I recently wrote that I have more or less reached a level of acceptance after more than a decade in the parental alienation trenches. I have not got my daughter back in my life (yet), but I feel I have at least climbed out of that soul crushing trench, brushed myself off and am continuing my own life’s journey.
When I was thrust into this battle over a decade ago there was no support that I could find. The life saving PA social media support groups were not yet established. Research and understanding of PA has come a long way since the Eureka moment when I realised that this was what was happening to my daughter – and it not only had a name, but others were in this trench too.
Whether your child returns quickly, takes many years, or never returns – for your own health you will need to reach a level of acceptance of what has happened. It doesn’t mean giving up. Giving up is surrender. I’ll never surrender. Acceptance requires strength and courage when you think its spent but you find it anyway. It simply means being comfortable with what you can change, what you can’t change and what is.
I believe acceptance of this intolerable situation is unlikely to be reached just because you want it. You need to arm yourself and come out the other side. If I could turn the clock back I would have liked to know the following steps in my process and the armoury I built up to protect me and propel me – scarred, but unbroken, and embracing the future.
- Learn the 5 stages of grief: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance. For me these were accurate but definitely not linear. They can swirl and come and go. Acceptance is your destination. Its achievable and its a better place to be.
- Always use the BIFF method in any written communication to the other parent- Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm.
- Arm yourself with knowledge. It is your defence and your weapon but above all, its your duty as a parent to understand what your child is going through from their perspective. For example, your alienated child will have supressed grief and guilt. They may display anger, frustration and ambivalence and how you react to that will test any parent. If your love for your child really is unconditional then you will need the specific antidotes for anger, frustration and ambivalence. They are love, knowledge and patience. Love will come easy. Knowledge is critical because it will let you see the why your child was in an impossible situation and therefore why you need patience.
- Armed with this knowledge and understanding, you will then be a parent ready to help your child in the future if or when their buried grief surfaces. But it won’t be just token words of support – it will be deep conviction, because you’ve lived it too and you will understand. Read, read and read some more. Understand the difference between IQ and EQ. Google the BIFF Response Method and stick to it.
- Drip love. This is an idea I got from emmm.org.au Let them know your door is always open and that your love cannot be turned off by them and its always flowing towards them regardless. Treat disrespect with measured parental consistency and set a good example.
- Get support and give support. Turn your suffering into a purpose by helping others on this road. Then whatever happens, your own suffering will not be for nothing. Having purpose drives us forward instead of stagnating in our grief. I joined DIDS where I learned a great deal from wise mentors and I have been giving back by becoming a facilitator in the organisation.
- Stay healthy. Be the person your child would want to see if and when they return. Do it for you. Do it for them. Do it for everyone in your life. There’s simply no downside.
- Live your Life. Easy to say – harder to do – when your world is ripped apart by PA. But what’s the alternative? Time and the universe won’t wait for you or give you a replay. Plan your holidays! Get a hobby. Find the silver linings. They are there. Get on with it!
Books that helped me on this path.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
The Reality Slap by Dr Russ Harris
The works of Karen Woodall, Craig Childress, Amy Baker, Ryan Thomas etc
Games People Play by Eric Berne
The Subtle Art of not giving a F**k by Mark Manson
Oh The Places You’ll Go by Dr Seuss