Life as an alienated parent is incredibly difficult to describe. Many alienated parents describe it as grieving for children that are still alive. I have also heard it described as a constant emotional pain, a constant sadness that never goes away. In essence the combined and constant feelings of loss and powerlessness are incredibly difficult to express in words to someone that has never been affected by this form of abuse.
The alienating parent will normally make allegations of emotional, physical and sexual abuse against the targeted parent. The alienating parent will do this for the purpose of justifying the prevention of contact between the alienated parent and their children. Such allegations are virtually always disproved (Baker, 2005). However such allegations will involve input from police and/or social services. And this in turn all too often leads to the alienated parent giving up the fight for contact with their children (Lowenstein, 2007).
Alienated parents that are fortunate enough to have the financial and emotional resources and support to ‘fight the system’ will find it a battle of constant pleas for help from services such as Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service). However such requests for help will normally result in cold, clinical and ultimately unsympathetic replies. Court hearings will result in judges not recognising parental alienation at all. Judges will all too often make insensitive and flippant remarks to both parents such as “knock your heads together and try and work this out!” or “you two need to work together!” Within my own clinical practice as a mental health nurse I have encountered what is known as ‘professional tribalism’. This term is defined as one profession operating in isolation or in competition with other professions within their area of work; a sense of insecurity that one profession feels it is being encroached upon by another profession. Simply put the ‘encroached’ professional feels threatened, and in turn responds with an approach of “I am the expert in this field, you are not”. In my experience and that of other targeted parents I would argue that judges suffer from a clear case of professional tribalism when confronted or challenged about their distinct lack of knowledge of parental alienation. Judges, along with many other professionals, simply see such circumstances as high conflict separations. Far too many of these ‘professionals’ do not see the alienating parent refusing to co-operate and actually brainwashing the children against the targeted parent and their family.
Alienated parents will obviously reach out for help from people they believe are their friends, people who are ultimately in a position to help. However such is the nature of parental alienation, that these ‘friends’ have already been influenced by the alienating parent who has already portrayed them self as the ‘victim’ and has in turn portrayed the targeted parent as the ‘villain’. In addition to this, when alienated parents attempt to get help and support from institutions such as their children’s schools they are faced with indifference, apathy and disbelief.
All of the above misinformation, disbelief and utter lack of sympathy for alienated parents is driven by many factors. One factor is the tendency for institutions, professionals and ‘friends’ to allow themselves to ‘buy into’ parental stereotypes. Another factor is the difficulty in believing that a parent would actively brainwash their children against the other parent and their family. In essence, people will find it incredibly hard to believe that a supposedly loving parent would emotionally abuse their own child in order to hurt their ex-partner. With this level of disbelief, such individuals invariably become enablers without even knowing it. But this is what happens, and this is the nature of parental alienation.
However it is not just the affected children and targeted parents that suffer. It is also the targeted parent’s family that is also alienated. The sense of loss for grandparents is also immense and difficult to imagine in being denied access to their grandchildren. In such cases they feel even more powerless than the targeted parent. Grandparents and/or extended family will hang on every word and development told to them by their son or daughter, the targeted parent.
When I first became a parent, like many other new parents I embraced the role with a healthy mix of trepidation, naivety and indescribable joy and happiness. What I did not envisage was that one day the mother of my children would work as hard as she could to attempt to erase me from my children’s lives. I also could never have imagined that I would have to fight so hard to be a part of my children’s lives. As in so many cases it is the targeted parent that the judicial system holds up to a higher standard than the alienating parent. This is despite the alienating parent often being identified by the relevant services as emotionally abusing their children. Tragically due to a lack of recognition of parental alienation, the alienating parent is allowed to carry on inflicting abuse on their children.
Most people would agree that a good parent doesn’t keep a child from the other parent out of hate towards them. However there is an incalculable number of parents out there dealing with being separated from their own children on a daily basis. All because the other parent hates them more than they love their children. This is the heart-wrenching experience that is parental alienation.
The above paragraphs may give a brief insight into what it is like to be an alienated parent, but ultimately I would argue that there is no greater pain as a parent, than being kept away from your own children.
The American political journalist, author and world peace advocate, Norman Cousins once said “death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.”