Question for alienated parents

Here is my question for alienated parents:  If your adult child were to reach out to reconnect with you, how would you feel if they maintained a relationship with the alienating parent? Would that taint your reconnection? Make you fearful, uncomfortable, distrusting of the intentions of your child?

I have a friend who was in an abusive relationship in her twenties. She told me that even now, decades later, she would be emotionally triggered by seeing that ex.  She also said that she would want to avoid relationships with anyone who had any connection to him. I asked her, what if that person who maintained contact with your ex was your own child?  She seemed to think that would still be a problem, perhaps a big obstacle. She does not have any children so she was speaking purely hypothetically. But still, it was interesting to get her perspective.

My alienated mother’s family has welcomed me lovingly. But I cannot help but wonder if they have to consciously fight the urge to view me as ‘the one from enemy territory’. I especially wonder if this may be the case for my mother. After all, the person who hurt her beyond repair is still in my life. Even when I realized with clarity what role my father played in the alienation, I did not push him out of my life. At times I have wanted to, but ultimately I believe in forgiveness.

I am interested in the thoughts of alienated parents on this matter.

 

*Please visit me at https://danalaquidara.com/

 

 

 

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The Stories We Tell

Published in 1995, The Liars’ Club dramatically revived the art of memoir. Mary Carr’s command of the English language, along with her honesty, grit and courage left me in awe. I read Carr’s other memoirs as well and by the end of the last one I actually felt a sense of grief parting with these real life characters I had gotten to know so well.

Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini is fiction that reads like memoir. Like a lot of fiction, the author’s real experiences are on the page. Calling it fiction allowed his father, the tyrant in the story, to temporarily deny its truth. Conroy offers up his angst to the page, one scene at a time. Like Mary Carr’s, his words do not convey self-pity, but rather a detached yet descriptive unfolding of his history. In the end, his father owned up to the truths in the book, and the two men redeemed their relationship.

I considered writing my book as fiction, but have made my choice to call it what it is, a memoir. Still, I definitely understand Conroy’s choice. To call a true story fiction is an act of self-protection, or maybe of protection of others as well, to offer them up the possibility that it was all made up. It’s just a tale, something from nothing, no big deal, we can all go home now. I do see the appeal in that.

My own memoir-in-progress tells the story of being alienated from my mother after my parents’ volatile divorce, when I was four.

Secrets and suffering are ingredients of nearly every memoir.  Mine is no exception.

My father threw my mother out of our home when he discovered her affair, and capitalizing on her shame and her already low self-esteem, he essentially bullied her out of my life completely. My mother, a broken woman after five years of marriage with a man who intimidated her, after some struggle to maintain contact with us, slipped away quietly.

My father remarried soon after and insisted we call his second wife “Mom”.  He convinced himself he had put life back in order and he never mentioned my mother again.

The absence of truth is usually a lie, and in the case of family tragedy, pretending to the outside world that all is well leads the most introspective amongst us to take notes, both literally and metaphorically speaking. My memoir is the accumulation of all my mental notes. They started when I was four.

I know something of that need to bring “the thing” to light by way of the written word.  The desire is compelling, and almost beyond choice.  Most memoirists have suffered greatly before they craft their story for the public. But many suffer even more afterwards, or so I hear. That part is scary and surely tests the desire to offer the story up to the world.

From the outside, my family was ordinary by anyone’s standards.   But the loss of my mother was extraordinary and therefore I must write it.

As I am nearing the end of it, I imagine my father’s response to my words.  He somehow had convinced himself that erasing my mother was excusable, even necessary.  To face 250 pages from the lens of my loss is not going to sit well with him. But it is also quite possible that he will never read it.

And I understand that- the not wanting to read it- or even needing to deny that it is written. I empathize with the pain of being exposed, and the vulnerability.

And in the depths of my soul, I know that we are all vulnerable.  My father has been my teacher and the lessons have been hard, really hard. But I believe in something of a soul agreement, chosen before we even come here to this this side of the veil.  It helps to believe that I actually chose my particular lessons, and that  I needed my father to help carry them out. We all have our lessons, and my story just happens to contain mine.

I hope I am learning to speak up for myself and make up for the betrayal of childhood; to dig through the rubble and reach authenticity, even when it hurts like hell.  I hope I am learning truth and courage and forgiveness too.

I have written what I have lived, my experiences, my thoughts, my feelings, my words.  And that’s all a writer can do in the end, is just to say it is the truth, her truth, and hope others can understand that  it had to be told.

Parental Alienation Support Group in Massachusetts

Parental Alienation – Parent Support Group (free)
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
   6:30 – 8:45 PM
Location: Walpole Public Library Children’s Programming Room 143 School Street, Walpole, MA 02081
Agenda: Voluntary attendee sharing and educational strategies.
Previous session comments:  “I no longer feel that I’m alone in this.”, “I had become hopeless and now I feel better.”, “It was great to hear ideas of what works.”, “Thank you very much, I hope you will have more sessions for me to attend.”
or  helpingparents123@yahoo.com  (Brian) for questions, to receive info and meeting updates
This will be our 3rd session.  FYI – the previous sessions were 75% Moms and 25% Dads.  I (Brian) started these sessions because my children and I suffered the effects of Parental Alienation (PA) several years ago, and I felt helpless and frustrated by the lack of PA knowledge by schools, therapists, lawyers, and courts.
This support group provides parents with empathy, education, shared experiences, & skill building ideas that will empower you to be more effective responding to PA.

Memoir Update

20160617_074548In my last post, I wrote about my intention to discuss the alienation (from my mother) with my father, and to include mention of my memoir-in-progress.  https://wordpress.com/stats/insights/thefourthagreement.wordpress.com

Shortly after writing that, my father experienced a health crisis, which he is now recovering from. I am waiting until he is fully recovered from this before I initiate this overdue conversation with him.

In the meantime, I am continuing to edit my memoir, and am remaining open to a new ending.  I have received some encouraging responses to my writing, but the search for a literary agent continues. I have been told it is somewhat of a numbers game, and that as long as the proposal is the best we can make it, we have to be willing to send it to many, many agents before finding our match. Memoir is a tough genre, but it is the one I have been called to write in, so onward I go. I am trying to find a balance between searching for the next literary agent to send my proposal to, and spending my time polishing my memoir. In addition, I suspect the conversation with my father, once it finally happens, may change the ending of my book.

Although I know it can be a long, arduous process, I am very hopeful that my book will eventually be out into the world. It feels very purposeful to me, and at the risk of sounding mystical, I believe that our souls are not given authentic desires without also being given the means to achieve those desires. It is a matter of doing our best, persevering even when it is very difficult, and having faith in the timing of things.

In addition to completing my memoir, and finding a literary agent and publisher, I plan to create a website which will contain my articles, blog and other information all in one spot. I would like to combine my passion for simplifying, which I write about on my other blog, Musing Simplicity, with my work on “parent alienation” issues.

Although the two topics seem to be vastly unrelated,  they are not. I believe it is by clearing out the clutter in all its forms, that we are able to reach our authentic selves. It is this Self that carries our wounds as well as our strengths. Clear the clutter, face the wounds, find your strength. It is that simple and that difficult.

So that is my goal: in the spirit of simplicity, one website, one blog, with my name on it. Choice by choice, and word by word, and day by day, I hope I am always moving forward. To harness the lessons of the past and shine them on the present-perhaps that is the best we can do.

 

 

 

 

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