Dear Savvy Auntie,

My brother committed suicide a little over two years ago. He left behind a daughter and wife, although they were estranged from him at the time. Prior to his death, his side of the family - me, my mom, my Aunt, and grandparents - raised my niece from when she was two days old until age nine. We did this to protect her and to make sure she grew up in a loving environment, as her parents wouldn’t.

Two years ago, my niece’s mother decided that I was not allowed to see the child anymore, because the mother doesn't like me. She has now extended that to all members of this side of my niece's family. I know that my niece still loves us and misses all of us dearly, especially me, because there are "accidental" times that one of us will see her, like at the bus stop before school or at the store. On these occasions, she always says she misses me and loves me.

My question is, do you think that my time invested prior to this will sustain her until we can be together again, which might be another six years? Or will she slowly forget about us and we will be no more than a memory to her and I am hoping in vain to reconnect at some point?

Estranged Auntie

Dear Estranged Auntie,

How sad! For you, your niece, your brother, and the entire family! The answer to your question is a huge YES! Your connection, caring, and input in her early development ensures a future connection. The current research in early childhood development attests to the importance of care-giving in the first four to five years of life.

The fact that when you bump into her she says she misses and loves you is further proof. She doesn’t have to remember exact situations to have it deeply inside her. If you would like further confirmation, take a look at the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel on attachment.

Is it possible for you to set up a communication contact through social networks or Skype? I am sure both of you would enjoy and profit by keeping in touch.

Best of luck,
Natalie Robinson Garfield

Published: March 29, 2011 ,

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