Living

Alienated grandparents, you’re not alone

Los Angeles Times/MCT

If you’re a grandparent who has been prevented from seeing your grandchildren, this meeting might be of interest to you.

Alienated Grandparents Anonymous, a nonprofit organization, offers information and support to grandparents who feel alienated, estranged or isolated from their grandchildren. The group does not offer professional services, but gives grandparents the chance to discuss their concerns with others in similar circumstances.

The inaugural meeting of the Harrison County support group of Alienated Grandparents Anonymous will be held at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Orange Grove Public Library. The local group’s organizer has also experienced alienation.

As the organization’s name implies, it is an anonymous group, organized in Collier County, Florida, in 2011. About a year later, it became a 501c(3) nonprofit and is now based in Naples, Florida. There are 102 registered coordinators, with a presence in 50 states and 19 countries, according to AGA.

The president founder, who is known only by her first name, Amanda, said a board member whose dissertation is on grandparent alienation has found that “most cases involve a toxic daughter-in-law, a daughter, a toxic son-in-law or the son,” in that order. Over time, one spouse or significant other reinforces in the other a negative image of the grandparent or grandparents to the point that any mention of that grandparent immediately establishes a negative reaction and assumption of mental instability.

“It’s all about jealousy and insecurity, and control and power,” the founder said. “It forms a pathway in that person’s mind. ‘Your mother did this, so your mother’s crazy.’ It could be an exaggeration of something or an outright lie. This is a form of elder abuse or child abuse.”

AGA’s main purpose is to provide support.

“Knowledge is power,” the founder said. “If you understand why something is happening, it lessens its power over you. If you educate yourself, you can protect yourself. You can understand, ‘I didn’t cause this. Nothing I did warranted this.’”

She acknowledged that sometimes, grandparents’ behavior will be cause for legitimate concern. “But I’d say 95 percent truly do love their grandchildren and are heartbroken when this happens. I know of some who were not allowed to meet their grandchildren when they were born,” the founder said.

Those attending meetings will sit in a circle and share their stories. Hearing someone else’s story can add to a grandparent’s empowerment, she said.

“Just knowing that you’re not alone, that someone else has gone through the same thing, or is still going through it” can offer hope, she said.

Resources provided to registered coordinators include expert contacts, the founder said.

Basic information on AGA can be found at AGA-FL.org. Contact the organization’s headquarters at info@AGA-FL.org. The local affiliate’s email address is AGAHarrisonCounty@gmail.com.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1

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