> No More Secrets And Lies: PA Parents

Saturday, May 31, 2014

PA Parents

      The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. 
 -- Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross  

There's a new kind of person emerging within our communities today, a person with qualities and characteristics that can only be gotten from a unique kind of struggle, a person who has been fire-tested, shown to be of steel, and emerged from the other side of this struggle scarred a little, burned a little, but stronger than ever and focused like no one else.

These are PA Parents, or parental alienation parents, and their stories are endless, heart wrenching, and heartbreaking:

- There's the grandfather with one dying wish to see his alienated grandchildren before he dies.

- Or the father from out West who's driving his family cross country with an emblem on the back of the family van depicting his alienated child. Along the way he gives TV and radio interviews to bring attention to parental alienation.

- There's the mother who wants a to hold a funeral or memorial service for her alienated daughter so she can get some closure to her life because she knows she'll probably never see her daughter again.

- The mother from down South who's in the process of hanging herself in her garage but stops at the last minute when she notices her daughter's red wagon on the floor.

- And there's the father from the Midwest who drives around his small town looking at groups of kids gathered on street corners to see if one of them might by chance be his daughter who he hasn't seen in four years.

And then there are the celebrities who are starting to bring national attention to this tragedy by sharing their own alienation stories. Lita Ford and the Jason Patric are just the latest to use their celebrity status to bring awareness to parental alienation.

But mostly it's ordinary parents, many of whom are gathered in online support groups where they get support, give advice, and share their stories about how they've lost their children, as best they know how this happened.

But they all know this much: they all know that they've been pushed out of their children's lives, not by divorce, not by court orders, not by visitation denials or custody revocations or even the termination of their parental rights. They've been pushed out by something much more devastating, much more destructive, and much more permanent. Their loss has been orchestrated by someone whose actions – while remaining hidden from the public and immune from prosecution – have permitted them to inflict the most pain possible onto a loving parent by manipulating his children into believing he's not only unlikable, but despicable, hate-worthy, and to use a word my daughter starting used just weeks after our relationship ended, pathetic.

And yet these parents are none of these things. But you wouldn't know that by listening to their ex-spouse or even their children talk about them. They have nothing but the worst things to say about them.

And that's the problem. These targeted parents have done nothing to deserve this kind of rejection except be loving and caring parents. And ironically, it's often their passion for their parenting that becomes the reason they're targeted by a vindictive ex-spouse. Parental alienation is all about one parent causing another parent the most pain possible, and what better way to do this then by making their children hate them.

And yet, even in the face of these relentless attacks on their character, PA parents remain loving, caring, and committed to their children. Even through the silent rejection, the total abandonment, and the long lonely days of solitude, they forge ahead fighting to reconnect with their children.

And this only makes them stronger.

But seeing them only as stronger doesn't quite come close to fleshing out the daunting purpose that has become them. It doesn't quite describe the gravitas and depth they embody from the emotional nightmare they've chosen to endure. They're stronger, no doubt, and reborn as well; but they also have an added sense of purpose that has become their new life

And it is a new life.

Because you take on new life when you've been to the edge of a precipice the likes of which have only been seen by parents who have literally had their children abducted from their homes – like Elizabeth Smart's parents or Jacob Wetterling's.

You take on a new life when your whole family has been swept away overnight, which is exactly what the parental alienation experience feels like.

PA parents have had their roots pulled up and their foundations demolished. The only family many have ever known is taken from them in a few short months. Victims of severe parental alienation experience the same trauma that parents who have lost their children to kidnapping experience. The differences are negligible. Their experience is the same in nearly every way.

And in many ways, for PA parents it's worse. And I realize this is hard to believe.

But for them, their emptiness encompasses a reach unimaginable to most of us. They cycle through the stages of grief continuously because there's no closure to their loss.

It's worse for PA parents because they lack the reassuring comfort of family and friends. There's no community of caring folk to check in on them or who understand what they're going through. There's no comforting hand on their shoulders when they're crying from looking at photographs of their children. There are no professionals to listen and guide them.

It's worse for PA parents because they're often in sight of their children and are forced to watch the twisted and tortuous bending of their children's minds -- something only the most demonic sadist could design. They have no choice but to stand by and watch these little people who were once part of their lives, turn into strangers who no longer recognize them.

It's worse for PA parents because they have to listen to their children coldly tell them that they no longer want them in their lives -- parents who just months before were caring for them, comforting them, reading to them, and living with them. These parents experience a rejection that can literally cause dissociative symptoms so severe that they require hospitalization. Their children turn their backs on them and walk away as if they never knew them. (This is hard to imagine, but it happens. When my daughter told me she never wanted me in her life again, I honestly thought she was joking. But she wasn't.)

It's worse for PA Parents because this constellation of pain, known as parental alienation, fits the textbook definition of blaming the victim better than nearly anything else. Alienated parents not only lose their children, family, and friends, but they are usually blamed for causing these losses, as if in some hellish nether-world-way-of-thinking they actually deserve this.

What Doesn't Kill Us

PA Parents have experienced a time alone in the desert, a hellish period that has changed their lives in unimaginable and incomprehensible ways. Where the line between wanting to live and not has become thinner and thinner and blurrier and blurrier. We've all been there. All of us PA parents have felt the fate of being forgotten and lived a sadness so immense that it oozed from every pore in our bodies.

And as days dragged on and we dragged ourselves out of bed each morning, wishing it had all been a bad dream, we continued on anyway, dazed and going through life in a trance, somehow getting used to this new foreign land that became our new world without children. 

Rose Kennedy knew about loss more than most and had this to say about it:

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone."

Like Rose Kennedy, we also have scar tissue. Our healing process is a long and tortuous one and it doesn't happen overnight. Nor is it easily understood.

We describe our emotional wounds as scars. We have calluses, maybe of the heart. And while were gracious for sentiments from family and friends, we half admit – ad nauseam – that these hollow platitudes never quite measure up to the experience they're meant to pacify.

We don't always know what has happened to us, internally, and is still happening to us, now. How it has changed us. Is still changing us. We're an unknown in the medical profession. We've had more than a double whammy. As parents we've been abused as much as our children, and most of us feel like we've been stripped of everything, discarded on the ash heap, and left to rot as damaged goods. Because, essentially, we have.

Internally we bleed emotionally for our children as much as we do for the self we lost. And we erect elaborate rationalizations about how we're better off now, how we're our old selves once again, and how we're back to normal all the while hiding from the fact that we're hiding from life, or the past, or running from it, or running from any past. Because our lizard brain only knows to fear the past, any past, and we let him do this. 

And so we find ourselves on any given day in upside-down, emotionally mixed-up worlds:

On a summer evening near a baseball park, a bat cracks, cheers ring out, and a strange and fleeting memory-remnant shoots through our nervous system jolting us into temporary pain.

On a winter day full of sun and melting snow, a sudden wave of feeling from an undefined time blows through our goose-bump frail body quickly turning us into to bile-sick, feeble invalids keeling us over with memories of our lost child.

Or on a windy fall day near a neighborhood park, squeaky playground swings and children's laughter triggers long-forgotten emotions we thought were buried and we double over, stop in our tracks, and are once again immobilized.

But we catch ourselves up. Reel from the pain. Reel from acknowledging there is pain, and turn away to trudge on forcing a forgetfulness of what we've left behind, of that which has just flashed before our eyes, believing everything's fine. 

Because it's all we can do.

And we continue the fight for our children with every fiber of our being. 

Because we're PA parents and you've yet to hear our roar.


Anonymous said...

This piece of writing is deeply moving and captures the essence of having ones child ripped from ones life.

John Brosnan said...

Thank you very much. I appreciate that. - John

Tiffany Engle said...

Thank you for putting my dear husband's thoughts into words.

John Brosnan said...

You're most welcome. It's a true story for many parents.

Anonymous said...

Yes thank you for this wonderful piece of writing - it describes exactly how I feel. God bless you.

Mickey Griffith said...

this is a really amazing piece, John. You capture the elements of PTSD we all experience. Any normal day can be emotionally disrupted by the otherwise ambiguous sounds you described. We all have different ones, and some of the same ones I'm sure.

RonandMichelle Goodson said...

I am so very sorry for your pain...thank you so very much for your beautifully descriptive and heartfelt words of PA...I pray I never grow too numb....

John Brosnan said...

Thank you for the comments.

la cuinera said...

My boyfriend is facing the same situation, it is so sad to see a loving man be treated like that. I wish someone othe PA parent could speak with him, it is possible that there is nothing to do? How can I help him, what should I do or say? John, keep your faith alive, your daugther needs you and she will be back to you. We have to believe this is not the end

Donna said...

I can relate so well to this pain & attempts to survive it. Another torment is seeing your child having to be put on medications to survive "the worst form of child abuse." I hope our communities, whose help we depend on, will read this, but it seems most blame & judge moms who are alienated.

Michael Hartman said...

Thank you for so eloquently putting into words what is so difficult to explain. Can't believe this could happen to me

Michael Hartman said...

Will continue to follow your posts

Anonymous said...

Sending this to my local newspaper and hoping all others do the same.

John Brosnan said...

Wow. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting this into words. I am a mum and 3 of my babies have been alienated.
Please can I use this to help in gaining recognition for PA?

John Brosnan said...

Yes, you can use this.

Anonymous said...

Wow....I am amazed at how you captured the exact feelings I have. I have been alienated from my children since June 28, 2012 and every day has seemed like a nightmare. A nightmare that doesn't seem to stop. Thank you for writing this.

John Brosnan said...

Thank you all for the comments. It is a nightmare that doesn't stop. There's no closure and you and your children remain in a state of suspended animation, or something. People need to get this.

Anonymous said...

i have people tell me all he time to get over it and move on.but i am not able to.funny thing is they would not be able to if they had the same situation.it is a constant draining of life that just never ends no matter what. it is hard to imagine what life would be like if it was not happening. one day i hope to find out. excellent choice of words my brother.

John Brosnan said...

Thank you.

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