Caroline West-Meads: ‘Why does my family keep excluding me?’

Ask Caroline

Q. My husband has dementia and has been in a home since February. My son hanged himself in 1999 when he was 21. I have a 47-year-old daughter and two granddaughters aged 23 and 18. I hardly ever see them, though we text and speak on the phone now and then. I buy them Christmas and birthday presents. What has upset me is that the elder granddaughter got married in July and didn’t invite me. She was allowed 12 guests which included the other grandparents but not me. What made it worse was that my daughter and granddaughter told me that no grandparents were going, but they lied to me. I often looked after my granddaughters from when they were babies to when they went to high school – I took them swimming and to ballet and loved every minute of it. Now I’ve been thrown on the scrapheap. I am never invited for lunch though I am very lonely. They have never visited my husband or even sent a card for his birthday. It’s our golden wedding anniversary soon but I’m not holding my breath. I still love them so much. I have never been unkind or nasty to them. My daughter and I had a fraught relationship, but when she got married and had her children we bonded and we also became close when my son died. It seems that as soon as I outgrew my usefulness I was discarded. My granddaughter is now expecting twins at Christmas but I doubt I will ever see them.

A. I am so sorry for the tragic loss of your son. I’m sure you think about him every day. Now you are dealing with the grief of losing your husband to dementia. It must be heartbreaking to feel lonely and excluded from your granddaughters’ lives and the eldest one’s wedding. I’m sure the lie about the other grandparents not being invited to the wedding was not malicious. It was probably an attempt to spare your feelings, which unfortunately made things worse. Not being invited is such a sadness for you, but the question is ‘why?’ Twelve guests is very few – six each – and after your daughter, son-in-law and your other granddaughter, that only leaves three on the bride’s side. It is normal for friends to be more important than grandparents at this age – but for you that hurts deeply. It is upsetting that your daughter is not more supportive. Do you think that grief may have drained you to the extent that you have become negative or needy? This is understandable, but it may feel overwhelming to others. Whatever the reason, I think you need more support. Caring for your husband before he went into a home has probably left you isolated. So visit Campaign to End Loneliness ( and contact the charities it recommends. You might also want to consider counselling. You’ve had a lot to cope with and it might help you find a way to approach your daughter and get closer to her again.

‘My ex is still trying to control me’

Q. I was in a relationship with a man for many years, then I realised I was being controlled and manipulated. He was also very negative about my children and kept telling me what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I was with him for 15 years and his own children are very supportive of me. Now he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I am 58, he is 77. We are not together, but I still clean for him and cook his meals more often than not. As my flat is rented, he is kindly going to buy me a property to live in until I die, but he wants me to sign a contract to say that my family must not live with me at any point. Now I have met a lovely new man who is very understanding ‒ but I feel so guilty. What should I do?

A. Please do not feel any guilt about the lovely new man you have met. It is wonderful that he is understanding about your difficult situation, so allow yourself to have that relationship. But your ex-partner is still controlling you – and in order to have a life you need to break free from him. Buying you a flat with strings attached is not true kindness – just another way to control you. Ideally, you would stop seeing him, but as he is very ill, you may still want to help him. However, you need to set boundaries. So tell him that if he wants to buy you a flat, that would be lovely. But if he wants to dictate how you use it, you can’t accept. Explain that if he really cared about you, he would care about your children’s futures as well. Say too that you hope his conscience will tell him he has treated them and you badly and he needs to do the right thing now.