The week before Christmas and the workload at the Family Separation Clinic is heavy, a sad reminder that this is the time of year when people who are living apart from their children struggle the most. All around us are messages of love, family and togetherness, the words of the Chris Rea song ‘driving home for Christmas’ ring out in just about every supermarket and shop in town. I, like so many others who have suffered family separation, know the pain that is the other side of this joy. If you have loved ones around you at this time of year, be grateful for them and pull them close. If there are missing places at your table, light candles for the lost ones to light their way home again. Most of all, if you cannot be with the ones you love this year, love the ones you can be with. Loving each other is what gets you through this hardest of times.
Last year I wrote about the tired man and the battles he faced. This year I am writing about those of you for whom Christmas has become a day to get through, a day to bear rather than enjoy and a day you wish would come and go without you having to think about it. So many of you this year have told me that the pain of missing your children is so great that you will hide away from the world on Christmas Day. The image of so many people having to hide away in order to cope with the pain of missing children is painful in itself and so this year, this post is for you, to let you know you are not alone and that your loss and your pain is shared by so many around this country and indeed the world.
Being prevented from seeing your children is a cruel and unusual punishment which takes its toll on you if you let it. Bitterness and anger are corrosive emotions which can harm your self and your soul as well as your physical body if you let them. Keep in mind as you go through this period of time in the year that this is a long road that you are travelling. Missing special times that can never be replaced is an acute pain but if you let it become chronic and long term it will finish you. And if you are finished you will not be there when your children come to find you. And they will. All children come looking one day. When they do, make sure you are there, healthy and well and waiting.
This year I have been working on some astonishing reunifications, with families where children were long estranged, where parents had felt them to be long lost. In all of that work I have seen the strength of blood ties, of attachments which are unbroken along all the years of separation. I have seen smiles on children’s faces as they emerge from their frozen fears and rejection and I have seen again the way in which strong bonds are reformed very quickly when the dynamics are right.
I have also seen the suffering of children who are still stuck in fixed and alienated places who have taken it upon themselves to use the coping mechanism of rejection of a parent to protect themselves from what they fear. These children will emerge too, one day, like butterflies from a cacoon, one day, when the sun is warm enough and the sky is unclouded and blue.
And I have witnessed most of all, the way in which the family courts and family services fail our children over and over and over again. And the damage this does in the prolonging of unnecessary suffering.
But most of all I have witnessed and worked with the most amazing strength and resilience in parents I have worked with whose children have rejected them and I feel privileged to have known each and every one of you. In every case that I have worked in the parents I have met have shown fortitude, forebearance, love and understanding. And they keep on keeping on, despite their loss, despite the pain, despite the secondary suffering imposed upon them by the systems they have had to interact with. There is something shared by all parents in these circumstances, it is unending love and unrelenting determination to love their children regardless of the obstacles placed in the way of that. Children may be taken away, removed, distanced and seemingly lost, but the river of love from their parents flows towards them anyway. And thank goodness it does for it is this which in the end safeguards those children and this that in end will bring them home.
My lesson this year in my working life has been to understand at a deeper level the faulty fit between family services in this country and the needs of the families they are supposed to be actually serving. I have begun in this work to understand why so many parents are rejected and so many children are suffering radical parentectomy in their lives. This understanding is something that we will be writing and talking about more widely in 2015 alongside continuing to research and develop new treatment routes for families in conflict and crisis. We will raise our voices louder on behalf of the families we work with and we will keep on speaking about what we learn.
And so, as Chris Rea whines his way through the next seven days and the pain inside grows greater, know that you are not alone, that there are many who will, like you, be coping as best that they can and that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Give yourself time and space and peace, when the pain of missing them grows too great, make like a river and let life flow by you, observe the pain and let it go, this too will pass and the leaves on the trees will return and the colour will come back again. Love yourself, love your children anyway and if you cannot be with the ones you love, love the ones you are with and let them love you back.
Love is what will bring your children home, let love flow in you and let it lift you and carry you through. It won’t change the past but it can change your present and it can radically change your future. Wrap yourself up, walk and talk with friends, eat well, contemplate, turn the suffering into something that helps other people. Whilst you are waiting, make like fishermen do when the sea is too stormy and mend your nets. This is your life too. Make it matter, make it count.
Your children would not choose this if they were allowed to choose the life they really want. No child is born with a capacity to say I choose to lose this parent or that parent. Your children are caught in the prison of the minds of others and are forced into these places by circumstance, by the actions of others and by the faulty family services that surround them. They need you to be strong enough to cope with this until they are old enough to free themselves. And they will.
From me to all of you, with love. Thank you for your comments, your arguments and your hugely important contributions to the issues surrounding parental alienation. I hope it doesn’t sound strange to say that I hope that many of you won’t be with me next year, but it is true, I hope you won’t be because you don’t need to be. My greatest hope for everyone suffering the impact of parental alienation is that you will find healing and peace and reconnection in 2015.
With gratitude for being with me throughout this year.
Projects for 2015 at the Family Separation Clinic
Parental Alienation: Learning to cope, helping to heal – publication date will finally be confirmed in January – thank you for waiting.
Transgenerational Assessment Models for analysing Domestic Violence in cases of Parental Aliention
Transgenerational trauma patterns and Parental Alienation
Alienation, Abduction and Annihalation – protocols for assessing risk (new)
Coaching for parents
Multi model support through court (new)
Launch of our new website for everyone interested in and affected by parental alienation…date to come early 2015.