. I am 59 and a few days. My kids are 33, that would be my son who 2 years ago announced the day of my daughters wedding,”We bought a house in Henderson, Las Vegas.” OK, so though he lived on Long Island 30 minutes uses from us he didn’t keep in touch. Though we had less time didn’t make it painful. He is successful and I’m can only be happy for him. While I was visiting Mayo, Rochester,Minnesota last June my married then 28 years old called to tell him they asked her to notify family I may not make it. His response was, we have a life. Keep in touch. Call me if she doesn’t or is about to, I just don’t want to drop everything for a visit to a hospital.My husband and I met in 1976, married in 1981. He soon began acting odd, getting sick, falling down he kept working. We had our son then 4 years later we had our daughter. We worked but struggled financially. Family on both sides could care less I had two children. They didn’t bother to help in any way, a kind words, card or phone call when my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Cognitive issues, straight Cathertering him.loss of control of his bowels, I took care of it all. It all BECAME so awful in 2009. You see in 2004 I was 46 diagnosed with a rare form of inoperable cancer. My son then 20 the same diagnosis, my daughter then 17 the same diagnosis. In 04, I had life saving surgery, in 05 my son had his and 06 my daughter had hers. We had total colostomy n months after our first surgery we had a reversal where they take the small intestine bring it through the belly inverted , then build a job pouch where they took out our appendix, then they put the small intestine back, hook it up to the jpouch. Now we are supposed to be able to go number 2 from our Anusara as we no longer have large intestines, no rechum. We spend a great deal of time and $$$$%$$$$$$$$$$$ in and out of Memorial Sloan Kettering. Two years after my surgery they discovered I had a soft tissue sarcoma intra abdominal wrapped around the small intestine, no we tried chemo twice it didn’t do a dam thing. Then in 2009 my husband became so much to handle my daughter n I did everything to keep him home. Due to his condition we had to place the once lovely man in a Nursing Home. Mind you through everything I worked. In the beginning of our journey people we didn’t know through fundraisers helped us survive. We had to physically take care of one another except my son. He got help for himself but moved out when my daughter needed her surgery. So we have husband in nursing home, no family, and my daughter n husband. Her husband doesn’t like me, he resents time I take his wife from him. So, my home I have paid all the bills I on my medication working 60 hours a week and going 140 times a day to move my bowels. One day they just stopped working, an angulation of the small intestine collapsed basically. A kink in the hose very, very painful. So my daughter when the hospital here had no idea what to do sent all my records to Mayo. The middle of the country! They helped, figured it out, while doing a simple procedure because if you open us up the tumor gets mad n will make another. So, I’m that rare individual where things go awry and they perforated my bowel.I now have q2 inches of small intestine vs. The 42ft most of the world has, and a ileostomy (a bag on the outside on my belly, 3 hernias the surgery caused n nobody can or will fix. Shortly after I arrived home still in a fog ND 79 pounds, I had pancreatitis, then after that sepsis, then my gallbladder bladder went bad. Since cell my anatomy is rare the local hospitals don’t know how to care for us. I got sepsis again at a different location and we know it’s because they didn’t take us seriously. They apologized but months later I’m having my gallbladdder about to be taken out when theythey VZ tell my daughter I look good in person but tragic on paper. DdeTwo more weeks to stabilize me for thedddd gallbladder removal n two more weeks as the gallbladder grew onto my small intestine. Meanwhile, soon after my daughter goes back in the hospital. She is 29 now and a few days she defended her dissertation. Now, her n her husband think they will buy a house, move n right now they have been living with me for many years. I have no friends. I’m on soctal security disability n my pension. My daughter thinks it’s easy to make friends. So to recap, I’ve no family n friends n have an illness I can hide. It doesn’t define me, it has caused me to long for some friends. Now with all this dialogue on here I doubt it’s of interest to anyone. I’ve been tested n what is my concertificate that I live with daily? How can I find a friend (s). I give full disclosure on this site so I don’t sound pitiful, I just want you to hear in the darkest parts of my life I want a window to shine some light on friendship. I can listen and talk, understand and I love to laugh n travel. After this entry I think I have vented whatever it is I needed to get out. Btw, I will never see grandchildren because my sonson wife decided she doesn’t want to be a single parent. Very comforting since they ignore his illness n live her today life. My daughter may adopt but not until later in life if they have money? Both are Professor’s but in a struggle to find employment for her in her chosen field. She is over qualified in most cases. I lost my husband decades ago n recently realized I raised three children. I’m sad. Thanks for letting me share. Typed via my mobile phone. Sorry for typos.

  2. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry for each of you. Depression is on a see saw type of thing. Anxiety lurks on the opposite side. A good therapist is key, true. It took years for me to try any medication. I am 59 and a few days. My kids are 33, that would be my son who 2 years ago announced the day of my daughters wedding,”We bought a house in Henderson, Las Vegas.” OK, so though he lived on Long Island 30 minutes uses from us he didn’t keep in touch. Though we had less time didn’t make it painful. He is successful and I’m can only be happy for him. While I was visiting Mayo, Rochester,Minnesota last June my married then 28 years old called to tell him they asked her to notify family I may not make it. His response was, we have a life. Keep in touch. Call me if she doesn’t or is about to, I just don’t want to drop everything for a visit to a hospital.My husband and I met in 1976, married in 1981. He soon began acting odd, getting sick, falling down he kept working. We had our son then 4 years later we had our daughter. We worked but struggled financially. Family on both sides could care less I had two children. They didn’t bother to help in any way, a kind words, card or phone call when my husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Cognitive issues, straight Cathertering him.loss of control of his bowels, I took care of it all. It all BECAME so awful in 2009. You see in 2004 I was 46 diagnosed with a rare form of inoperable cancer. My son then 20 the same diagnosis, my daughter then 17 the same diagnosis. In 04, I had life saving surgery, in 05 my son had his and 06 my daughter had hers. We had total colostomy n months after our first surgery we had a reversal where they take the small intestine bring it through the belly inverted , then build a job pouch where they took out our appendix, then they put the small intestine back, hook it up to the jpouch. Now we are supposed to be able to go number 2 from our Anusara as we no longer have large intestines, no rechum. We spend a great deal of time and $$$$%$$$$$$$$$$$ in and out of Memorial Sloan Kettering. Two years after my surgery they discovered I had a soft tissue sarcoma intra abdominal wrapped around the small intestine, no we tried chemo twice it didn’t do a dam thing. Then in 2009 my husband became so much to handle my daughter n I did everything to keep him home. Due to his condition we had to place the once lovely man in a Nursing Home. Mind you through everything I worked. In the beginning of our journey people we didn’t know through fundraisers helped us survive. We had to physically take care of one another except my son. He got help for himself but moved out when my daughter needed her surgery. So we have husband in nursing home, no family, and my daughter n husband. Her husband doesn’t like me, he resents time I take his wife from him. So, my home I have paid all the bills I on my medication working 60 hours a week and going 140 times a day to move my bowels. One day they just stopped working, an angulation of the small intestine collapsed basically. A kink in the hose very, very painful. So my daughter when the hospital here had no idea what to do sent all my records to Mayo. The middle of the country! They helped, figured it out, while doing a simple procedure because if you open us up the tumor gets mad n will make another. So, I’m that rare individual where things go awry and they perforated my bowel.I now have q2 inches of small intestine vs. The 42ft most of the world has, and a ileostomy (a bag on the outside on my belly, 3 hernias the surgery caused n nobody can or will fix. Shortly after I arrived home still in a fog ND 79 pounds, I had pancreatitis, then after that sepsis, then my gallbladder bladder went bad. Since cell my anatomy is rare the local hospitals don’t know how to care for us. I got sepsis again at a different location and we know it’s because they didn’t take us seriously. They apologized but months later I’m having my gallbladdder about to be taken out when theythey VZ tell my daughter I look good in person but tragic on paper. DdeTwo more weeks to stabilize me for thedddd gallbladder removal n two more weeks as the gallbladder grew onto my small intestine. Meanwhile, soon after my daughter goes back in the hospital. She is 29 now and a few days she defended o

  3. Kathy says:

    I am going through something similar. I am 61 and became a widow at 50. My oldest daughter is putting her house on the market the first of April. I am full of sadness and loneliness that she and my three grandchildren are leaving. My grandchildren are 18,16,13. They moved to Arizona when the oldest one was 3 and the youngest at the time was 1. They had another child while they were living in Arizona. My daughter left Arizona and moved in with my husband and me for six months. She worked hard and was able to by a house in town. They have been a big part of my life. When she told me they were moving I was heartbroken. I have two daughters that still live close but my oldest and I have always been very cliose. I was feeling a deep sense of loss. I have been helping her get her house in the market. That has been bitter sweet. It has helped me look at her as a strong smart adult instead of the little girl that she was. It was hard for me to see her as anything but my little girl that I felt I needed to protect. I had to change the way I was seeing her and realiI even that she is making the right choice for her and her family. They will be living closer to their father. That will give tmy grandchildren a piece that has been missing from their lives. They have gone out to see him over the years but have not built the father /child relationship that they have been missing. It also will help my daughter. So I am coming to terms by realizing this is in the best interest of my daughter and her family. I was being selfish by wanting her to stay. But I am sure that is normal for a like while anyway. When I start feeling sad I remind myself that this is her decision for a better life for her and my grandchildren. I am not saying I won’t miss them. I will. But I am trying to focus on the positive side. I do understand what you are going through.

  4. Rhonda t says:

    Hello all . I am a 51 years old single female. I live in Midwest city Oklahoma. I am looking for other single females for “friendship “… I work, go home, spend time with my 3 grandkids.. that’s all I do everyday, 7 days a week. I don’t work on the weekends so on those days I just spend time with my grandkids. Don’t get me wrong. My grandkids are my world. They are what keeps me going. But I would live to have a few female friends. I miss adult conversations with just other females. I do talk to females at work but it’s only at work and usually work related. I have been invited many times to go places with them but they are always going out to drink alcohol and I am not a drinker. I went several years ago but it’s just not my cup of tea as the old saying goes. So what I’m asking, is there anyone out there that is looking for a female friend? I don’t need or want to make friends out of Oklahoma. That just leads to only phone conversations and I want to actually go do things with the friends I hope to make. So please contact me and we can meet in a public place of course. It’s so dangerous out there. I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

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  5. Johnny says:

    I think you should definitely adopt a kitten. It is kitten season right now and there are so many babies out there that could use a loving, maternal person such as yourself. Make a difference in a baby cat’s life, and you will be rewarded by companionship and unconditional love from the cat.

    I am sorry you are hurting. I find that being a parent can be painful at times. Your children are never really “yours”, you just have the ultimate task of raising them to be strong, well-adjusted, loved individuals so that they can spread their wings and fly the nest someday.

    I do think it’s appropriate for you to feel sadness and a sense of loss, but as someone up there said, if it lingers, you should reach out for professional help. Sometimes we tend to externalize our happiness and search for it through other people… but other people are never the answer to our own real happiness. Our happiness is inside of us. Sometimes some of us need a little bit of extra (professional) help to find it.

    Best of luck to you.

  6. Irene (the other one) says:

    Some people find getting a pet, like a dog or a cat, very helpful – particularly if you suffer from depression. And, a dog will certainly get you out and about. I’d suggest you consider this, unless of course you may either be allergic or don’t like house pets.

    In the UK dog-therapy is very popular among people suffering all kinds of difficulties, ailments and problems – for some this has proved to be better than a lot of medication.

  7. Amy F says:

    I can understand why you’d be disappointed with your son and his family moving so far away. I’m glad he was direct with you, so that you at least know they aren’t coming back to live. Have you made plans to visit yet?
    As you know, depression is a medical illness and medication is often needed to regulate brain chemistry so that people can feel at their optimum. Talking to your doctor and getting back into therapy can help you get back to feeling more able to cope with the changes in your life. With retirement you’ve lost your routine as well as social contact, the effects aren’t always immediate, particularly if you’re once again dealing with depression. Some people also feel a loss of purpose and direction. Therapy can help you rediscover these important life components.

    Volunteering woulf give you an opportunity to be around other people and a sense of being appreciated for your contributions. Google Foster Grandparents to see if that might be an avenue that would be helpful. It sounds like you want to be around your sons more often. Have you asked them for more time, perhaps attending your grandchildren’s sports games or even babysitting so your sons and their partners can have a night out?

    I think with the right medication and therapy you’ll be able to manage your depression and the changes in your life.

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