The Esther Rantzen effect

The Esther Rantzen effect

Bristol Grandparents Support Group for the last 5 years have had a Christmas Tree, it is our “Tree of Hope.”

Grandparents who are denied contact come and write messages to the grandchildren they will not be able to see at Christmas time due to family breakdown.

Last Christmas I wrote to Esther Rantzen to ask if she would like to write a message for our tree and she did, it was a message that had been given a great deal of thought it said,

“To every grandparent, links of love can never be broken in our hearts.”

In January I wrote to Esther thanking her for her kind words, and I said that if she ever had any free time I would very much like to talk to her about our group and to discuss the devastation felt by grandparents who are denied contact.

Within a very short time, we were sitting on a train heading for London, a little anxious and apprehensive.

Esther had called us the day before to say that after our meeting with her, if it was ok with us, we would be joined by the deputy editor of The One Show to talk about doing an item on the issue that faces grandparents.

We met Esther at the office of The Silver Line, which is a 24hour helpline for older people and of which she is the founder.

She put us completely at ease and we discussed at length how isolated grandparents feel when they face this heartbreak, and the sheer relief they feel when they speak to us and realise they are not alone.

She shared her expertise in the running of charities and gave us lots of food for thought in the way forward for BGSG.

Esther became a grandmother herself over a year ago, and she says that she was quite shocked at the total love she felt for her grandchild, and her concern for grandparents who are estranged from their grandchildren was obvious.

We were joined by the deputy editor from The One Show and he told us what they  had in mind.

Within a week of that meeting, we were sitting in our front room being interviewed by Esther Rantzen. I did have one of those awful moments, when I just said, “This is surreal, Esther Rantzen is in my house!”

It is always difficult doing interviews, going over all the heartbreak of not seeing our granddaughter brings emotions to the fore. Usually I am supporting others, which makes me put my own feelings on the back burner.

I find it particularly hard to hear the pain in Marc’s, my husband, voice. We sat on the sofa, holding each others hands tightly.

After the interview with us, I had arranged for Esther to meet some of the grandparents from our group. They bared their soul to her, and shared their grief, it was a very emotional afternoon for us all, including Esther.

As she stood in my doorway, she looked into the camera and said,  “the pain in that room is palpable.”

So after an afternoon of filming, a five minute film was aired.

The response was enormous, the blog that I write for BGSG had over 4,000 visits in the two weeks after the show, I received well over 100 emails and numerous calls.

I am so grateful to Esther, for her genuine care, support and concern and for her highlighting this living bereavement we all feel.

by Jane Jackson, Bristol Grandparents Support Group