If you are a targeted parent like myself, it’s a lonely place to be. After four plus years of no contact with my daughters, I still get triggered by little things daily that remind me of them and make me miss them. It would be easier if I was just “over them” and conceded to never seeing them again. But I hold out hope that someday we can have some sort of meaningful relationship.
Before I get into the tips to help a targeted parent, you have to understand the ongoing mental trauma we are going through. In many ways, its as if we have lost our children to a violent death. Someone, in this case an ex/step-spouse, has taken your children from you so that you can’t be with them anymore. In my case, I don’t know where my daughters live, work, or if they have children of their own. It’s as if they were abducted by your ex/step-spouse and will never return. So mentally, I’m in constant mourning, but I’m also very angry at my ex/step-spouse.
In addition to those feelings, I also live with the constant thought that I might – just might – bump into them in public somewhere. I can’t go to the mall, Kroger, a concert, or anywhere in public without looking at everyone I pass to see if they might be my daughter. In the event I do see someone that resembles one of my daughters, my heart skips a few beats.
If you are a spouse, friend, or family member of someone who is going through parental alienation similar to me, here are a few ways you can help them.
- Remain Optimistic: It’s easy for me to give up hope. Actually, it would be easier to say “forget it, I’m going on without them.” Help us targeted parents by keeping us positive and hopeful that we will reconnect someday.
- Be Understanding: What might seem like the most glorious events in life are often times the hardest ones for us targeted parents to endure. Weddings, birthdays, holidays, dinner with family are all great, wholesome events. But when we think about the children that aren’t here – the birthdays I’ve missed the last 4 years, the wedding I wasn’t invited to, the lost holidays – these events come with a sprinkling of internal grief. I might be quiet on the outside, I might seem like I’m somewhere else, just be understanding and patient with me. The good always wins out.
- Mention Us to Our Children: Know that the children are victims and being brainwashed by their immediate family. If you know of children caught in this syndrome, take every opportunity to mention the targeted parent, even if you just say “how is your dad/mom doing?” Remind them they have a (targeted) parent that loves them. Remember, the alienating parent is only spewing negative, hurtful information about us. Anything positive is appreciated. If anyone knows my daughters, ask them about me and our family.
- Remind Us How Good We Are: This is difficult to explain, but I feel guilty by association. The fact that my daughters cut all ties with me and my family, changed their last name, and didn’t invite me to their wedding leaves me feeling like I must have done something wrong. Deep down, I know I didn’t, but if someone is willing to go to that extreme to distance themselves from me, I must be a bad person. Whenever appropriate, remind targeted parents that they are good people – if for no other reason because we still love our children after they have willingly cut their ties with us.
- Listen: Sometimes we just need someone to talk to. In my case, I feel most comfortable when I talk to others going through the same pain. This will sound odd, but there is comfort knowing you are not alone sometimes. Talking about our pain helps us targeted parents get a lot of these emotions off our chest. It might be painful to listen to, but just hear us out.