Let me paint a picture for you. Its a true snapshot of my previous couple of weeks. Perhaps it encapsulates some of what it is like to be a long term alienated parent.
Achieving any contact with my only child has been an exhausting painful struggle for a decade and its been over 5 years since we last had normal contact together. Since then we have shared less than 8 hours’ contact, some of which were in a Court setting. She is now 18 and I am still yet to share an evening meal with her in her teens. She has cut off her entire paternal family with whom she had beautiful loving bonds, without ever articulating the slightest reason for doing so.
Whilst at work my mind drifted to my daughter and I felt the gnawing angst of heartache and hopelessness envelope me as it has done many times every day for many years. So I thought I would try to physically get past this wave of emotion by calling her mobile phone and maybe leaving a short loving message. I always hesitate to leave a message because how many can you leave saying the same thing?
So I dialled and waited for the call to inevitably ring out. I had to firstly hide my caller ID because she has my number blocked. But it didn’t ring out. My daughter answered. Hallelujah! In the previous two years this had only happened once before – and she had given me less than 30 seconds. I had to think quickly. I managed to keep her on the line for 28 glorious minutes while she attacked me mercilessly with all sorts of distorted accusations and apparent injustices.
But I was ready. Most long term alienated parents have an overwhelming need to understand what the hell has happened to their beautiful bond with their child. The internet is making this thirst for understanding easier and I have devoured the research of Childress, the wisdom of Woodall and most authors in this field. I have joined various support groups because the living death of your own child is a pain to which only other alienated parents can truly relate. I understand parental alienation like I could write a thesis on it. I know my daughter is blameless and is suffering. My role is always to help her first and foremost.
So I stayed very calm and simply let her vent. And vent she did! A great deal of anger poured down the phone at me. She gave me no update on her life except that she was not currently at University, which is what I had come to believe. The previous year, the only way I even knew she was alive was because I received 3 school reports in the mail. I must have read those reports a hundred times. I somehow managed to throw in a couple of beautiful memories into our one sided chat and somehow I think I felt her armour melting ever so slightly.
Suddenly she had to go as she was getting on public transport. I fumbled to ask when we might talk again and she suggested I call her “next week”. She was still cold towards me but I didn’t really care. What does it say about the experience of being alienated from your child when the only words you hear after two years are angry words of accusation and blame for things unknown or for trying to reach out, yet it feels like the best day of your life. I was so elated I felt this little attack on me was like winning the lottery.
Friday to Sunday
I’m on top of the world because I felt our bond is still there just below the surface and for the first time in too long she has surfaced for air. I write in my social media, ” I will be on her mind tonight. Has she turned a corner? Maybe, maybe not – but she heard the Dad she once knew – and there’s no substitute for that – ever.”
Should I call? Should I call? I give in and call. No answer but that’s fine. I don’t bother her with a message.
Again I try and leave a very brief happy message.
She did ask me to call her and she suggested this week so I tried at different times of the afternoon and evening. No luck but I can feel the doubt creeping in. I’ve been through these false starts many times before and I simply can’t bear to contemplate being thrown into the wilderness yet again, wondering whether it will take a month or another year or another ten years- or more. Parental instinct rails against it and I am trying to keep the hope contained and the frustration at bay.
Tried twice. No result. I am losing heart.
I have left nice messages. I try to deny it but I can feel the panic rising. I simply can’t go through this again. My appetite has gone. My chest is tight. I am irritable and argumentative. I am waking each morning at 4am again. Hello stress – I know you so well after all these years.
Saturday and Sunday
No response to my calls. The elation has been totally replaced by despair. In quiet reflective moments on my own I am in tears. This is no way to live. I can’t take this roller coaster ride anymore. I want to get off. I cannot bear to think that all I will be left with from that call is her anger. Is she lost forever? The uncertainty and the worry about her emotional welfare is overwhelming and is a torture beyond compare. How many more years will I have to hear people say “When she’s older…..”
I could never leave my beautiful wife (and my daughter) but I do find myself wondering about the dads that end this pain by checking out of life itself. I can really understand how that could happen – but its not for me. I can traverse the emotional quicksand much quicker than a few years ago when the treachery stripped me bare. But its always torture.
I read an article online entitled “The Drama of the Alienated Child (2). I get quite emotional and simply feel a need and a parental responsibility to send this to the mother. Why can’t she see what our child is going through? I send the link in a two line email. For so many years I’ve forced myself to write politely but this time I am so emotionally downtrodden and tired of trying to reason with an angry irrational ex spouse about our daughter’s welfare that I simply call her what I know to be true – an ignorant abuser.
Sure enough, although I have not engaged him in any way for over 8 years, I promptly receive a long abusive email from the stepfather, using the mother’s email address to blame me and threaten me. The letter is barely about my daughter’s welfare. But it certainly is about attacking me personally. The particularly nasty sentences are typed in giant bold red font as if they then can’t be disputed. If it wasn’t so sad it may be amusing. It upsets me for a minute then I put it out of my mind. What was I thinking anyway? Trying to communicate with the mother is an exercise in futility that simply gives her husband a chance to strut his ego and enjoy interfering in another father’s parent – daughter relationship. Who does that? The thing is though, while they get their kicks sticking pins in their voodoo doll of me, they are deliberately ignoring the cacophony of warning bells sounding all around our daughter.
I’ve stopped trying. I recognise exactly where I am in my anger and depression. But knowing the 5 stages of grief and knowing the landscape of parental alienation doesn’t make it change. Nothing can make it change unless I get some contact with my daughter. I just have to go through the motions.
My wife and I decide to go out locally for dinner. She knows I am down and she is very supportive. I’m lucky. A few more days and I’ll be back where I was – enjoying life, but not to the fullest. It can never be to the fullest while my daughter is alive but non existent.
We sit down and I see a txt message on my phone. I read it. I smile at my wife. She thinks I must have won lotto or something. Its a message from my daughter, ” I know I said I would talk last week but working… really tired…I will try and call later in the week when I have some time off”.
Suddenly the little black cloud following me around has vanished and the sun is shining. To an alienated parent even a non committal bland text like that is money from heaven. Of course it may not happen but she didn’t have to send that. Its a good sign and I’m going to enjoy the feeling.
Ten days later.
I haven’t heard anything more. I’ve sent a gentle reminder that I am waiting to hear back from her and that it means a great deal to me. I called and left a light loving message to that effect. But nothing.
Here we go again.
This is typical of the life of an alienated parent. This is my life.
Alienated parents live a life in limbo until their children return. Alienated children need society to wake up to this emotional kidnapping.