Today starts a three-part guest post by Jacqui on Parental Alienation. I want this blog to be inspirational and motivational, to be a support for women facing the challenges of divorce. It would be great if all divorces could go smoothly and it’s all one big happy blended family afterwards but that’s not the reality. There’s lots of ugliness about divorce and Parental Alienation is ugly.
It’s a controversial topic and it’s not universally accepted as a true outcome of one parent’s behavior. We judge divorces all the time – “it was her fault” or “they should have stayed married” or “he was too good for her.” For parental alienation, we disbelieve that an ex could behave in such a harmful, venegful and hurtful manner.
I urge you not to be judgmental – there are only two people who truly understand what goes on in a marriage. Read Jacqui’s story. Try to understand how she, as an alienated parent feels and how she motivates herself to continue despite the monumental barriers that have been thrown at her.
Jacqui isn’t her real name – it’s a name I’ve chosen for her because she needs to stay anonymous. She’s a mother of three living-children and lives with her seventeen-year-old high school senior. Her other two girls are twenty-seven and twenty-five. She’s alienated from her eldest daughter. Jacqui was married for twenty-seven years and separated four years ago. She’s been divorced for a year. Here’s Jacqui:
When I cannot sleep, which is often, I search the internet for free knitting patterns, garden design, and entries on parental alienation.
Knitting and gardening, constant comforts since my teens yield welcome web pages. Parental alienation websites, however, greet me with something else: confirmation that my pain is real. The loss of a child is nightmarish. I know: one child died just weeks before a mid-summer due date. I still think about that small face, her butterfly-bluish eyelids closed, but tiny rosebud mouth just open. Now, I experience another death, a long grief without a map and with few companions. One child does not speak to me and has not since about six weeks into our separation. The loss is unbearable. Yet, somehow I keep breathing, working, and living.
In the process of my divorce, I worried about the effects on my children. Losses, grief, anger, confusion. For all of us, these emotions waxed and waned in no particular order. Two of my living children have settled into the pattern of wanting to be fair, choosing silence about some of the hard things, moving between his house/my house. But one child has no pattern other than refuse to see me.
Days into the separation, I had no idea that I would lose one of my children. I was making peace with losing my marriage and financial support (stay-at-home mother, with part-time arts business). This child, who appeared as my ex-spouse’s primary witness, avoids me. This child was coached to testify that I engaged in multiple affairs during our long marriage. I thought this was an exaggerated strategy to cover up his affair. However, my attorney commented,
“No, this is about wounding you to the quick. Sometimes parents hate the former spouse more than they love their children.”
He wisely and gently told me that I needed a very sensitive and capable therapist to help me exist in this hell of parental alienation.
The separation is — at its heart — the unknitting of an essential bond between parent and child. The unknitter is the former spouse, which adds a additional dimension of emotional pain.
“I am the mother of your children; how can you do this to all here?”
No answer. At first, I thought: this will settle down in a few months, especially if I remain calm, fair, and do not respond in kind.
When this loss became clearer — in the fog of divorce, we don’t count all actions and patterns as permanent. “This too shall pass.” — I was devastated. This ripping asunder of the fabric of love is such a pain that it almost takes my breath away. Still. Now. As I write this. Indeed, I understand the wish to die. How else can such a pain be relieved? Who can bear such a burden?
The Divorce Coach Says
More about parental alienation and how Jacqui copes to come but to give you some hope, she says she believes that her kindness and love will reap some fruit even if she doesn’t see it or taste it.
Parental alienation is a topic the Divorce Encouragist feels strongly about. As a divorce coach she’s witnessed it in varying degrees of severity and says it can result in missing limbs from the family tree. She recently reviewed the DVD, Welcome Back, Pluto by Dr. Richard A. Warshak and recommends Warshak as an excellent resource on the topic.
Have you experienced PAS? Is it still on-going or are you reconciled with your child? What helps during the separation? What helped you reconcile?