"I chose to empower myself and not stay "stuck", following what I am truly passionate about: helping families..."
I feel like this path chose me, I did not choose it. Life has a way of putting you in situations, forcing you to grow and you can either take it and empower yourself and others, or you can wither away under the weight of it. I chose to empower myself and not stay "stuck", following what I am truly passionate about; helping families navigate complicated dynamics successfully while protecting our most precious gifts...children.
My story is like an onion. There are so many layers to it that it’s almost impossible to share it effectively without opening a novel.
I grew up in a high-conflict broken home with my earliest memories being of my mom and dad screaming and fighting. By the age of 3, my parents separated and, to make matters even worse, my dad died when I was only 8 years old. One thing that I didn't understand growing up is that I came from a long line of generational trauma, which included my mom being alienated from her own father. I had to learn this in my adulthood, which has helped me a lot now, but certainly didn't help me growing up.
Over 17 years ago I fell in love with a man that was a father to beautiful twin girls. The dedication and warmth he displayed to his children was one of the many reasons that I loved him, and we looked forward to a one family, two household structure we would share with their mother. Never would I have thought that saying "yes" to taking this journey with him would interlace me in a battle that felt like was for his life and for the lives of his children. What seemed like petty games of withholding the children and then allowing time lead to his journey as an alienated parent, losing all contact from his children and being completely erased from their lives.
Watching your spouse being erased from their children’s lives is like watching your spouse drown. A crowd gathers as spectators (including family) do nothing. You scream to the crowd, begging for help as they move towards him to watch, while some laugh and say, “He’s not drowning!” Some even come along to hold his head under. You cannot swim and the person holding the life preserver is the other parent.
This was the chaotic two-step we desperately tried to join without ever knowing exactly when to step left or step right. The music track playing was called “doubt”, and was a powerful tool used to manipulate and change our lives forever.
After we first met, my husband and I began receiving threats and were the targets of vandalism. From the inside, my husband was repeatedly and persistently told by the mother of his children that they were never his. The outside world, however, was hearing a much different version of events. My husband was painted as a “dead-beat” dad who was “refusing to believe” to all his friends, family, co-workers, and even his bosses…to the outside world, he was someone who had abandoned his family for having left the relationship with his children’s mother.
Imagine repeating words that you were continually told, “they’re not my kids” while spectators only scoff in judgement at your callousness and lack of ownership of your ultimate responsibility. He did succumb to the pressure of needing to be responsible for his girls for some time, as friends began to mysteriously turn on him and family would say, “Don’t be like your father!” He was very involved with them at first, all while their mother continued to whisper into his ear that he was raising someone else’s children.
The persistent hum of doubt in the background ultimately affected the attachment he developed with his girls; however, the judgement placed on him by those closest to him and the thought of him being a “dead-beat” like his dad – the ultimate insult – encouraged him to remain in the fight even after separating from his children’s mother. But the message continued throughout the years…”They’re not yours. I don’t even know why you care.”
Eventually, she filed for sole custody and, on the poor advice of our lawyer that we trusted, we agreed to her terms in the interim. We were told this would make his fight for custody easier because he would appear cooperative. Before the ink was dry on the page, their mother stopped all contact completely, and one day, the phone on the other end didn’t have a ring tone, but rather, a “this line is not in service” message. They were gone.
My husband asked his mom for help in locating them, but she refused to get involved and we later found out that she was seeing the children the whole time and knew their whereabouts. Little did we know that the pictures of my husband were taken off his mother’s piano and he was being erased.
12 years into this journey of alienation, we were able to finally reconnect with his beloved girls. Relieved, I thought this was the end of this horrific journey, but it was only the beginning. I experienced first-hand the unbearable pain an alienated child endures, the ignorance of the legal system to the topic of parental alienation, and the negative effects that well-meaning mental health professionals and lawyers can have.
After finding the girls on social media, we heard stories of the horrific abuse and neglect they were subjected to, and they begged for myself and my husband to help them. We discovered that they were raised to believe their stepfather was their biological father. They were told we were “bad people” who used to be friends with their mother, and their names were changed. My husband had been completely erased.
At the age of 15, we were granted a protective separation from the court and the girls came into our care for 10 months. This was the hardest 10 months of my life! Don’t get me wrong… we had amazing weeks with them, but a protective separation does not heal parental alienation. This is a splitting pathology, and the reality of what happened was far too painful for the girls because they love both parents…even the one doing the erasing. We just didn't have the skills we needed at that time to navigate what was ahead of us and the twins eventually ran away to my husband's family, who, we discovered, kept their location secret from us yet again.
Taking what we thought was the only available path out pushed my husband’s children further from accepting the love they want from their father, myself and their siblings and further into a life riddled with attachment related pathology, anger and misplaced identity.
To further the grief the twins endured being raised in pathology, they lost their mother in death. Many think that the death of an alienating parent will end the legacy of alienation. This is not the case. It only ingrains the transmission of the delusional narrative further.
Imagine losing someone you love (because all children love both parents despite their shortcomings), and feeling the guilt of only having a living parent that was alienated from you. Knowing that that parent who is living was hated by the parent you were grieving. Would it not feel like the final and ultimate betrayal to your lost parent to accept the alienated parent's love?
Pathogenic parenting is not a one-person problem. It does not end with that parent. It is a family pathology, a trans-generational transmission of trauma. So not even hours had passed following the death of my step-children's mother, when family from both sides of his twins' family stepped into their mother's role and continued the alienation. Imagine losing both your parents in death...one physically and one psychologically. It is the ultimate in grief.
After witnessing my husband deal with the most painful loss a parent can experience for a second time, and my health seriously diminishing due to the stress, I made the decision to help children like my step-daughters receive the love they deserve from both parents. Knowing what I know now, I strongly feel that if I’m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem.
Now are you ready for a plot twist? Remember that “dead-beat dad” my husband didn’t want to be like? Well, it was through experiencing this nightmare of a journey as an alienated parent that my husband realized that he, too, was an alienated child.