How do I survive the pain of Parental Alienation?
People contact us from around the world on a daily basis looking for help, resources, encouragement, facts, laws and strategies. But the one overriding theme and prevailing question that we receive more than any other is, “How do I survive the horrifying and life-changing affects that my child and I have experienced because of parental alienation?”
This site is filled with a plethora of resources and suggestions for addressing multiple facets of the complex problem of PA. But no matter where you’re at in your personal journey ultimately you need to be able to understand, address and survive the brutal onslaught of attack, conflict and loss associated with this form of abuse.
Regardless of whether you end up maintaining a positive relationship with your children, or end up losing all contact with them, your life and relationship with them will never be the same. The bad news is that there is no going back. The good news is that after the dust has settled, they may well realize that you are the safe and sane parent and the alienator is not. Once you overcome attempts by the alienating parent to damage or destroy your relationship with your child, you may develop an even deeper bond of love and mutual respect than before.
But even in the best case, you will still need to deal with the fallout of negative emotions that are associated with going through this type of trauma. And in a worst case scenario, you will have lost the love, respect and many times all contact with your child. And most likely, you will have invested every dime you have trying to obtain “justice” in court along the way.
Let’s look at the typical stages and progression of events in a severe case of alienation.
- Most alienation starts long before an actual breakup, divorce or separation.
- The alienating parent begins making derogatory comments about the targeted parent to the children when that parent is not present. As things escalate they become much more overt in their attack. They make sure to berate, ridicule or disrespect the targeted parent in front of the children any chance they get, to reduce the authority of that parent in the children’s minds. They constantly attempt to “recruit” the children to see them as the favored or “good” parent and view the other parent as the inferior, inept or “bad” parent. At this point, the targeted parent rarely understands the goal of the alienator. They usually think that their spouse is just being rude or disrespectful to them, but they fail to realize the impact of these tactics on their relationship with their children.
- Unfortunately, after a period of time the majority of children subjected to these types of tactics are not only persuaded to believe what they are being programmed to believe, but they begin to view the targeted parent as weak or inferior. They actually begin to attack and demean the parent themselves to ingratiate themselves to the “powerful” or “superior” alienating parent.
- At some point there is usually a separation or divorce.
- During the initial divorce proceedings or at some point in the future, the alienator decides to control or destroy the targeted parent through the children. They employ a “winner-take-all” attitude and will stop at nothing to obtain their goals.
- There is usually extensive litigation during this phase. Statistically speaking, the alienator will use false accusations of fear, abuse, neglect or other tactics to isolate the targeted parent from the children. The family court system makes it easy for most alienator’s to achieve their goal of extricating the targeted parent from their child’s life. But as they go through this process they are able to financially and emotionally decimate the targeted parent as well.
- At this point one of several things may have happened. The alienating parent has successfully severed the relationship of the targeted parent with the child. This can happen with or without the court’s assistance. The alienating parent may “win” in court and obtain a court order preventing any contact with the child. Or, the targeted parent receives a verbal reprimand from the judge to stop alienating the targeted parent but the damage is already done to the children. They disrespect and “choose” not to see the targeted parent of their “own free will”. Many times the judge shrugs their shoulders and says there is nothing they can do to “force” the child to spend time with the targeted parent. Or in a best case scenario, the court recognizes and appropriately addresses the alienation tactics. The child is able to withstand the attempts to brainwash them and grows even closer to the safe parent.
I have just described a very typical progression of events that a targeted parent will go through. What we haven’t talked about is the impact of going through all of that. Do you remember that I said in my previous intro to this series that many people contact us in the pit of despair? That some of them are contemplating suicide as a result of what they have been through?
How do you survive what many professionals describe as post traumatic syndrome? What do you do with intense feelings of rejection from children that once loved and honored you? How do you deal with feelings of betrayal, hate and bitterness towards a vindictive ex-spouse that would abuse their own child just to hurt you? How do you deal with the shock and injustice of false accusations, or the way that the legal system works? How do you deal with your feelings toward what you perceive to be a corrupt or inept judge that has the power to keep you from your own children? How do you stop the pain, anger, bitterness and hopelessness from destroying you?
There are many practical things that you can do to help yourself survive and move forward. Here are some of the actions and perspective that can help you to survive. I know they work because I utilized all of them.
- Grow deeper in your faith in God
- Forgive your enemies
- Love your child unconditionally even if they reject and disrespect you
- Put your children first – make every decision with their best interest in mind because your ex-spouse is incapable of doing so – you are the sane and safe parent, make every effort to stay that way
- Speak truth to your children about the situation and the behavior of your ex – without attacking your ex
- Seek professional help for you and your children’s relationship
- Don’t sacrifice your own integrity or standards just because your ex has
- Remember that lies, deception, politics and corruption may have a temporary victory, but eventually there will come a day of accountability for every evil deed ever done
- You can never determine what people say or think about you, only what they ought to
- In the event that you are separated from your children, make a website to communicate your ongoing love and commitment to them
- Seek counseling, read books and surround yourself with people that can support you in your pain and help you to maintain a healthy perspective
- Set goals and work toward your own personal, spiritual, and physical nurturing and growth
- Attend church, read your bible and other books to grow deeper in your faith
- Look for ways to serve others in your church, neighbors, friends and relatives
- Get involved with organizations (or start one) to make a difference for others so they don’t have to experience the pain that you have (legal reform, resources, divorce-care, support groups etc.)
- Speak into the lives of people around you that are in difficult marriages or going through a divorce to stop them from poisoning their children against their spouse
- Promote awareness of parental alienation to bring about change in our legal system and society
- Remember that even if an alienator is successful in their campaign to destroy your relationship with your children, they are the one that is being poisoned by the venom and insatiable need to control that they carry inside of them
- Everyone is “victimized” at some point in their life but no one has to live like a victim – living as a victim is a choice – if you choose to do so, then the perpetrator has truly won their greatest victory in your life
- Let the struggles and tragedies in this life compel you to seek deep and lasting answers far beyond the superficial
In my life, the only real and lasting hope that I’ve ever found to deal with these issues is in Jesus Christ. Yes, there are other factors that are important in surviving this type of tragedy but most of those just help to manage the pain they don’t get to the root of the pain and anger.
I f you read my story you know a small part of what I have been through. My sons and I were forcefully ripped apart in 1999 through the use of a PPO that my ex-wife easily obtained from a judge. I was never even accused of breaking a law yet was treated like a criminal for over 4 years by the judge in my case. I wasn’t allowed to contact my children in any capacity under threat of jail. I never got to say goodbye to them or explain what had happened. My ex-wife and the judge in my case made quite a team. They both achieved their goal of severing me from my son’s lives. My sons were ages 4 & 7 in 1999. They are 19 and 21 as I write this. And although they both know that I love them and would like a relationship with them, they still believe what they have been told about me by their mother. I lost over $150,000 in attorney fees, a house, a business and both of my sons. The only thing that kept an even greater tragedy from occurring after these events was my faith in Christ…
Not everyone believes in God. If you don’t, you may wonder why others do. Sure, you probably know the clichés that many memorize and use about people “needing a crutch”, and “not using their brains” etc. But what is your personal answer to the question “Does God exist?”, and what difference does it make if He does? Are you tired, weary, angry and disillusioned yet? This world is brutal, but it’s especially hard when you can’t make sense of it. In my opinion, it takes much more faith to believe that there is no God than to believe that there is one. If you are at the point where you are looking for serious, real, life-changing answers about God, life and His plan for mankind then stick around for the rest of this series and see if there is anything worthwhile here for you. You may also want to consider reading “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell or “Finding God” by Larry Crabb, while you’re going through this series.
- If you already believe in God, then you probably have several other questions.
- Is God really in control?
- If God is in control then why do lies, deception and corruption still seem to prevail in the “real” world?
- If God is love than how can he allow this in my child’s life?
- How can I ever forgive my ex or the judge and why should I?
- How can I trust God when He doesn’t seem to care?
- Does God really have a plan for humanity?
- Does He have a plan for my life?
- How do I pick up the pieces and move on with my life when all I feel is pain and anger?
- Will God ever restore my relationship with my child?
I think you’d agree that those are some pretty tough but real questions that we ask ourselves as we deal with crisis and tragedy in our life, especially if you are a targeted parent of parental alienation.
If you’re already a Christian, hold onto and grow deep in your faith at all costs. You may want to consider reading “Disappointment with God” or “Where is God When it Hurts?” Both are written by Phillip Yancey, or “Finding God” by Larry Crabb.
I will be back next week to deal with some of the previously stated topics in more depth. In the meantime, have a great day!