How Mother's Day Makes Me Feel: Sharing my Grief and Sadness for the First Time
The affects of Parental Alienation
Sharing my grief and sadness for the first time is difficult and scary! Today is Mother’s Day and I’m sad and grieving. I’m sad because I don’t have my children. I should clarify, my children don’t live in my home and have never visited me here. I feel sad because Mother’s Day used to be a day that was celebrated with my children. They usually planned something special, you know, breakfast in bed, brunch, new flowers for the garden. I have these memories, as I’m sure other Mothers do as well.
My children don’t live with me, not because they are older with adult lives their own, but because they have chosen not to live with me due to circumstances beyond their control. Approximately five years ago, my children told me that they no longer wanted to live with me or visit me in my home. That was the day I planned my first overnight hike alone, hoping that I could out walk my grief. I am a victim of parental alienation. Parental alienation, otherwise known as PA, can affect mothers and fathers, even grandparents. PA has been mentioned in legal and mental health literature for years before Dr. Richard Garner, child psychiatrist, gave it a name in 1985. PA is gaining acceptance and recognition and is described in the DSM-5 and given a search term in the ICD-11( QE52.0 Caregiver-child relationship problem). The definition of Parental Alienation, according to the Legal Dictionary refers to the "psychological manipulation of a child, by saying and doing things that lead the child to look unfavorably on one parent or the other. In essence, parental alienation amounts to brainwashing the child, and it can be done both consciously and unconsciously.”
After some research on the world wide web, I found many support and advocacy groups that focus on parental alienation for men and women. This morning I requested to join Parental Alienation Healing & Support (women's group) on Facebook as well as Parental Alienation Support and Information Solution, which has over 17, 0000 members! I am not alone on this journey, which fills me with relief but also with a deep sorrow that so many other people are going through this and feeling the same emotional pain that I do.
My children and of course my ex-husband will disagree with my belief that I experienced parental alienation. That’s ok. I have spent the past 6 years being the “rejected parent” and feeling like I have experienced the death of my children and the relationship I had with them. The story is long, complicated, intense. My goal today is not to share the story from beginning to end, but to share my feelings today, Mother’s Day, in the hope that it will resonate with other parents who struggle with PA, or simply don’t have custody of their children for whatever reason, and will know that they are not alone.
My memories of my children play like movies on the screens of my eyelids and even though the memory itself isn’t sad, I cry because that moment is gone, never to be had again. I reach out to hold it, but it is like holding smoke and I’m left with nothing but the taste of ash in my mouth. I feel ripped apart inside. My heart thrown on the floor and stomped by a million pair of muck spattered boots. My stomach sliced open by a silver sharp machete, my guts tumbling out like so many skeins of yarn. I am not whole. I am no longer Mom, mommy, Mother. I am not the one they come running to in the night after having had a nightmare. I’m not the one they spill their stories to after school. I don’t tuck them in at night or cook them meals, I don’t pack their lunch or watch them try on clothes at the mall, marveling at their style, their confidence, the life and vitality that they carry inside them.
am so sad. I grieve for that woman, sitting watching the water flow as the tide comes in, who aches inside for something that was so “hers”, but is now lost. An identity was conferred on the day my first child was conceived, like a wax seal on an envelope, the signature on a diploma, that says “you have made it. You are now a Mother. Search no longer.” People say your children are always your children. Nothing can take that away. But they can and do, all over the world. Children are ripped from loving arms. So how can we get through this grief. How can we take an identity that has now been ripped in half and put it back together?
Do I want to find that path through the smoking haze of sadness and despair? Because what is on the other side…will I still be a mother who loves unconditionally? Will I be a person with successes and failures of her own? Or does it mean I’m selfish because I healed, despite the grief and aching sadness and become something other than a Mother. I am afraid of that.
I’m afraid that my children were replaced with this grief. A package of grief, smokey and gray, was placed in my arms, wrapped in a receiving blanket. It’ s like someone said, you can’t have your children anymore, so here, have this pain and love it instead. And I did, and the pain grew into an adult. I’ve nurtured it, placed it tenderly to bed each evening with loving kisses and promises of a wonderful new morning, when I will be there again to hold it and love it.
My grief is now full grown. I’ve fed it well and it is has thrived on the fear I’ve fed it each day. It is bigger than me now, taller, broader, stronger. It is no longer a hazy gray bundle of smoke but a giant sized black, ashy, semi-transparent shadow. It wakes up when my alarm clock goes off and follows me to work, the grocery store, the yoga mat. It goes to bed with me at night, snuggling down into my dreams in case I forget that I am broken and try and to escape.
THE QUESTIONS I ASK MYSELF
If I don’t have these moments, these days, these activities. If I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day with my children, am I no longer a mother?
What defines a mother?
Is being a mother cooking, cleaning, bandaging, worrying, yelling, arguing?
Is it forcing children to eat their broccoli?
AM I STILL A MOTHER, A REASON FOR CELEBRATION, BECAUSE I HOLD MY CHILDREN CLOSE IN MY HEART AND LOVE THEM EVERY DAY, EVERY NIGHT, EVERY MOMENT?
I hope that this is true. I pray for everyone feeling something similar today. Even though sharing my grief and sadness for the first time terrified me because of the embarrassment and shame I feel, at the same time it has been transforming. I have learned that I am not alone. Grief is a process and there are seven stages that are meant to be worked through. Everyone experiencing grief experiences it differently and it is not a ladder that is meant to be climbed linearly. We are each standing on our own rung. We may find our legs climbing up, missing a step and sliding down, or falling off altogether. Whether we are ahead on the ladder or far below, we can each offer each other wisdom and love. Now that I have shared, maybe the bundle of grief that I tuck in each night, will grow into adulthood, and move away to be transformed into something beneficial for the world.
Share your stories with me. I may not know it all, and I certainly don't know where we will all land, but we can land their together. Connect with me and let's share our grief, our love, and our self-care together.