Victim of A Parentectomy!

From the Yated Ne’eman newspaper

Dear Editor,

Having been raised in a home with divorced parents, I am thrilled to have an opportunity to share with the Yated readers a happy ending to a sad an unfortunate childhood.  I have, Boruch Hashem, finally reunited with my alienated father and now we, and his new family, have established a warm, solid relationship together.

I am now 20 and happily married.

I was a product of parental alienation by my mother, who kept me away from my father.  She fed me a host of lies, false allegations and sheer drama, and thereby robbed me of a relationship with him due to her selfish personal war that she waged with him all the years.  It was almost an obsession to completely blot him out of our lives.  She should have sought help for herself, since this was about her own selfishness and not about what was right for her child.

It is only fair to mention that I had a loving mother and I have many fond memories growing up, but despite all of that, there was a steady sprinkling of lies relating to my father’s whereabouts, which left me quite confused.

How I finally sorted things out is a story too long for this column, but when I started dating, issues about my father kept creeping into every conversation with shadchanim and I was stunned to discover that my father was, in fact, an outstanding human being, quite well known and respected, with a loving family.  I set into motion a plan that ultimately led me back into his life.

The grief he suffered is indescribable.  He shared with me his own journey with rabbonim, dayanim, friends and family who were all equally helpless in effecting some sort of visitation due to my mother’s relentless compulsion with revenge.

Unfortunately, rabbonim are not equipped with much to enforce agreements.  Despite their best efforts to reason with my mother, pointing out the wickedness of such alienation and the impact on my childhood, nothing changed.

What she caused, a parentectomy of sorts, is unforgivable.  The emotional manipulation I suffered for nearly 20 years will take me a lifetime to make sense of. Couldn’t she have seen that this would backfire?

I am happy today beyond words.  I have a new family, siblings and grandparents who embraced me and my husband.  I am trying to make up for lost time.  I am trying very hard to focus on that and not on the resentment I have for my mother who caused so many individuals so much pain.  She is now suffering the backlash, the wrath of her child, for having precipitated this enormous loss, because our relationship today is cold at best.  In time, I honestly hope things will improve on that front too, but for now it comes down to my own personal healing experience and my newfound happiness.

It is my sincere hope that by sharing my story, I will encourage others in similar situations to seek professional help to try, at all costs, to avoid a lifetime of unresolved pain and regrets to their children.

Name withheld, Montreal, Canada

I read it through and of course had to try and think if I knew who it was, us both being Montrealers. I don’t and I am kind of glad. This type of letter breaks my heart. So many missed opportunities on all sides. I have heard versions of the same type of stories way too many times to be surprised. I am so thrilled for the writer that she managed to find the truth and is working on moving on.

I just have to wonder how come her father didn’t go the legal route to try and see her and spend time with her – whether he lives here or in the States, or any civilized country, a father has a legal right to see his child, divorced or not. It’s all well and good that he consulted the rabbanim and dayanim et alia – but it did not help. Rabbanim cannot enforce visitation. The legal system is there for a reason, so I would love to understand why there is no mention of that in this letter.

I feel sorry for the mother. I am sure in her mind she thought what she was doing was right. Maybe she felt like she was protecting her daughter. I am sure she didn’t do anything with the intent deliberately to hurt her. I feel bad that right now her child is angry with her for the choices she made and for the experiences she missed out on. The father missed out on knowing his daughter for many years – years that cannot be replaced.

Parents may not like each other any more after divorce, but the children must come FIRST. Every. Single. Time. Everything I have done, every decision I have made since my divorce, has been with the kids front and centre in my heart. It isn’t always an easy answer. But we want our children to grow up as well rounded individuals – to do that they need exposure to both sides of the family. There is no excuse for alienation except perhaps in the case of molestation – but even then, supervised visits are sometimes mandated by the courts.

Children are not weapons. They are not to be put in the middle of a battle between ex-spouses. They are innocent in the whole divorce scheme of things. They didn’t do anything to cause the divorce and they don’t need to be used as pawns for the agenda of either parent. So many people don’t get this, and they are hurting their children.

If the writer of this letter is somehow reading this – Kudos for you for working to finding out the truth for yourself. I hope at some point you can find it in your heart to forgive your mother and move on. It will take time but time WILL heal. Enjoy and cherish your new-found relationship with your father and his family. You have been given a second chance – make the most of it. B’Hatzlacha.

To my readers – how do you feel reading this kind of letter? With whom do you sympathize the most? Do you also wonder what legal steps were taken? Talk to me…

[note from HSM: My dear friend Lady Lock and Load brought this letter to my attention. It was printed recently in the Yated Ne’eman newspaper. (She actually typed it in herself so she could send it to me as this letter is not online. She knew I would be interested.)]

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  1. fille says:

    “Rabbanim cannot enforce visitation. The legal system is there for a reason,”

    I do not think that enforcing visitation rights with the police is a good idea. Really not.

    In France, a mother can go to jail for withholding visitations rights, even if she has a good reason to do so (like fear that the father might damage the wellbeing of the child).

    I think it is better to suffer a separation rather than send in the police, as long as the wellbeing of the child is not at stake.

  2. fille says:

    “Everything I have done, every decision I have made since my divorce, has been with the kids front and centre in my heart.”

    Well, but the decision to move to Monsey might have implications on visitation rights. I suppose they will see less of their other parent and it also will cost them more trouble to comply with visitation…

    • lady lock and load says:

      I am hesitant to voice my opinion as I thank G-d have no experience with divorce but here it goes….I don’t think a parent has to plan their whole life and who they will marry according to where the ex spouse lives, because the ex can easily move because of a job relocation or for marriage reasons.

      • fille says:

        I do fully agree with you.

        I just gave this example to point out that it is not always as easy as that to keep up visitation rights.

        Sometimes the father tires of visiting his children. Sometimes, it is burdensome for the children when they have to plan their free time according to visitation rights (an important restriction on their time-planning). Sometimes one of the parents moves away and it becomes logistically more complicated to do it. Sometimes the parents can’t stand each other and this complicates. Sometimes one of the parents remarries and the children do not like the new spouse or family.

        Therefore, I think it is better to play it cool and not to involve the police.

        Involving authorities to enforce visitation rights can be really traumatic for the children.

        So I, personally, would rather renounce than involve the police, provided the well-being of the children is not in danger.

  3. Duvii says:

    The legal system is biased against the Father and therefore not very useful. It is easily manipulated by the mother.

    This story is not unique and many people over the past few years have indicated to me that a story like the one told above is a typical outcome.

    Robbing children of their parent is a very bad idea but many mothers take this course to justify the actions that they have taken.

    Once the children grasp what has been done, they generally take matters into their own hands once they are old enough to do so.

    Unfortunately, the Mother is usually the parent using the children as a weapon, I hope any woman contemplating that course of action is sent a link to this post.

    • fille says:

      “Robbing children of their parent is a very bad idea”

      Well, in my view you rob the children of one parent as soon as you divorce.

      But unfortunately, there are situation where family cannot go on.

      By the way: we do not know any details about the case at hand. We do not know how the divorce came to be, we do not know what the “lies” told by the mother were, we do not know what the truth was, etc.

      I agree that it is reprehensible to lie about the other parent. However, in many cases it is not about outright lying, it is just about different subjective interpretations of the same objective truth.

  4. Chav says:

    This letter breaks my heart. I am unsure about where the blame lies. We will never know how hard the father really tried and how awful the mother was making it for him. There may have been abuse mental or physical in the marriage and mom thought it was best for her child to protect her from it. It’s impossible for us to know what really broke them up and why mom did what she did, but over the years the father mayhave become a better person, and who knows when and how that happened.
    This whole story is sad. Sad that the daughter and mom couldn’t come to some understanding about mom keeping her father from her. I hope that one day they can all forgive eachother and that the woman who wrote this letter can enjoy both her mother and her father and that her children come into a warm loving family on both sides.

  5. The legal system often does a poor job of rescuing children from a situation in which they have been manipulated to disown a parent. Courts are reluctant to enforce orders and to require teenagers to see a parent against their will. As I point out in my book, Divorce Poison: How To Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, Rabbanim should stress the damage of Lashon Hora and expect children to honor their parents. It is a tragedy when children lose a parent (often an extended family) as a result of lies or focus on, and exaggeration of, faults. Children should learn not to judge parents solely by their worst mistakes. Loving parents should avoid acting on vindictive impulses that interfere with their children’s ability to give and receive love.

  6. Just an opposite view. My bio father walked out when I was 3 months old while I was out in the stroller with my mom. He left a note and disappeared. Later he signed away all rights to me. I was raised by my stepfather who is my REAL father despite the years of abuse and neglect and everything else. We also have since reconciled. Anyway, before that though, I was angry. My mom died when I was 20 and I set out to find the man I presumed wouldn’t want to leave me in the bad situation I was raised in. Little did I know what it would do to me and my life. He abused me in ways I couldn’t even conceive. It took years of therapy to undo what he did in 5 years to me. My mother was right and even though he WAS a lt. col. in the Army and a lawyer he was still an evil, evil man. As was his family. I realize now my childhood was the stuff movies are made of. I grew up in a horrible environment complete with terrifying abuse and neglect. But after 15 years of not speaking, my dad (my stepdad) apologized to me for it all. I accepted and we have a great relationship now. I am past it all. The father I always dreamed of was an even bigger monster than the one I lived with. I couldn’t conceive of that. And while this sounds odd and weird…and oh how I wish I had never found that man…I am glad I am able to have a good relationship with my REAL dad now – my stepfather.

  7. Justice says:

    Very interesting that Dr. Warshak commented on this. The fact that the letter is supposedly anonymous questions the validity. The language that the writer is using is the same rhetoric used by Warshak and Gardner before him. Maybe this man has been brainwashed into believing that his father didn’t do things that he really did. This is much more likely.
    The theory of Parental Alienation is Pseudoscience, it is very close to the same theory as Female Hysteria that used to be accused of nonconpliant women. It also combines the same type of human bandage element as Depetomania – the supposed mental illness that slaves had who wanted to be free. Now the fake mental illness dujour to accuse a second class citizen of is “Parental Alienation” where women trying to escape bad husbands are accused of having a mental illness.

    • It is certainly possible that a person can be mistaken in their view of how they came to be alienated from a parent. But if you think this man could have been brainwashed, then you are accepting the idea that people are susceptible to such influence. There are children who reject parents for good reasons. There are also children who reject parents for the wrong reasons and in the shadow of the other parent’s influence. So many children have come forth to describe how they were forbidden to show affection to a parent, or coached to reject the parent, that the problem cannot be denied. Just as children can be taught to hate people of other religions, so children can be taught to hate a parent. And it is a mistake to assume that only women are accused of such teaching. Many of my clients are mothers whose children reject them under the influence of a vindictive, controlling ex-spouse.

      • Justice says:

        I was making a joke. Your “treatments” are sort of like torture tactics inflicted on prisoners. Your theories endanger all children and your lack of consideration for children’s feelings are disgusting. I watched your interview on TV regarding a little boy oversees where you said you don’t consider a child’s feelings. It was appalling. You have obvious disdain for mothers and a complete disregard for the mother-child bond. Your work reminds me of Harry Harlow and the Pit of Dispair. You and the rest of the PAS doctors are a special kind of charlatan, the kind that specializes in inflicting Harry Harlow’s treatment of monkeys on children. Guess we could call it “Harlowism” and your PAS centers could be called Harlow Centers, specializing in the severing of the mother-child bond.

  8. While Dr. Warshak doesn’t need me to come to his defense, I am happy I came across this thread to reinforce his messages –

    Children often reject parents for valid reasons — this is not parental alienation.

    Children can be brainwashed much like an adult can be brainwashed.

    Neither mothers or fathers have cornered the market on being the alienating parent. Both parents are alienators and targeted parents in equal numbers.

    When children reject parents because they were influenced or coached to do so by the other parent to fufill the parent’s unhealthy emotional needs — that’s parental alienation.

    Sincerely,

    mike jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation

  9. Miriam Shenny says:

    With tears in my two eyes rolloing down my cheeks. I have been alienated by my son due to brainwashing mental and emotional abuse. I am divorced for 6 years, my two sons saw the father every other weekend.

    Now that my eldest is almost 15 the courts asked him what he would like to do, he said he would like to live with his father, he lives with his father I have not seem him since he was 13.

    A child knows a Mummy is always there no matter what, I have let go and only hope that one day he comes knocking at my door to be reunited with me and his younger brother.

    From my heart Miriam (London)

  10. Catherine says:

    I was in a very similar situation, around 2 my parents got divorced. And at 9 I stopped seeing my father completely. My brother, who is 3 years older than I am, played a large role in it as well. In my case, my dad tried to take legal action, but that came in the form of a letter to my mom, so she asked us if we wanted to go to court over it (which was years after contact had been cut and I was convinced it was just the way things were, so not sure how else that could’ve turned out other than ignoring it).
    I don’t blame either of them, they were never capable of dealing with their own emotions (each had experienced possible PTSD from death of a parent and sibling around the time I was born, which might’ve effected their marriage, etc.).
    I guess now, I am realizing how much of an effect this has had on everything else in my life.
    I think I’m doing good for myself, I’m about to graduate from university. But since I haven’t learned how to deal with stress properly, the intimidation of finishing school, starting a career, parting with friends, realizing why I’ve been constantly in complicated relationships and then add to it the possibly moving back “home” with my mom,…., etc, etc. is starting to be hard to bear.
    The optimist in me believes it’s for the better. This whole situation has made me strong, and adaptive, but almost to an extreme level, where I often don’t empathize, make poor decisions, and build walls between myself and the rest of the world. I have pretty much had the most important relationships in my life severed, and I was fine, so I know I will always be fine.
    I am currently single, mostly because I don’t know where I’ll be living/working in a few months, but also because I’m starting to realize why I’ve had so many failed relationships. I need to figure this out, and be happy with myself, before I can truly be happy with someone else.
    The first cut is the deepest.
    My confusion lies in what to do about my findings. It’s a new form of helplessness and confusion for me, because I’m a problem solver. Here there is a problem, and I have no idea how to fix it, and barely even understand the cause of the problem in the first place, I have pieced it together over the years, and am afraid I may never find the answers I’m looking for. I either need to confront the issue, or let it go. But both of those options are very complex and since I have trouble making decisions, it’s gotten me in an infinite loop of inaction.

    Sorry if this ended up being just a huge rant, it’s a really long story, and I’ve probably evaluated every detail by this point.

  11. joewv says:

    Catherine, as a father who has be alienated from my daughter and miss her very much, I think you should reach out to him and discover his side of the story. You may also learn a bit about yourself in the process. We are made from both our parents. Only seeing one side of how you were made must, I think, make one feel like only half a person. I dont know, I had both parents in my life as a kid and none of the crap that my daughter is going through now. Good luck to you and I do hope you reach out to your father, I hope my daughter does that one day. I long for a relationship with her.

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