When one sibling remains alienated

It is a few days after Christmas and our home phone rings. I see my mother’s name on the caller ID and answer it right away.

After she says hello and asks how I am, her voice catches and she tells me my grandmother has died. She gives me some details and I listen and respond.

We talk.

I’m sorry, I say.

And I am sorry.

I am sorry for the loss.
I am sorry for my mother’s loss and the loss of all who loved my grandmother.

I’m sorry for my loss too, for missing out on all the years I should have stayed bonded to this grandmother who loved me.

I am sorry that the traumatic breakup of my parents’ marriage caused such unjustified estrangement from my mother and her family.

I am sorry life is so brutal sometimes.

It is mostly brutal when people are brutal.

Wounded people are brutal. Angry people are brutal.

How can we stop the bleeding? What is the source?

How does it end?

How does parent alienation end?


I am just one person.

I have just one book, one story.

But I can give mine.

And my ending will give hope to others.

I am forty-nine years old. I missed out on my mother, and my grandmother, for most of my life.

But my mother is on the phone now, telling me she loves me.

And I love her back. We will stay in touch. It is a new beginning, however late.

However limited by distance and regret, love is still there.

We have been broken, but love never disappears.

And isn’t that the balm on all hurts, all loss?

My grandmother has passed on, and I believe her spirit is healing. That brings me peace. No matter the past, she is whole now, untouched by loss.

But what of my sister, who would absolutely disagree that she has any love for our mother who is still here, alive and reachable? Or that she ever missed our grandmother?

How do you tell someone that the absence of a feeling may simply mean it is buried?

It is likely buried beneath the denial that kept her feeling sane. Buried beneath the truth.

Buried beneath our father’s programming, so easy for him to do when we were small, scared children.

So incredibly easy.

The alienating parent instills fear in the child. He sends this message: If you betray me by loving the other parent, you will become the object of my rage. With every cell in my body, that is what I felt.

This is what alienated children feel. It is terrifying.


What if my sister’s love is buried? Her five year old self chose survival over the truth. That’s what children do.

You cannot make someone excavate their own heart. You can not force them to get to the truth.


I tell my sister that our grandmother has passed.

Thanks for letting me know, she says. And that is all.

As always, I hold out hope that she will remember, in a flash, the love.

But instead I feel the distance grow wider between us. The more truth I dare to say, the greater the distance.

And yet it can be crossed in an instant, a moment of knowing, a word, a memory.

Or it may never be crossed, and I don’t know if I am ready to accept this between my sister and myself. We shared the same loss and yet she may never know the truth. I want to find a way to show her the truth, somehow.

Maybe this is the year.


11 thoughts on “When one sibling remains alienated

  1. I am living your words, only I am the mom of 2 siblings, one choosing to remain a stranger, our relationship so fragile that going ‘public’ with my feelings or experience may push him further. Your words are comforting in their truth. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mother Erased helps me greatly to understand the position my girls are in…thank you very much. This is my first comment on your blog…..

    2 years ago, my then 10 year old daughter wrote this story and left it open in a journal for me to find it. This Thanksgiving, her older sister spent the first night with me in 3 years. She won’t come if her father is home, but she is learning how to swim when she is safe:)

    The swimming Journey
    By: Princess Lilly
    10 years old

    Once upon a time there was a princess and her mom and dad loved her very much and so did her sister (the other princess.) The two princesses were very close and told each other all there secrets and embarrassing stories. One’s name is Lilly or Princess Lilly and the older sister’s name was Erica. There was not one day when they weren’t together. They were sisters by chance but friends by choice. They would swim together, eat together, play together, sing together, dance together and even breathe together. One day Lilly swam out to sea and came back a few days later …. It became a daily thing, but Erika refused to come when Lilly asked because she did not know how to swim far so Erika only saw Lilly ½ of the time. They both missed each other like crazy and wished things would go back to normal, but no luck. Lilly felt like she had no choice but to go to sea, otherwise she wouldn’t know how to swim anymore. Erika wanted to stay in her home and so did Lilly. They just wanted to stay in the castle with the king and queen like before. And so they thought they had to do something about it. But one day the queen was stolen and the only way to get her back was to swim to her, but Erika didn’t know how to swim and Lilly refused to go without her, so Lilly had to teach Erika how to swim and one day Erika got it perfectly. It was great! They swam and rescued the mom!

    … they lived happily ever after!

    The end!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. As an alienated mother of over 10 years I am always touched by your posts as they help me understand what my own two wonderful boys of nearly 20 and 17 must be going through. I truly hope that my boys can one day find the strength and courage to reflect on the truth of the situation they have been emotionally forced into as you have. I admire your strength, ability to love through the overwhelming influence of hate and embrace life positively. I would very much like to be in touch and have provided my contact details.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Is there anything we can do? I wonder if victims can see their own story better when they read about other families. I can’t help but think that the more who share their stories, the less judgment, the more understanding and integrity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think about your question a lot and I am very conflicted about it… The reality is that I would share my story if I could be sure that there isn’t any transparency in my community. I can’t share what happens here because my children will be even more harmed by the truth…at least right now. In their young eyes their Dad is a hero and he has convinced them that without his approval they are not safe. It took me nearly 20 years to stand up to him…..they are still just so young. I recognize that I am fortunate that I can chip away at the alienation while they are with me (my 15 year old has recently started coming,) but so many others have no access at all. If/when my girls truly realize what is happening to them and how they are used to punish me they will be devastated. For now when they come over we laugh and reminisce and hug a lot….I am so grateful for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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