I am the alienated parent

I am the alienated parent I am bewildered, angry, hurt and grieving. Someone pressed the pause button of my life and I am here, hanging in mid air, waiting for the other shoe to drop, the sentence to be ended, my children to return to my love and my waiting arms.

I am the alienated parent, I am sad in a way that corrodes my life inside and out, if you could see me on the inside you would see the hollowed out cavern of my grief. I do not understand what has happened to my children, they frighten me, anger me, sadden me. I am watching the possibility of their future being eroded in front of me. It is painful to see that their wings have been clipped, their potential has been limited and that I have been washed out of their selves and souls as if I never existed.

But I did exist, I do exist. I am still here even though sometimes I feel as if I am invisible in a room full of my relatives. I am parent to children who pretend I do not exist whilst family and friends fall silent when I walk in the room. I know they wonder what I did to cause my children to hate me this way.

What did I do? When did I do it? Why has this happened to me and not to my children’s other parent? How will I live like this, will I survive, who am I if not parent to my children? Why, what, how, when, who. Questions I can’t seem to answer though I ask them all the time.

The worst times are when someone asks me if I have children. What do I say? Like parents whose children are dead, my children feel as lost to me as if I had put them in the ground. Sometimes I wonder if grieving the death of my children would be easier than this holocaust of living loss that neither diminishes nor changes but aches, it simply aches, except when the pain becomes as sharp as a open wound. On these days I can hardly catch my breath for the rawness of my loss and missing them. The missing them is the worst, their laughter, their arms around me, the smell of their hair.

I was made to love and protect my children and not being able to give them that which I promised on the day they were born, is a cruel and unnatural punishment for simply being me on the wrong side of separation. I live with a stymied need to care, it leaves me speechless at times as I try to cope with the blocked up, stopped up, channel of my love for my children. If this were a torture it would be banned in the world.

I am the alienated parent, if you know me, acknowledge me, support me but do not let me drown in the endlessness of my suffering. If you live with me, give me the gift of holding me but do not let me drag you to the depths of my despair. Just because I am alienated does not mean my life has ended, remind me, walk with me, show me the autumn leaves and the summer sunshine and breathe for me when the pain becomes too great.

Speak the names of my children, ask me about their lives and the love that I feel for them, never let me forget that I am a mum or a dad. Keep the door open for my children and the path back to me clear. Untangle the weeds and tend the flowers. When you see them coming, hold me up so that my knees do not buckle.

Help me smile and open my arms as they come through the door.

45 comments

  1. woodman1959 · November 1, 2014

    So many people should see this…we should all do our best to pass it on.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      hope it helps people Woodman K

      Like

  2. johnniemou · November 1, 2014

    Beautiful.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      for all alienated parents everywhere Johnnie

      Like

  3. yankeescouser · November 1, 2014

    Karen … Great article … Please keep up the good work … If i can be of any help please do not hesitate to contact me … bill.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      thanks bill

      Like

  4. yankeescouser · November 1, 2014

    Karen … Great article …. Please keep up the good work … If i can be of any help please do not hesitate to contact me … bill.

    Like

  5. Anonymous · November 1, 2014

    Thank you.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      you are welcome

      Like

  6. Chris2bfrank · November 1, 2014

    I also hoped the pain would lesson over time, it doesn’t really, you manage it better, but at difficult times, you can easily stumble back into a hole of depression, four years grieving for me so far, I pray daily it ends , this page and others help you to realise you are not alone, or without hope ,

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      you are not alone and hope does not die not even in the worst of alienation situations

      Like

  7. PapaMissingKids · November 1, 2014

    Another brilliant article.

    A brilliant series of articles these Karen – showing the perspective from various angles.

    I wish I had these to hand to show the court/judge/CAFCASS/Guardian/so-called-expert the pain that, not just me the alienated parent, but how the alienator is in such a dark place and the children are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps then they would realise how imperative it is to provide help for such fractured families.

    This series of articles and others such as “This is how it happens” and many others are certainly worth keeping printed for anyone in the court process. But how about this too:- how about a similar series of articles outlining how it feels with the right help and a successful outcome? So, the titles could be

    – I WAS an alienated child
    – From perspective of an adult who also became Alienated;
    – From perspective of an adult that then became an Alienator
    – and ALSO as an alienated child released from the clutches of alienation

    – I WAS an alienated parent
    – The relief of finally seeing our children and ALSO the clear positive change in our children

    – I WAS an alienator
    – I haven’t got a clue what you could write here, but perhaps these people actually do go from being in a dark place to a positive and bright place???? God help them is all I can say!

    – I helped an alienated child from perspectife of a judge or other court officer.
    – maybe there is a feeling of satisfaction?

    – I helped an alienated family
    – this is YOU Karen! I think you’ve written a bit on this but still.
    – also, are there any court cases which could show the court related personnel how you have been held I high regard by other high court judges? This is difficult as you can’t quote court cases and there is only one I am aware of where you have been mentioned in a high profile high court case but perhaps you can write generally in your blog??

    My reason for these suggestions is that maybe, just maybe, it would help those in the court process by presenting these articles.

    Having said all that, I also realise that this blog is your way of letting out what you want to and not necessarily provide ammunition for the court process.

    However, it also highlights that there is so much help available in this blog. Just wish I had had all this too when at court.

    Finally, there is a new book you are working on – will that be out soon? Maybe all this will be in there.

    Thank you so much for these articles Karen. Nobody understands us – but you do. And that means the world to us.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      hi PMK, thank you for your suggestions which are really helpful. We will soon be launching our new site on which we will be making available as much help and support as we can so that you can use the information in the way that helps you most.

      The book will also be ready as soon as I can get it finished, it is well on the way but has been stalled a little bit by a sudden bereavement in our family which was unexpected and which cut across our lives in the way these things do. We are getting back to full strength now though and I am working on it regularly.

      The aim is to bring together in one place the information, articles and research that we provide for parents and undertake on behalf of families, which will be supported by the Family Separation Clinic’s expert services for those who need a greater level of assistance.

      This is the next step in our campaign to raise the awareness in family services and the courts of the issue of PA and what it does to families and how things need to change. Our campaign work is focused on the UK but we are now developing services across the globe to link up with other expertise and knowledge so that we can build strong networks for families everywhere.

      K

      Like

    • Kat · November 1, 2014

      PMK, here is my answer to some of those questions:
      I was an alienator, but I still do not recognise what I did. My children are now grown, why have they abandoned me? Why are they so cruel to me? I no longer know my children, they did not turn out the way I wanted. I had great plans and expectations for them, but they have failed me, they underachieve or have gone their own way in the world.

      I was an alienated child, I feel lost in the world. My whole world centred around my alienating parent. My life was defined by my parent’s needs and wants. I don’t know what I want in life so I hide away and keep to the safety of my room. Yet little by little I discover another way. I realise that I don’t have to satisfy my parent’s every little need. I realise that I can say no. I don’t yet know what I will put in its place, but I will keep looking. I am still young and I have time to discover who I really am and decide what I want to do with my life.

      I was an alienated parent, but no longer so. My children are back in my life, but relationships are fragile and still not entirely free of the alienator’s control. I worry that I will lose them again, but I feel a growing confidence that I will not, that our relationship is growing stronger. I can see our children losing their relationship with the alienator. I balance on a knife edge trying to not undermine their relationship with this parent, but also not rejecting their feelings that something is amiss. I worry for their future they seem so lost in the world, I help and support where I can, but I recognise that this is not something I can protect them from, they are now grown and need to find their own way in the world.

      Like

      • PapaMissingKids · November 3, 2014

        KAT, thank you for your response. It certainly shows insight you have of the perils of alienation.

        However, what I am hoping for, and am still hoping for, is for a glimpse of some brightness away from the darkness. I am hoping that even after traversing into “the dark side” that the alienated child and alienated parent can look forward to brighter, sunnier times. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I hope it is. Hence the “WAS” that I used. Basically, I crave to see the proverbial light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

        If, and only if it is the reality, Karen can tell us of the positive outcomes she has had – and I think she has had them because I remember somewhere here she mentioned some time ago how despite this being such tremendously difficult job the joy of reunification ultimately makes it worth it (my words, not hers – can’t remember it verbatim).

        One of the reasons I put the suggestions forward is so that it gives me, and others like me, some hope of better times ahead for our children and with our children.

        I am not sure if the alienator ever comes out of “the dark side” hence deliberately ommitted them in my first paragraph here. As it happens, I would be OK with the alienator being a better brighter place out of alienation as the impact of the children would only be positive. I’m just not sure it can ever happen.

        The other reason I made my suggestion was that those in the court process can show the court personnel the outcome that they are pursuing and perhaps everyone concerned can make it their common goal.

        The added bonus of these articles is that it is common for most alienated parents to NOT be able to articulate their childrens and their own predicament or the desired outcome as well as Karen does here.

        [NOTE: the more I write here, the less I am inclined to use the words “court professionals” as I am not convinced that CAFCASS, SS, Judges, and various so-called-experts involved in family law are concerned enough for the welfare of the children particularly where it is emotional abuse.]

        Must say though KAT, what you wrote was informative…

        Like

      • Kat · November 3, 2014

        I cannot claim that my “answers” are universal but they may describe some situations of alienation. There is brightness in what I wrote though, as there is the possibility of a brighter future, of leaving the suffering behind. A future that is not possible as long as the alienator is in control. The healing process for the alienated child is not instantaneous and I am sure depends on the exact situation incl. what other neglect and abuse that child has suffered as well as what help and support is offered.
        I do agree with you that Karen’s ability to articulate these feelings is a real strength of these posts. Like you say it brings some kind of order in chaos to see it articulated. When I first came into contact with Karen she implanted a sense of hope in me, a hope that there are positive outcomes for alienated children, a hope that I had dismissed as implausible. Thus I hope she will take up your challenge and bring us the broader perspective.

        Like

  8. padrestevie · November 1, 2014

    Hi Karen

    This post hit the spot. Over the years I’ve noticed how music and smells provide a direct connection to my core, and, in an instant, long forgotten memories return with HD lucidity. Each time I hear the Beatles, “All you need is love”, it’s like getting “beamed” back to the cramped rear seat of my Dad’s Vauxhall on our way to Pembrokeshire. Every time I catch a whiff of wormwood I am transported back to my Grandparents manicured front garden where the scent filled the air each time I brushed past the feathery leaves. But few words have had the same effect. This piece does just that.

    It’s a strange feeling: being transported back to a time by a description of feelings that I was very remote from at that time. We take on dissociation as a defence mechanism against things that are so traumatic that they have to be diluted in order to get by. With hindsight I know that I often felt like an observer: like an outsider looking in. The fight and struggle to be heard also shifted focus away from the feelings. It’s a harrowing journey, which continues for a long time even after reunification.

    I want you to know how valuable these last few posts have been. They provide such useful tools for anyone affected by alienation and an understanding of the phenomenon is probably the best tool available.

    I hope and suspect that another instalment, a view of life through the eyes of a reunited child, is not far away. Thank you Karen.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      yes Padre Stevie the next one will be from a reunited child, coming soon. K

      Like

    • Oakland Magpie · November 1, 2014

      Thank you for explaining this so beautifully Padre Stevie and thank you again Karen, all I have are so many tears and the question of how do you know EXACTLY how I have felt every day for the last almost three years? It’s such a relief to read it in print in someone else’s words. I’m so grateful to you and your posts have helped me to try and explain alienation to people who just can’t wrap their heads around it. I feel desperate to make people understand. I feel like a liar and impostor when people who don’t know we lost our daughter to alienation ask me how she is. All I can do is relate a couple basic pieces of information (age, school, career choice, she’s nearly 21 now) which is all I know anymore and every time it brings me to my knees. Thank you.

      Like

      • Oakland Magpie · November 1, 2014

        I also have to say that for me it feels like my hope is dead. I have a little faith left, that I was and am a good mother, and despite her cruel and out of character tweets directed at me that have recently appeared after years of being ignored, faith that she still needs me. But I feel my hope is gone and that hurts almost as much as the loss. It makes you feel empty and dead inside.

        Like

  9. Elle · November 1, 2014

    Thank you Karen. These words touched the depths of my soul.

    Like

  10. karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

    you are welcome Elle. K

    Like

  11. Maud Taylor Morris · November 1, 2014

    so well done. it is very hard to choose the right words to describe the feeling. hallow.. its like someone socked you in your stomach really hard and wacked your head. mine were literally kidnapped by a monster/ psychopath who has brainwashed my children, manipulated the police, courts. i never heard of anything so bad and wake up everyday in a state of shock. i cant believe it happened to me and my kids. thank you for being able to control the anger and confusio
    n and making it relaxing to read.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 1, 2014

      I am glad you found it relaxing Maud, all alienated parents everywhere need to know that someone understands and to have a place where their pain and their suffering is understood acknowledged and supported. We are building that place. K

      Like

  12. Maud Taylor Morris · November 1, 2014

    thank you soo much.

    Like

  13. john dangerfield · November 1, 2014

    Spot on again. I’m a mature grown man and all recent articles have touched so deep it’s brought tears to my eyes. It should be a “”must read”” for all those in the family’s “business to read and hopefully gain some understanding to change the system. .. well we can but hope. Thanks Karen

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 3, 2014

      You are welcome John. K

      Like

  14. daddyhardup · November 2, 2014

    Thank you again, Karen. You are so good at taking us through the seasons on this blog, a kind of liturgical year of parental alienation. Halloween or Samhain, All Saints and All Souls, the Day of the Dead, at this time of year as the days shorten and the leaves fall we think of those who were close to us whom we have lost, and while our alienated children may not be dead, their unresolved absence gnaws at us like a kind of bereavement. You understand and express this so well.

    I have had no real contact with my daughter, now aged 9, for two years now, but I refuse to give up. Yesterday I bought her a book for Christmas. She won’t accept it as a present from me, but I can get it to her as a present from her godfather. I have recently made contact with him, having lost touch for a long while, and find that he is still in contact with my daughter, gets on well with her and is able to visit her. Her mother does not like this but for various reasons cannot easily turn him away. He is a priest, a man of real spiritual depth, an African man who understands my ex-wife’s culture and has a certain standing in her community, and that he understands what has really happened and does not believe the official, court-approved story encourages me greatly.

    Mother has recently asked me to start paying maintenance, which I am happy to do. Of course it doesn’t bring any right to contact, but it is a defeat for her, an acknowledgement that she and our daughter still need me, if only as a wallet. I saw my daughter at the school sports day last summer, under the watchful eye of her mother. I said ‘Well done’ to my daughter after a race, but her face hardened in anger and she refused to look at me. Later, I saw her playing and talking with friends. I smiled, happy to see her so happy. She looked up and met my gaze and smiled back for a moment before averting her eyes. So, I know that alienation is only so deep. I have now applied to be a Volunteer Reading Partner at her school. Coming away from the school after an interview I saw my daughter arriving with her older half-brother, my step-son. He smiled and waved and pointed me out to her. Once again she ignored me and looked ahead, angry and firm-jawed. But I know and she knows that her brother holds no grudge against me.

    These are small, small advances, the ice has not yet broken and may remain in place for years to come, but I refuse to give up hope…

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 3, 2014

      Never ever give up hope DHU, the ice melts when you least expect it K

      Like

    • Fergalcat · November 4, 2014

      Your perseverance and commitment to re-connect with your daughter is to be admired, truly humbling.

      Like

  15. Darryl · November 3, 2014

    A monumental piece of prose.
    Perhaps the most beautiful writing I’ve ever come across, and I teach English for a living.

    It’s relevance and its still, poiniant beauty is seriously, desperately heart-rending.

    The utter failure and the decrepit wasteland of the court system and the miserable goons who work for Cafcass are laid bare in the incicive and ruthless poetry of this article.

    Stunning.

    Like

    • karenwoodall · November 3, 2014

      I think I spend so much time with people affected by this that it sort of channels its way through me onto the page Darryl. I am glad it helps though I know it has also made some people cry. It made me cry actually when I went back over it.

      I am waiting for the next one to come out, it is there already queueing itself up, I can feel it, I know this one better than all the rest, it is about being a reunited adult child. It is for me, extremely personal.

      Like

  16. Anonymous · November 3, 2014

    Daddyhardup I think you are doing brilliantly. You have taken on personal responsibility for your situation and are seeking new innovative ways of showing your daughter how much you care about her. I hope you find some spaces where you can both express your feelings for one another. Although life can be so hard and seemingly unfair you have the presence of mind to rise above all the emotinal chaos and focus on the things that matter. More power to your elbow.

    Kind regards

    Like

  17. laurammonk · November 4, 2014

    This is beautiful Karen – it really touched me.

    Like

  18. CG · November 4, 2014

    DHU you are lucky to have someone who can advocate, hopefully unopposed, on your behalf. I’m sure you know how precious that link is.
    In my husband’s case he has no contact with his son, other than two letters a year, which we don’t think are read. All relatives on his side have been excised from contact, other than a couple of older, other sex, overseas cousins, very tangentially, via a picture sharing application. Even the school have said they don’t want to allow anything that will upset the mother (it’s a fee paying school).
    There is absolutely no-one, so far, who has been able or willing to promote my husband to his son, due to the overpowering nature of the mother and her own mother. We seek to reach out to his son, but the path is almost non existent, so we are making do with prayer, positive thought and (literally) leaving a light on in the window.
    Karen, thank you as always for your words. I look forward to the coming forums where parents can connect, support, share and be understood.
    In the meantime, any examples of contact made in our kind of circumstance would be appreciated.

    Like

  19. ForTheirLove · November 11, 2014

    Wow. That’s about all I can piece together intelligently. You described me to a tee and I have been trying to commit it to words myself for years. It’s this eternal limbo we live in. I am a shamed mother and truly felt I was on an island. Invisible. Judged from all sides. It’s incredibly sad to know that I am not alone and at the same time comforting. I too am hoping along with all the rest. Thank you for the lifeline.

    Like

  20. CG · November 11, 2014

    Driving in to work this morning I heard a reading of the Kipling poem as below. Of course it’s Armistice Day today, when we mourn and honour the truly, sadly, dead but as I heard it I felt grief for my husband’s son, who is living but currently buried alive in some figurative foreign country, where everything is alien and my husband’s best efforts to protect his son have not shielded him (so far) from wounding, killing words and actions, carried on the winds of those who do not love (although they say they do) and those who do not care (although they are charged by Parliament to ‘care’), and those who will not look (though even the blind can see if they care or dare to open their eyes).
    So I’ll pray today for the long dead, and the living missing, and all families affected by the war(s) of alienation.

    ‘My Boy Jack’ – Rudyard Kipling

    1914-18

    “HAVE you news of my boy Jack? ”
    Not this tide.
    “When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
    Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.
    “Has any one else had word of him?”
    Not this tide.
    For what is sunk will hardly swim,
    Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

    “Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
    None this tide,
    Nor any tide,
    Except he did not shame his kind—
    Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

    Then hold your head up all the more,
    This tide,
    And every tide;
    Because he was the son you bore,
    And gave to that wind blowing and that tide.

    In hope for all the ‘Jack’s’ everywhere, and those who love them.

    Like

  21. Luke Matthews · November 12, 2014

    Thank you so much for this. It really does provide hope.

    Like

  22. tom worstall · November 13, 2014

    Hi Karen, Your articles I have read where my thoughts, my words, and my reality. After 10 years of being divorced, trying to be cooperative in the co-parenting of my 2 kids, after the seeds of alienation have been planted, In the last 2 years of court battles and trying to maintain my presence in my children’s life, my kids as I have known them are gone. I see them online, through there teachers at school, and memories of times gone by. Sometimes I feel as Scrooge did when he was being shown clips of his past and his present, but stand by and run the future through my mind and wonder how there life is going to be with me not in it because they have been told nothing but lies. And how I try to move forward without them in my life. I didnot want to have children and then not be in there lives. She has and is being successful in wiping my exsistence from there memories. I have been thinking of getting help for myself. Any help would greatly be appreciated.

    Like

  23. February · December 1, 2014

    Karen just read this it physically touched every inch of me and touched the edges of all my emotions and tingled the tips of my emptiness thank u x

    Like

  24. Jay · January 27, 2015

    Have an appointment tomorrow to see about some possible CBT to help me deal with the living grief and PTSD that can result from being an alienated parent…I figure the most concise way to explain how I feel and why I feel that way is to print this article out and take it with me! Thank you.

    Like

  25. Pingback: Mothering Sunday is painful | pigletsmum
  26. higbye · March 9, 2016

    This piece brought me to tears. Thank you for so accurately and eloquently expressing what it is to be alienated.

    I only discovered your website a few days ago and have been pouring over the articles ever since. They provide me comfort: proof that someone understands. Proof that someone cares.

    Later today I will be going to court where the judge has asked to speak directly with my 16 year old daughter to hear her wishes about where she would like to live. There has been extensive evidence presented about alienation, including from the court’s own mediator, and yet this judge hasn’t given any of it much weight. I was recently told by a child custody evaluator who was aware of our case that we unfortunately got the worst judge possible as she is known to frequently rule against the child’s best interest. Apparently her rulings frequently baffle those with backgrounds in child psychology and development, and she’s been known to go against recommendations from mediators and evaluators. Unfortunately there are no grounds for me to change judges. The only way to petition for a change is with proof that she stands to gain financially from the case or proof that she personally knows my ex or his wife (and neither applies).

    I took the day off work today, knowing my anxiety would be heightened all day. I feel nauseated with the weight of what’s yet to come. I hope for the best, but I fear the worst. She will make her final decision on Monday.

    Reading your blog, and particularly accounts of successful reunification, are a small saving grace in the midst of this surreal quagmire of chaos and injustice. So thank you, Karen, for giving us alienated parents a place of comfort, a place of understanding, and a place of hope.

    Like

    • CG · March 9, 2016

      Higbye, welcome to this site, although for your sake I wish you did not need its words.
      May it bring you hope and offer you support. You are not alone.
      I wish you luck today. I wish you justice. I wish you truth, and honesty, and courage. I wish you peace.

      Like

  27. ianpbuckingham · August 15

    Reblogged this on Daddy don't you walk so fast and commented:
    A great post by the excellent Karen Woodall, capturing the “living bereavement” that is the legacy of parent alienation.

    Like

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