How Losing Out On Grandparents’ Love As A Child Affects You As An Adult

How Losing Out On Grandparents’ Love As A Child Affects You As An Adult

While the bond between parent and child is obviously foundational, grandparents play a special role in kids’ lives. Sadly, not everyone experiences that warmth. Whether due to estrangement, death, or simply lack of a close connection – the impact of not having Grandma and Grandpa in your life growing up can be surprisingly deep and long-lasting.

1. You feel a void, a sense of something missing that you can’t quite pinpoint.

Seeing other people’s close grandparent relationships might trigger an unexplainable ache. You likely rationalize that it’s no big deal, but deep down, there’s a subtle longing for a kind of connection you never had a chance to experience. As Psychology Today notes, the absence of the relationship between child and grandparent can be “a loss unlike any other.”

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2. Gaps in your family history leave you feeling unrooted.

Grandparents are the storytellers – the keepers of your lineage. Not having access to their anecdotes, the details that make your family history feel textured and real, leaves you with a sense of being cut off from a part of yourself. It can feel like trying to do a puzzle with missing pieces.

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3. You might struggle with forming attachments to older figures.

Without that foundational bond, you may have difficulty trusting mentors, bosses who could support your career, or even forming healthy friendships with people significantly older. Unconsciously, you may anticipate disappointment, making it hard to fully rely on guidance from these figures.

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4. You crave unconditional love and worry about being a burden.

Grandparents often love with an easy acceptance that even parents sometimes struggle with. Missing out on this can leave you questioning your worthiness of deep, non-judgmental love. You may try too hard to be perfect, worrying that any sign of weakness will lead to rejection.

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5. Your self-image is shaky because you didn’t get that consistent mirroring as a child.

Grandparents see us with adoring eyes which reflect back a positive image that boosts our confidence. Without that, you may internalize criticism more harshly, or constantly second-guess yourself. It’s like missing out on one of the building blocks of a healthy sense of self.

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6. Holidays and family gatherings feel bittersweet.

Those events magnify the absence. Seeing everyone else sharing multi-generational traditions can be a painful reminder of what you don’t have. You might withdraw from these events, or feel a forced cheer you struggle to maintain.

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7. You fear passing on dysfunction to your own kids if you have them.

The idea of being a grandparent yourself can be anxiety-provoking. What if you have no model for that healthy, loving grandparent-grandchild bond? The fear of repeating unhealthy patterns from your family of origin can loom large.

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8. You feel adrift during life’s major transitions.

Getting married, buying a house, becoming a parent… these are moments when many lean on grandparents for wisdom and support. Not having those figures to turn to can make those transitions feel lonelier, forcing you to find your way without that additional source of guidance.

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9. You have difficulty setting boundaries – either too rigid or overly lax.

Healthy relationships involve give-and-take. Grandparents often model this balance – sometimes spoiling you, sometimes offering gentle guidance. Without that experience, you might become fiercely independent to avoid feeling vulnerable, or have trouble standing up for yourself because you’ve never felt truly entitled to have your needs met.

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10. You overcompensate through idealizing other older people.

You might try to fill the void by latching onto teachers, neighbors, or any kind older person, seeking an emotional connection that’s missing. This can lead to unrealistic expectations and leave you vulnerable to disappointment.

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11. You feel envious of friends with close-knit, multi-generational families.

Their easy camaraderie and the shared jokes and stories can highlight what you didn’t have. Envy is natural, but may lead to bitterness over time, Verywell Mind notes. It’s important to grieve the loss of those relationships you never had the chance to build.

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12. You might be drawn to unhealthy relationships that feel familiar in a negative way.

Unconsciously, we recreate patterns from our family of origin. If you lacked close bonds with your grandparents, you might gravitate towards partners or friends who are emotionally distant, critical, or unreliable as adults. This echoes the dynamic you know, even if it’s harmful.

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13. You question traditional milestones like marriage and kids.

Without that model of a healthy, long-lasting relationship from your grandparents, the idea of forever can feel daunting. You may worry you lack the skills to create a successful marriage. Similarly, not having witnessed the joys of grandparenthood can influence your decision on whether to have children at all.

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14. You’re hyper-vigilant about your health, fearing early mortality.

sad man with head in hands

If a grandparent died young, it plants a seed of fear. You may overanalyze any minor ache, fearing illness, or have anxieties about aging that feel out of proportion. This stems from the trauma of losing a loved one too soon.

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15. You feel cheated out of the chance to know them as an adult.

sad woman sitting with a glass of wine

As you mature, you’d have seen them in a new light – as peers, not just authority figures. It’s a bittersweet realization that you’ll never discuss politics with them, share your career struggles, or get their perspective on complex adult dilemmas.

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16. You become fiercely protective of the surrogate grandparent-like figures you DO find in life.

Whether a kind neighbor, an older mentor, or a beloved aunt/uncle – you treasure these bonds. The fear of losing them is heightened due to your history. You cherish any connection that offers you the warmth and unconditional support you longed for.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.