Caroline West-Meads: ‘My stepdaughter has cut me off’

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Q. I am being wrongly accused by my stepdaughter of sending her texts that say she didn’t bother with her late father while he was alive. She says the texts state that he always complained about her neglecting him and that since he died a year ago she can’t stay away from his house. I would never send messages like that.

I have been married to her mother for 35 years and have always treated her as my own daughter. I was always on speaking terms with her late father. I tried meeting her to see her ‘proof’, but she just screamed and shouted that I must have sent the texts. Now she won’t answer the phone to either me or her mother, nor will she allow us to visit or speak to our severely disabled grandson. This is taking its toll on our health and wellbeing. We are at a loss to know what to do or what our rights are – if any.

A. I’m sorry to hear about this upsetting situation with your stepdaughter. It is horrible to be accused of something you didn’t do and for that person not to contemplate any other possibilities. One does wonder who would send such upsetting messages but, that apart, her reaction is extreme and it sounds as if she is still grief-stricken. Is it possible that these texts don’t exist and that she has had a breakdown brought on by her loss? Alternatively, could they have been sent by someone with an axe to grind?

Whether the texts are real or imaginary, she may be acting out feelings of guilt. It can be hard to ever feel you have done enough for a dying parent, so maybe she is lashing out because of this. If she did neglect her father, perhaps the messages have struck a chord. She could be angry with herself and projecting it on to you because it is too painful for her to confront. Grief can cause people to behave in challenging ways. Sadly she is not willing to listen to you or her mother, so is there another family member or a friend who could intervene? Perhaps someone neutral could explain that it really was not you who sent the texts. They could tell her how sad you and her mother are that she is upset and unhappy. They could explain that you would very much like to see her and continue helping her with her son.

It must be very distressing for you and your wife that you can’t see your grandson – and it is not good for him. He must miss you, too. Unfortunately, grandparents do not have an automatic right to see their grandchildren in the UK but can apply to the courts for contact. So get in touch with grandparentsapart.co.uk to support and guide you through the process. Usually, the first step will be mediation. But I hope that, with intervention, it won’t come to this. You could also contact Family Lives (familylives.org.uk) or Family Action (family-action.org.uk) for help in reopening communication with her.

‘I’m struggling to cope with life on my own’

Q. I was widowed a year ago – we were married for 50 years. Even though my husband was ill with dementia and in a nursing home for the last five months of his life, I visited him daily and he was still very much part of my life. Since his passing, my life has felt empty. I have hobbies and friends, but so many hours are spent alone. I had counselling with Cruse, which helped. But no one knows how sad and lonely I am. How can I start enjoying life again?

A. Adjusting to living on your own after a 50-year marriage is a difficult thing to do. Dementia is a cruel disease and you probably spent several years caring for your husband before he went into a home, which will also have taken its toll. Many of us are by nature sociable creatures and need companionship, so I think you need more permanent company.

Could you consider living with a friend? Or you could think about home-share schemes, where young people looking for affordable lodgings are matched with older people living alone (try homeshareuk.org or shareandcare.co.uk). Having someone else around can help – and sometimes strong friendships form. You could consider adopting a rescue cat or dog.

The presence of another living thing in the home can make a big difference – as well as providing a sense of  purpose. Also contact Age UK (ageuk.org.uk), The Silverline helpline (0800 470 8090) or The Royal Voluntary Service (royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk) which offers befriending services. Please see your GP, too, as you may be suffering from depression.

Find more of Caroline’s advice here