Parental Alienation Explained

What to Do About Parental Alienation

As an excluded parent, as an alienated child, and as a by-stander.

What is Parental Alienation

“Parental Alienation” is the common name for a pattern that can happen to a family, usually after separation, when one parent harmfully turns their child or children against the other parent in a lasting way, and with no good reason. This rejection can happen to mothers as well as to fathers, and can extend to the whole of one extended family network. Justified rejection is not called Alienation (eg, proven abuse by the rejected parent).

In Parental Alienation, one parent implacably rejects and resists collaborating with the other parent. The child cannot resist that parent’s coercive pressure to side with them. Whether this pressure is strategic or unwitting, the child typically becomes as loyal to their parent as if they were in a mind-control cult. More commonly a mixture of the behavior of both parents, and of the child too, combine to produce the pattern.

All of this amounts to emotional abuse of the child, but that focus is lost under the child’s loud loyalty, and the escalating tribal side-taking on both sides by the adults – the parents, the wider family, and by the multiple social and legal agencies involved. If one or both parents are involved in a high-control group, the effect of the Alienation can be compounded exponentially, especially if one of the parents has exited or is attempting to exit the group as well as the marriage.

The range of severity and of factors involved means that each situation has to be carefully considered as unique. Until professionals learn more, even well-meaning counselors can often make the Alienation worse. Everyone should judge the competence of the professionals they turn to, and make sure that they are aware of the dynamics of Alienation..

As an Excluded Parent

As soon as you feel you are being unjustly excluded as a parent, you should urgently find out more. Towards your ex-, you should take reasonable and collaborative steps, in writing too, if only to show that you have tried and that it has failed. Do not “give it time”. Do not accept it when a professional says “trust me, I know what I’m doing” (because most do not).

There are also many helpful websites (such as OurFamilyWizard.com), which offer divorced or separated parents a selection of apps designed to schedule child custody, track and schedule shared custody time, and manage expenses – all while creating an accurate, unbiased record of all communication.

Finding the label “Alienation” can be a mixed blessing, as few know what it means and there is much controversy surrounding it. Flourishing the label like a weapon can make things worse. But the term certainly helps you to Google vast amounts of validation and resources online. Much of that information is simplistic and polarized, so it may not fit or help your own case. Every situation is unique. Your country and locality will also be different, so you need to follow your nose to find what works best for you where you are.

Whatever is going on, do everything to keep any kind of contact going with your child or children. Long arduous legal processes may be your only course of action, yet often ignorance and expense is the only outcome. As for loved ones trapped in any coercive situation, keep ordinary rapport going if you can, to keep the door open for more and better communication.

As an Alienated Young Child

As a child of a minor age, eg under 18 years old – and even more as an alienated child – you will likely not have any chance at all of knowing what’s happening to you. Nor will you have any access to anyone else who could help you understand your situation any better. You are under the influence of a very powerful family dynamic, of powerful emotional pressures, and of unwitting support from people and social systems all around.

As in other coercive family patterns, Alienation is part of “undue influence”. Alienation is the same brand of social isolation found in cults and all the other situations that the Open Minds Foundation campaigns about. The key purpose of Alienation is to keep you away from your other parent, from healthier relationships, from information and other constructive support for your healthy development.

Your main “life-and-death” preoccupation when Alienated will be to keep in with the parent you’ve got … even though they need you to meet their needs. They are not really looking after your needs. At the back of your mind will be your genuine feelings: you hope that your other parent will realize you don’t mean the hateful things you say – you have to say them, to keep in the good graces of your close parent.

As an Alienated Grown-Up Child

As an alienated more grown-up child, you may begin to think for yourself, discover something’s wrong, talk to others, read things that make you aware of what has happened to you. You may look for your other parent on social media. Google and read all you can about Alienation. You may need friendly or professional support to help you work out what to do. You will want to find the truth. That may include making a new relationship with your rejected parent. It may mean distancing from your close parent, at least while you develop your understanding of the situation.

As a By-Stander

Given this picture, by-standers may wish to stand well away, rather than get caught up in such a nightmare. But this is a situation where standing back actively helps the nightmare continue. Often it is only the by-standers – family, friends, neighbors, ordinary and specialist professionals – who can make a difference to such an entrenched situation, by saying something to someone, by reading about alienation, and by talking to other by-standers or professionals. By-standers: please do more than stand by and watch a child’s true self be rubbed out.

 

Reblogged from Open Minds Foundation

Read additional information here: – https://www.openmindsfoundation.org/learning/exploitative-techniques/alienation/parental-alienation/

Shared from Mother Erased: a memoir, written by an alienated daughter

Moth GrandSLAM story: Reconnecting

I told this story live at the March 2016 Boston MOTH GrandSLAM.  After decades of being alienated from my mother, this is a window into our attempts at reconnecting. 

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When my mother called me last September, I was surprised by how easily I still recognized the sound of her voice.  When I was four, my father had thrown her out of our home and out of my life.

My mother became like a family myth, an outcast who people only whispered about when they thought I couldn’t hear.

I saw her once when I was a teen. I didn’t dare tell my father.

I saw her again when I was in my twenties, a mother myself. She met my daughters who were babies then. For the next year we engaged in an awkward attempt at reconnection. We looked so much alike, yet we were strangers.

I had no idea how I would integrate her into my life, the life that did not include her, that in fact was very much built on her absence.

Besides, my father was still in my life and I didn’t know how to tell him I was reconnecting with my mother.  I could not find the words.

So I had pushed my mother away, because this seemed like the safest thing to do.

Devastated, she said “I think your father is controlling you just like he controlled me”.

“Well you’re the one who left me with him”, I snapped back.

Not long after this aborted attempt at a reconnection, she moved to Arizona

And then twenty years slipped by, just like that.

But last September she flew up to Massachusetts because her mother, my grandmother, was dying.

On the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend, she called me.  I asked about my grandmother and about my mother’s flight from Arizona.  I was eager to settle on a day that I would come see her, knowing this might be our last chance to reconnect. If not now, when?

I offered to drive to my grandmother’s house the very next day, on Cape Cod where my mother was staying.  She agreed, and then we hung up.

The next morning I went through my closet…what does one wear when they haven’t seen their mother in twenty years?

It was a beautiful, sunny day driving to my grandmother’s house. When my mother answered the door, I thought how lovely she still was.  And she was real, not a myth, not my imagination, Not someone to forget. She is my mother.

I saw my grandmother that day too, and my aunt, also casualties of my parents’ divorce; that whole family had been erased from my life.  Now they embraced me, welcomed me as if I had finally come home.

My mother and I walked and talked of the weather and of my grandmother’s end of life. We talked of my daughters, all grown up now, and of family resemblances and of the ocean and of her quiet life in Arizona.

I wanted to talk about the stolen years, to face everything head on, but I knew that even after all this time, her pain was still raw; I saw it in her eyes that filled with tears at the slightest mention of the past.

I can feel her regret that is so vast it could swallow her; I think her grief might turn her to particles, to the dust in the desert she lives in.

I want to say I wish you would move back to Massachusetts. I want to spend spend time with you, to make up for all the lost years.  I want her to know my husband and our daughters.

I want my mother back.  I don’t want her to live two thousand and five hundred and seventy-two miles away for one more day.  But I don’t say this.  Instead I ask “Don’t you miss the ocean?”

When it was time for me to go, we hugged goodbye and both said how happy we were to have had this day.   We agreed that we both wanted to stay in touch, but we made no promises, no unrealistic mention of all the time we would spend together, knowing she would fly back to Arizona, to her life there.

*We talk on the phone sometimes now.  We are still getting to know each other.

I usually keep the conversation light, because I know that’s what she needs.

But the last time we talked, I did bring up the past. I told her I needed her to know something. I said “I know you meant to bring me with you when I was four. I know that was your plan. You told me so back then. You were preparing me to leave with you; I remember”.

..There was a long pause…and some tears.  She was relieved that I knew this .

I love you she said. I always have.

I say I love you too. And then I ask about her day.

From https://thefourthagreement.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/moth-grandslam-story-reconnecting/

Parental Alienation

From – www.eventbrite.com

Parental Alienation

Parental alienation is a form of child abuse. Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of a parent psychologically brain washing their child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect and even hostility towards the other parent. In some cases, the alienating parent will deepen the brain washing by witholding the child from the other parents’ parenting time, manipulating the police with false allegations, taking advantage of the courts – who don’t have effective mechanisms to handle these cases. These children victims often suffer social adjust challenges face difficulty re-engaging with the needed love of the targeted parent.

Parental alienation is very prevalent, with 13% of all parents reported alienation and 48% of those to be deemed extreme(Harman, Leder-Elder, Biringen 2016). Of note and contrary to popular belief, there is no significant gender variation – it’s about 50/50. This is growing health crisis and hidden epidemic, out of sight because the children have no physical signs of abuse and they don’t even know they are being abused. A parent who inflicts parental alienation child abuse typically has either a narcissistic personality disorder (6% of the population) or a borderline personality disorder (6% of the population) or fit both diagnoses (10% of the population) (Grant et al. 2008). If one of these diagnosis is present, divorce trauma anxiety often triggers that parent to initiate alienation behavior in order to mediate their loss experience associated with the divorce. (Interpretation from C.A. Childress, Psy.D. 2015)

The long-term effects of parental alienation revealed seven major areas of impact on the victims: (1) low self-esteem, (2) depression, (3) drug/alcohol abuse, (4) lack of trust, (5) alienation from own children, (6) divorce.

  

From – www.eventbrite.com

Incoherant ramblings…of the Holiday Blues

khadfield_cookiesforsanta_gingerbreadtree

It’s the Christmas season again. You know the time of year when you are jolly and laugh a lot and wish everyone you come in contact with “Happy Holidays!” For me, it’s the season where I want to crawl under a blanket along with my heated mattress pad and sleep until January or February, maybe even March. Holidays are difficult for me; partly because of decisions I made for self-preservation, but mostly because of lies and manipulation by others.

When my depression hit a really low low, the point where I didn’t even want to put up a tree, I decided to have a Cookie Swap party. For my husband’s sake (bless him, he’s the angel who keeps me going) I made the effort to do this one thing, one normal everyday thing in my un-normal world, to feel some sort of normalcy. This one party began a yearly tradition for about ten years. My dad passed away two years ago the week before my party at which time I stopped the tradition. I wasn’t up to having the party last year and really didn’t have plans to host the cookie party again. As much as my friends looked forward to gathering for fun every year, I just wasn’t feeling up to hosting. I found it easier to hibernate.

Then, to my surprise, I began planning my party without even realizing it. Somewhere between here and there, I decided to take a stab at living again, at being “normal.”  So, my cookie swap tradition carries on this weekend. I actually sat down to plan my tasks for today, tomorrow, and Sunday, not to write a blog post but yet here I am. I haven’t been writing many personal stories as of late. I hesitate at times because there are two people I try not to make angry although at times I feel that my very existence makes them angry. They do not wish to hear about my life or my stories or what I am feeling; they are my daughters.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you will have read stories about alienation. Perhaps it is something you understand or have experienced, perhaps not. The trouble with alienation is that those who are victims almost never realize it and anytime someone talks about it, it will make them even angrier and then they don’t want anything to do with you and you walk on eggshells, censoring every word you speak or write but nothing changes and the cycle just keeps going on and on, and sadly never-ending. That is my “normal.”  I wrote a story about an incident that happened about five years ago (not the incident, the story) and (pardon the language) it pissed them off and that has resulted in five years of silence and walking on eggshells. In fact, I am pretty sure that when they get wind of this post, it will give them the excuse they are looking for to spend another five years in silence.

That isn’t why I’m writing. I’m writing because I have a right to express what I am feeling and thinking. I have that right, it’s mine as a living, breathing person. It’s the season, the holidays, and sometimes it brings out the best in us, sometimes the truth, sometimes depression, sometimes hate and anger. Right now, this minute, when I should be busy getting ready for my party, I am feeling anger. I am angry that my daughters do not want to be in my life. I am angry at the person(s) who have caused this. I am angry that I didn’t have the knowledge back then that I do now, maybe things would be different. I am angry that my two children whom I love more than life itself, can’t see past the lies and manipulation and remember the love. I am writing this because it’s the only communication I have with them.

It’s times like this when I’m angry that I want to tell the ugly story no one knows. All of the fighting to be able to give my daughters what they enjoyed growing up, the sleepovers, the music lessons, the parties, the gifts, Catholic schooling. I protected them from all the ugliness. I’m not sorry I did, but perhaps if they had witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly (as a counselor once put it) they would be more understanding. But, I guess that’s neither here nor there, it is what it is. I’m all out of clichés’. Life goes on and normal takes on a new meaning each day.

I’m not looking for sympathy. Sometimes you just have to get real and that’s what I’m doing. This is my life and I plan on writing about it. I truly believe that some of us have experienced the things we have because we are supposed to help others with what we’ve learned. So, with that, I guess it’s time to take a look at my plan of action and begin the preparations for my party…and look for that new normal, at least for today.

Pieces of Me, Rescuing my Kidnapped Daughters by Lizabeth Meredith, Memoir – Review

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In 1994, Lizbeth Meredith said goodbye to her four- and six-year-old daughters for a visit with their non-custodial father—only to learn days later that they had been kidnapped and taken to their father’s home country of Greece.

Twenty-nine and just on the verge of making her dreams of financial independence for her and her daughters come true, Lizbeth now faced a $100,000 problem on a $10 an hour budget. For the next two years—fueled by memories of her own childhood kidnapping—Lizbeth traded in her small life for a life more public, traveling to the White House and Greece, and becoming a local media sensation in order to garner interest in her efforts. The generous community of Anchorage becomes Lizbeth’s makeshift family—one that is replicated by a growing number of Greeks and expats overseas who help Lizbeth navigate the turbulent path leading back to her daughters.

Lizbeth Meredith is a writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in psychology. She has worked as a domestic violence advocate and a child abuse investigator, and with at-risk teens as a juvenile probation supervisor. She blogs at www.lameredith.com, is a contributor to A Girls’ Guide To Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson, and is the author of When Push Comes to Shove: How to Help When Someone You Love Is Being Abused. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska near her two adult daughters.

My review

Pieces of Me is a book everyone should read. While some mothers should never have been mothers, I believe that the majority of mothers were born to be mothers. Lizbeth Meredith is one of those moms.

Going through a difficult and trying divorce didn’t break her, but when her ex-husband kidnapped her daughters and fled to Greece, the struggle to bring them home almost did.

As the author states in her book, no one can imagine or predict the effects such a trauma will have on children caught in this situation. Children want to love and please both parents, but when one of those parents manipulates them into believing one of their parents no longer loves them, it crosses the line into parental alienation. Too often, the alienated parent does not have the opportunity to correct the lies, and when they do it is often difficult because the people around the children (grandparents, uncles, aunts) also believe the lies and perpetuate them.

When parents come from different countries, retrieving the children is still not easy. There are proper channels and procedures that must be followed even when a non-custodial parent has abducted the children, and we all know the wheels of justice turn slowly when dealing with other countries. Lizbeth Meredith ran straight into this brick wall. But, it didn’t stop her; and she hit it many times.

Pieces of Me is a book about a mother’s determination to find and bring her children back home to the United States after her ex-husband abducted them and fled to his native country of Greece. It was a long struggle that costs Lizbeth and her children more than years of their lives and money. They paid the highest costs, love and piece of mind.

The children are now grown, but as so many victims of parental abduction and alienation will attest to, the nightmares still reign and life may never be normal again. Both the girls and Lizbeth struggle to this day with the after effects of the abduction. She was very brave to take the chance and speak out in order to educate others about their ordeal.

This book is worth the read. Just be prepared to have your heart broken.

-excerpt-

Lizbeth Meredith has been kind enough to provide an excerpt from the book. This is the final chapter.

2016

I wish I could say that we’ve gone on to live happily ever after, but real life is much more complicated. Healing from trauma has been a slow and steady process for my daughters, and for me. If you’d asked me a year or two after my daughters returned, in 1996, if they had (mostly) recovered from their experiences, I would have said yes. In my estimation, since I got them into therapy and provided a structured, safe home environment and we enjoyed a stable support network, they were on the perfect path to success. I assumed that the passage of time + counseling + a positive support system = a normal, healthy adult.

It turns out I was wrong. We made it through the initial health challenges: Meredith’s exposure to tuberculosis in Greece and Marianthi’s stomach problems that appeared to stem from anxiety.

Marianthi described her overall sense of guilt at not telling the flight attendants in 1994 that her father did not have permission to take her and her sister on a plane—at the ripe old age of six. The girls flourished in school almost immediately upon their return. They even got pets and eventually came to terms with not getting the little brother they’d requested. They excelled in soccer. One was a cheerleader. Both held jobs after school when they were old enough and helped pay for their extras.

On the other hand, the girls didn’t spare me a lick of pain and suffering in their teens. Both went through periods of experimental drug use. They became moody and defiant around age fifteen, and I felt as if I had very little influence. I, in turn, took it all very personally and responded in kind. When I told Meredith at sixteen that if she lived in my house, she’d have to follow my rules, she moved, renting an apartment with a coworker from Starbucks. It took six months of living on her own to realize she needed to change her ways to have the future she hoped for. Thanks to my older sister, who offered her a place to stay, Meredith relocated to her aunt’s and finished her senior year in high school in New Mexico, where she eventually completed college as well.

Marianthi went to college in Washington for a time. I didn’t notice it right away, but cracks started to develop in her psyche and then webbed out. She was terrified of my leaving her on campus. I told her that all kids are nervous when their parents leave them for the first time. It was only natural—a buck up, kid; you’ll be fine kind of deal.

But she wasn’t fine. By the time two semesters had passed, her anxiety had given way to full-blown mania, and the collateral damage that followed took years to repair. Meanwhile, Meredith became physically ill with heart-stopping, gut-exploding autoimmune conditions that worked against each other to keep her in chronic pain. And, as if that weren’t enough, Marianthi’s physical health also began to deteriorate, and then Meredith was swallowed by depression and anxiety and flashbacks.

I wish I’d been more tuned into the issues they faced. You might think I’d have empathized easily, since I, too, was a kidnapped child, but my experience was different from theirs. I found my father when I was a young adult, and it was a process I initiated. They were located as small children and abruptly brought back to the United states by me without warning.

It took a long time for me to wrap my mind around not only the aftermath of the girls’ kidnapping but also their difficult return home to their former lives. A child kidnapped by a family member is abruptly uprooted from her family life, her friends, her toys, her routines. There is no closure. All normalcy simply disappears. If she’s taken to another country, she loses her language and culture, too. And in order to survive, she mustn’t grieve but instead align with her abductor, who often works hard to replace the child’s positive memories of her left-behind parent with negative ones. Little by little. “Your dad tried to kill me,” my mom insisted over and over. “Your mom locked you in a room when you were little and left you alone,” Gregory told my daughters.

The abductor skillfully applies guilt to the child if the child demonstrates loss, and more guilt comes when the child learns she must lie to authorities about her life. “My mom is dead,” my daughter told her new Greek teacher. There is guilt for lying to new friends made, and guilt when the child realizes she is forgetting her left-behind parent. Identity is lost. The abducted child understands that there is no one to depend on because a parent she loved took her away from the other parent she loved. Childhood, and the feeling of safety that should accompany it, has ended.

I assumed things would bounce back to near-normal upon the girls’ return, but the recovery from abduction is more like a second abduction. Once again, the child loses all, without closure. My daughters lost their Greek friends, their Greek extended family, their teachers, their new culture, and their father. All the same losses, all over again. They were planted back with me, the woman who didn’t protect them from being kidnapped in the first place.

When people later heard of their kidnapping, their response was, “Oh. At least it was with your father,” minimizing, if not discounting altogether, the girls’ experiences. So then they felt self-conscious. Just get over it was the implied message, and I seconded the sentiment. I wanted them to be thrilled about being reunited with me and was crushed when they displayed emotions to the contrary.

Similarly, I acted as if their adult suffering were a personal affront, at least at first. Don’t I deserve some pleasant years, now that I’ve raised my kids on my own? Why do I have to do all of the clean-up, anyhow? Why doesn’t their father get to feel the brunt of his abuse of our daughters? All I want is to see them grow up and take flight so I can be proud and then reclaim some of my life for myself. I am driving home one day from work when I hear Dr. Bessel van der Kolk on the radio. I have read some of his works before. Dr. van der Kolk heads the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, and authored The Body Keeps the Score.

He speaks about the destructive impact early traumas have on a person over the course of a lifetime. When I was a young parent, I assumed that since I left my husband when my daughters were tiny, they wouldn’t feel the full effect of being exposed to domestic violence. Likewise, when they returned from Greece, they were still little girls, so I told myself that the damage would be less impactful.

Not so, according to Dr. van der Kolk, and other brain researchers agree. Prebirth experiences—things like domestic violence and stress from poverty—affect how well a child develops language, develops connections with others, and develops physically and mentally. Trauma after birth will likely compromise that little human’s physical and mental health and, if unaddressed, will shorten her life expectancy by up to twenty years.

A brutalized child develops an angry brain, Dr. van der Kolk says. “Children kept in a state of terror and fear get brains that are chronically afraid.” And if a child hasn’t been able to trust her parents to protect her early on, then her response to subsequent traumas is that much more magnified. The lens through which the traumatized child sees the world is changed and determines how our muscles and our stress hormones organize themselves.

The body keeps the score.

Dr. van der Kolk endorses treatment from both Eastern and Western cultures. “In the East, people move. Yoga, meditation, tai chi . . . They learn to calm their bodies.” This, he says, helps move trauma out of the body. “In the West, people learn to talk and to speak the truth.” Talk therapy is helpful, especially combined with movement, to help us learn to calm and nurture ourselves.

My daughters, now in their late twenties, embrace both talk and movement therapy, and I believe they will have long and meaningful lives. Meredith finished college and works as a financial analyst. She is a yoga fanatic and enjoys outdoor sports. Marianthi is working toward her degree in psychology and, like her sister, loves the outdoors. Both are smart and sassy tomboys at heart. I hope that they’ll be able to fully reconnect with their family all over the globe, including their father, from whom they remain estranged after a fleeting attempt to have a normal relationship with him tanked a few years ago.

As for me, I’ve slowly and steadily worked my way back from being a hot mess with my own flashbacks and periods of rage to being a contented woman with an increasingly healthy lifestyle. I started with talk therapy, followed by Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR); then I earned a graduate degree in psychology and found meaningful work in state government.

I also began reconnecting with family when the girls and I got strong enough, and thanks to social media, it’s been easy to stay in touch and to continue meeting more of my relatives. It’s also allowed the girls to remain in contact with their Greek cousins and provided a means for their little Greek sister, born fourteen years ago, to contact them and reach out for sibling support. In her pictures, she looks like a perfect hybrid of both of my daughters, who plan to meet her.

It took well over a decade for me to climb out of debt, and there’s not been a single day since when I’ve lost my feeling of gladness. I’ve found there is an upside to having survived much turbulence. My daughters and I don’t have strong attachments to things and prefer to spend our time and money on shared experiences. We’ve been the recipients of uncommon grace and have all made a point of paying it forward through volunteering.

Each of us is passionate about culture and language, which is a good thing, since there are more than one hundred languages spoken in Anchorage alone. And we’ve grown more in love with Alaska, for both the wildlife and the generous people here, who take care of one another as though we are all extended family.

My life isn’t perfect, but it’s turned out better than I could have imagined. And despite my best efforts not to let some of the worst circumstances define it, they have. Because from them, I’ve learned to love writing and storytelling. I’ve carved out meaningful work helping people affected by trauma. I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline rush I get when traveling alone across the globe. And I’ve come to know the joy of contentment and the beauty of watching my kids blossom into adults.

My daughters may tell their own stories one day, but this is what I want them to remember of mine: once upon a time, a young mother with only pocket change, a host of bad memories, and a whole lot of love traveled the world to fight for their return, all by herself, and with the help of everyone. And they lived together, happily enough ever after, and with the knowledge that they were much more than lucky.

 

 

It's a fine line we walk…

It is said that there is a fine line between right and wrong, love and hate. I think the same holds true with sane/insane, crazy/not crazy.

I get up each day and face the reality that I cannot call my daughters and talk. I cannot share something that happened the day before. I cannot share a funny antidote. I cannot share memories. I cannot ask how they are doing.

I cannot ask them about my grandchildren. I cannot say, “Hey! Why don’t we meet for lunch?” I cannot call to simply say I love you. I cannot call to say I was thinking of you today.

Each morning as I open my eyes and greet a new day, my reality hits me like a train going 90 miles an hour. It crushes my chest and my heart hurts. On a bad day, I barely exist. On a good day, I spend my days asking God for forgiveness.

Forgiveness because I was so broken. Forgiveness because I didn’t know how to fight. Forgiveness because my daughters were so easily manipulated into thinking I abandoned them. Forgiveness for not being stronger for them.

I ask forgiveness for shrinking from confrontation. Forgiveness for only being present in body and not mind. Forgiveness for decisions I made in my brokenness. Forgiveness for not forgiving.

I ask forgiveness for hating. Forgiveness for anger. Forgiveness for being human.

We all pretend to have people in our lives that we say fulfill those empty places – “You’re like a mom to me.” or “You’re like a daughter to me.” or “You are my family.” It is only a figment of our imagination, a story we tell ourselves to fill the void, to pretend that everything is okay; but in the end, the heart will triumph because it knows the buried truth. What we really want is our own mother, our own children. A do-gooder, a pretend, cannot fill the void; it can only be filled with the person whose place it rightfully belongs.

It is a fine line between sane and insane. I know. There are days when I am not sure which side of the line I am walking.