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. 

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9 thoughts on “Two sisters, two journeys

  1. Thank you for sharing your experiences with parental alienation… this is truly a form of emotional and psychological abuse. You are brave to speak out, and I know so many will be helped by what you have shared.

    I also want to add that when an abuser or alienator enters family court, the war intensifies. Fit, loving parents are losing custody due to unjust court orders – and being prevented from having any contact with their children. Or being forced into supervised visitation or just given very limited visitation. In many situations if a parent were to call a child on the phone or maybe wave to a child across the park or try to make contact after a court order has prohibited them from doing so that parents could face jail, monetary fines, loss of parenting time or loss of custody. Courts frequently order parents with no history of mental illness into “therapy” or “parental alienation therapy” or “co-parenting classes”. Many of the providers and therapists are selected by the court or GAL, and work with the court – so they come in with an agenda, which is almost always stacked against the targeted parent.

    The therapy often directs a parent not to talk about abuse or talk about concerns with their child’s safety or well-being. A parent who continues to raise concerns is labelled incorrectly with mental illness, falsely accused of alienation (which the real alienator goes unpunished) or is told that they are a danger to their child (while the real abuser goes free).

    So the fit, loving parent has been forcibly removed from their life and now prohibited from having any contact. I know parents who have not have contact with children in years due to these kinds of situations… and the kids believe the lies because they do not understand why their parent has left them or has not made contact or has missed all the special events in their life.

    This is truly a horrific situation. The family court and GAL program is desperately need of reform, with increased education for GALsm judges and other court officers.

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  2. Can you please help my daughter and I, I was accused of Parental alienation the father was domestic violence he was the only one on the stand and the judge give full custody to the father and he’s domestic violence and abusive to our daughter she’s 11 we are both a mess I truly hope you can On Apr 12, 2016 2:31 PM, “Mother Erased: a memoir” wrote:

    > mothererased posted: “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. ” >

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear of your heart wrenching situation. I have heard so many stories where the courts end up doing more harm in these situations. I am sure you are continuing to reach out to your daughter in whatever ways that you can. Please consider visiting the blog of Dr. Childress; you may find some bits of information there that can help you. https://drcraigchildressblog.com/ I wish I could help every parent and child going through this. I hope my writing and speaking about PA will help in some ways. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no influence over the family court system. I do hold out hope that things will change drastically for the better for parents and children suffering from PA. Take care of yourself. Your daughter needs you to stay strong.

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  3. Congratulations on achieving your insight into the PA your suffered. Thank you for seeking ways to help others by increase awareness from your unique and valuable perspective!

    I am not a therapist and have no formal training…just experiences and an opinion.

    I’ve been tempted to write about denial. If most people are like me, denial was something your could accuse someone of, with the thought that they could control their denial. I guess because the definition has 2 meanings: (1) when a child denies they ate the cookie (2) “failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or admit it into consciousness, used as a defense mechanism”.

    Denial as a defense mechanism, I believe, is a positive thing in many circumstances. It let’s us live our lives despite a potential pain that could derail us. Some situations we may use denial as a short-term thing and then it is more healthy to allow (or be guided) to bring the issue out of denial and to the surface. Maybe not. Your sister appears to be in the “maybe” not category right now.

    Thanks for the great blog and good luck! 🙂

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  4. Reblogged this on Parental Alienation- UNCOVERED and commented:
    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.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this. It happened to me as a child (reversed, mother alienating against dad) and now I am re-living this horror with my own child, I am the alienated mom.) Your words about only being able to live in the truth resonate with me as that is how I feel, I can’t live any other way and having family members not believe in PA and question whether it’s true or “partly true” has driven me to the brink many times. I am learning to surrender and re-learn that I can’t control anything or anyone but myself. Stay strong, you’re doing good things!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Oakland Magpie. I am so sorry to hear you are going through PA as a parent now. I can hardly thing of anything much worse than that. Also, I understand what you mean about the terrible feeling of people not knowing what is happening to you. I think the desire to shed light on it is what prompted me writing my story.

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