A difficult conversation

In anticipation of speaking with my alienating parent, I have been advised to set my intentions carefully and clearly; this is so that I do not get sidetracked in arguing smaller points.

I want to prepare for this conversation with my father, in order to avoid flailing words at him or letting my emotions take over. I don’t want to allow him to hijack the conversation, stonewall me, or point the finger at everyone but himself.

But I also know I cannot control his reactions, only my own. This is a new position for me, to let go of my father’s response, after decades of taking his emotional temperature.

So with my own intentions crystal clear, finally,  I will  have this long overdue conversation. In the end, I want to know I did my best to speak my own truth and then I want to move forward, freely.

  My intentions are:

*To let him know I refuse to pretend my mother does not exist. This does not mean I will be sharing details of our reconnection, but that I will not go out of my way to avoid mentioning my mother to him or to my stepmother or sisters. It stops now. 

 *To let him know that the book I am writing is indeed a memoir, and not a novel as he has called it in the past, and also to make it clear that I am writing my story from  my own creative and authentic desire and also as a way to help others. It is not all about me. Nor is it all about him.  “Parental alienation” is a terrible epidemic of psychological child abuse, and I believe I am assisting others with my story.  My professional and creative work does and will continue to include speaking and writing on this topic. He is not expected to share in my interest nor read or comment on any of it. But I will not apologize for the work I feel called to do. My intentions have nothing to do with retaliation and everything to do with truth and empowerment and healing-for all those affected.  

*To find out as soon as possible if his acceptance of me is contingent upon my silence and compliance with his wishes.  If speaking and writing my truth will result in his rejection, I would like to know now so that I can move on without him in my life. But I hope he will recognize the opportunity for his own healing; it will require him to hear me though, for the first time. 

*To reach a place of peace and forgiveness, with or without his cooperation. This includes forgiveness of myself for taking so damn long to have the courage to speak up with clear and firm intentions. 

If I keep those intentions in mind as I initiate this conversation, I think I stand a good chance of saying what needs to be said. The truth shall set you free.  I say it’s about time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solving the mystery

   A few years after the mysterious disappearance of my mother, my sister and I found a kite in our yard that did not belong to us. We took it upon ourselves to travel about the neighborhood, searching for its rightful owner. It was a challenge, a game of sorts, to try to find the child who had lost his kite.

  But  to me, it felt like more than a game. It wasn’t that I was overly concerned with the kite owner’s loss; it was that I had an unfulfilled need to solve a mystery. It felt urgent to me, like an obsession, or an all consuming task. The mystery had landed in my own backyard, and I had a burning desire to get to the bottom of it.

  Maybe if I could solve the tiny mysteries,  some day I would find out the big truths.

 To my disappointment, we never did find out who the kite belonged to, but I never forgot that day, or the feeling that was evoked in me. I recognized that feeling  at seventeen, when I searched my parents’ divorce files at the courthouse, looking for clues. It consumed me  again as an adult when I contacted my mother’s lover, the one who was going to help her escape my father.

Fortunately, my unrelenting truth seeking led me to my mother, where I could get her story. It also led me to family members, both hers and my fathers, who could help me to fill in some missing pieces, or in many cases, validate what my childhood memory held.

She was a good mother.

She was afraid of my father. 

Even though she had no car, my father refused to drop my sister and me off to see her after he threw her out of our home. He made it as difficult as possible for her to see us. 

He told people that she asked him to take custody of us because “he could take care of us better than she could”.   

Although  this story has been tragic, I believe the ending is a happy one.  I am talking with my mother and we are having the big, important conversations. I threw caution to the wind, and took the chance that I might scare her away with discussing the painful past.  This led to a breakthrough in our relationship. I think with each conversation we have, she is getting just a tiny bit stronger, and so am I.

It is not easy being a truth seeker when much of the truth is ugly. But here’s the thing: the truth is beautiful too. I have not sought evidence against my father, as much as I have sought evidence for my mother.

And though it has taken me decades, the clues were easy to find. They have been tucked away in my heart and memories my whole life.  The years, and the seeking, were just an excavation of what was there. I already knew.

20160617_074742  *This photo of my sister and me was given to me by mother.  It was taken shortly before my parents’ divorce. We had no idea we were about to be torn from our mother.                                                                     PARENTAL ALIENATION MUST STOP

The gift of our wounds

Unhealed trauma muffles the inner impulses that guide your authentic brilliance to fully emerge.

In order to disrupt the faulty systems, we have to be willing to withstand criticism and disapproval from others while rooted in the greater vision that motivates us.

-Bethany Webster

***

The adult alienated child, if able to see the truth of their childhood, faces the daunting task of holding the alienator accountable. Ideally, adults in the child’s life would have been able to handle this task long ago, if not stopping the alienating, at least making it more difficult for him. But all this parent really needs is access to the child’s mind, and some of the child’s time, in order to begin the damage. And in the unfortunate trauma that is parent alienation, it is often the targeted, alienated parent who is made into the villain, not only by the alienator, but also by the other people who surround the child. The disgrace fallen upon the out casted parent can be shockingly insidious.

I can recall sitting outside with my sister and a neighborhood friend about a year or two after my mother was cast out of my life. We were young children, and one of us brought up the subject of my mother, a very rare occurrence. Our neighbor, a little girl of about six years old, said “I remember she used to give us whole bottles of coke”. She was referring to the individual bottles of coke. It wasn’t what she said that spoke volumes, but the tone in which she said it, implying that our mother  was a bad, irresponsible mother. This was a childhood friend, a neighbor who had been welcomed into our home by our mother. Somehow even this innocent little girl had gotten on board the hate wagon.

This influence spread far and wide and each time I was witness to it, I remained silent.  I only had four years with my mother; how could I prove to anyone that she was good? I was a child when she disappeared from my life, and I was led to believe it was irresponsible abandonment. I did not believe this, but how does a young child explain that their heart tells them otherwise, while living in an atmosphere that forbids such declaration?

They don’t.

I didn’t.

It is up to me to finally, after decades, to confront my father without backing down again. I need to approach him with the possibility for forgiveness, but with the confidence and knowledge that I have now.

No one else is going to do it.

Not even my mother, who was robbed of her children. Despite her undying resentment toward him, she does not have the courage, strength, or desire to ever speak to my father again.

Not my sister who still feels very protective of my father, akin to Stockholm syndrome.

Not my stepmother who does not know the truth because she does not want to know it.  She has been enabled to remain obliviously unaware of the past.

But here is the good news about being the one who must hold him accountable.

I get to stand up to him, realize my own courage and speak my own truth, and fully heal my own wound.

I will no longer wonder what he will say if I mention my new-found, albeit fragile, reconnection with my mother. There it will be, my words giving voice to what should never have been taken away.

I get to reclaim my birthright, my authenticity, my power.

I get to free myself.

And forgive.

I have been warned, by a trusted expert and also by loved ones, that it won’t be easy. I know this is true. I’ve been told it will bring about feelings, and pain and memories that I may not even be aware of yet. To say that I am not looking forward to that part is an understatement. I am dreading it.

But I know that our greatest gifts lie right beneath our deepest wounds.

Many never go there, understandably. We can easily spend our whole lives avoiding it, and some do. In fact, there is all kinds of encouragement to “leave the past behind”, and “focus only on now”.

I am calling bullshit on that.

Because  if we do venture there, if we face our biggest hurts, we will be freed up in ways we could not even imagine.

I feel lucky to know this.

This is not just a topic of parent alienation. This is about facing and healing our wounds.

It’s about making our way back to our true selves.

That is the gift of the journey.

What could be greater than that?

 

Reminder: Parent Alienation Support Group in Massachusetts

Thursday, June 2, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Family Development Associates
40 Speen St., #106
Framingham, MA 01701
I hope to see some of you there! 

Massachusetts Parent Alienation Support Group

      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.-Leo Buscaglia

I am happy to learn of a new support group for alienated parents in my home state of Massachusetts and look forward to attending their second meeting. If you or someone you know in this area is in need of support, please see the details below.

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Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
Thursday, June 2, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EDT)
Family Development Associates
40 Speen St., #106 , MA 01701
Framingham, MA 01701

We encourage you to bring other adults from your family or friends for them to learn more and understand Parental Alienation.
We hope you can join Jeff Parks (Therapist) and I (Brian – a targeted parent who succeeded reducing the effects of PA on my kids).
Email questions to:  helpingparents123@yahoo.com

Parental Alienation Awareness Day Statement by Dr. Childress — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

I am so grateful for this work that is being done on behalf  of ALL alienated children and parents. I have so much hope that this will keep moving forward now, and I look forward to being a part of it in any way that I can. Thank you Dr. Craig Childress for  your unrelenting pursuit of a solution, and to all the other professionals who are working on behalf of powerless children. And lastly, many thanks to all the parents who are doing their best to reclaim their children. Don’t ever give up. Let me be a voice for those children: thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Michigan Parental Alienation Awareness Day rally graciously asked me to provide a statement to their rally. Below is a written transcript of my video recorded statement to them: 2016 Parental Alienation Awareness Day Dr. Childress Statement to Michigan Rally Part 1: Reclaiming Mental Health as Your Ally Children love both parents, and they should […]

via Parental Alienation Awareness Day Statement by Dr. Childress — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

Two sisters, two journeys

I told my story at a Moth Story event in Boston last month. Several audience members approached me afterwards to tell me of someone close to them who is experiencing some form of parent alienation. I recognize what a huge and widespread problem this is.

I was touched by a young man, perhaps in his late teens or early twenties, who thanked me for my story. He said “I needed to hear that story”.  I wondered if perhaps he had been alienated from a parent. There are so many stories, and many of them are of children who don’t even realize they are being manipulated. It truly is a form of brainwashing and psychological abuse, much like I imagine being in a cult to  be.

I know without a doubt that my sister was brainwashed at the age of five to reject our mother. I remember the day she told our mother not to come visit again. “We don’t need you”, she said. “We have a new mother now”.  This was from a little girl who loved her mother; a child who was loved deeply by her mother, as I was. My sister remembers her words and says she carries that on her shoulders because she feels she pushed our mother away.  I try to tell her that our father did that to her. I don’t think she understands. I don’t think she wants to.

Although my sister was brainwashed, I do not believe that I was-or at least not in the same way.  I cannot be sure if this  was simply due to my age (three and a half), my temperament, or fate,  but I was never brainwashed to believe I did not want my mother.  I also never believed that my mother was bad or that she ‘walked out on us’.  In my heart and gut, I absolutely knew that was not true. 

But I lived in fear. I was afraid to ask for my mother. I was afraid to speak her name to my father. So fear was enough to silence me.  It is a terrifying thing, to know you cannot upset your father, cannot ask for his help,  even in the wake of a violently broken bond with your mother.   How do you ask the abuser, the only parent you have left, for help with the abuse? You don’t. You accept your powerlessness.

The underlying fear for  alienated children, I think, is that the wrath they witness from the alienator toward the other parent will be turned on them if they do not cooperate in the alienation. Speaking from experience, it is terrifying. What else but terror would stop a child from asking for her mother?

And it must be a horrible thing for a parent who is aware of this; to know that your child is in the hands of a parent who is psychologically tormenting them.  My own mother did not know this. She actually believed it when my sister told her “We don’t need you anymore”. My father had chipped away at my mother’s sense of self worth throughout their marriage, and now she was at her lowest point; she believed that perhaps her children really didn’t need her after all. Perhaps she was not worthy. And even if she were, she could never “win” with my  father as her opponent. He made sure she knew this. And so she stopped trying.

Recently, I spoke to my sister about the situation. For the first time, I was blunt and forceful in my description of what I thought my father did. I am not proud of the way I handled the conversation; we all have to come to things in our own time, and sometimes this means not in this lifetime.  I don’t have a right to try to force my sister to see what she cannot see. Even if we went through this together, we are two different people, each on our own journey.

I do think she caught a glimpse of the truth in my words though.  She even said so. But then she decided that it didn’t matter anymore, it was too long ago, and she had no desire to alter her life nor to reach out to our mother. Her bond is too far buried.  Acknowledging our  mother would be inconvenient. It would upset people.  It would turn her world upside down, perhaps. She is loyal to our father. Her children are loyal grandchildren to our father and stepmother. My sister has wanted it that way.

When you think your sanity depends on not facing the truth,  you will go overboard to fool yourself. You will do everything it takes, and then some to keep the truth hidden from yourself and others.  This is how I see my sister living her life. She will polish the facade until it is blinding. No truth shall seep through the cracks, for she is ever vigilant, watchful, to be sure the cracks get sealed. I am shining a light on the cracks, and it is causing our relationship to suffer.

I understand that. We are polar opposites, she and I. I have spent my life feeling the truth,  needing the truth, and seeking the truth, only to find I already knew it, in my heart. And now I’m telling the truth.

But I understand my sister. And I cannot fault her. Instead, I need to stay grateful that I do have the strength to tell the truth. It’s painful and ugly and so scary sometimes that I want to hide from all of it and surrender. I don’t want to be the messenger anymore.  But there is no turning back. It’s my journey, and not just for me and my sister and my mother, but for all of the alienated children.  I want to be their voice too. I know what it’s like to have no voice. I will always remember what that’s like. 

I have  valuable support from some loving and trusted  family members and friends. I am grateful. I don’t think I could do this alone.

I am sure my sister and I we will speak again, eventually. But this encounter gave me a glimpse of what I am in for.

I believe I will see more loss in my future. It’s easy to hate the messenger. I understand that. And I will live with that if I have to, because nothing-nothing is as difficult as living a lie in silence.

~ The truth shall set you free. 

essay : seeing my mother again in my twenties

Twenty years have passed since this meet-up (in the following story)with my mother. She was the age that I am at now. Fortunately, we have reconnected again, though there is great distance between us.

I will be telling my story once again at the Moth GrandSLAM in Boston this month.I am so grateful for this opportunity. I hope I can be a powerful voice for  alienated children everywhere, because if there is one word to describe my childhood experience, it is powerless.  Thankfully, that word no longer applies to my life.

A Mother Erased