Keeping alienation in perspective on 9/11

Some days, parental alienation isn’t that big a deal.

Tomorrow is one of those days.

In A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, I borrowed President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote about “a day that will live in infamy” to describe the day my relationship with my young son went from hugs to heartbreak. In reality, our worst days as alienated parents can’t compare to days that really live in infamy — like September 11, 2001. We don’t even need to say the entire date to communicate a shared sense of grief and empathy for the people we lost.  Saying “9/11” is all it takes.

We saw the worst of the human race on 9/11, but we also saw the best of it that day. First responders ran into burning buildings. Heroes in the sky brought down a plane over a field in Pennsylvania. And within minutes of the attacks people from all over the world joined together in an outpouring of unity for those whose lives were forever altered by the actions of a few.

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of 9/11. In New York City the typical excitement and enthusiasm of the tourists in midtown will be replaced by the solemn dignity of the families gathering downtown. In New York, Washington D.C. and across the United States there will be signs and references to “Never Forget.” It’s true. We must never forget 9/11. We must also never forget the dead and injured in Norway earlier this year, the students at school in Beslan, Russia in 2004, the passengers of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988, and too many more to mention.

Ten years is a long time. Ten years has turned Ground Zero into both a final resting place and a construction site. Ten years has helped families replace searing pain with a more manageable ache. Above all, ten years has given us back our ability to look to the future with cautious optimism.

Perhaps there is a lesson for alienated parents in all the 9/11 remembrances. People are resilient no matter how tragic the event. We never forget, but we do move on – hopefully stronger, more determined and cautiously optimistic about the future.

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3 Responses to “Keeping alienation in perspective on 9/11”

  1. julie says:

    Friday, September 23, 2011
    What Does This Child Abuse Look Like?
    What Does a Severely Alienated Child look like?

    Back in 2001, I spoke at length with Dr. Darnall, a world reknown psychologist and author….about my sons, JA and JR (I spoke to many experts about my sons come to think of it!). Remembering his wisdom, insight, and words, I think it imperative to post his own writings here on my blog. I have alot going on now – what else is new? Just came home from a Tikkun Olam meeting (Social Justice), and am so grateful for my life, for getting to be me, here and now. With my voice. Don’t get me wrong…each day is a struggle. Between my health issues, financial issues, all the court stuff….but I do remember each day to count my blessings. And my life is so full of them. Unfortunately, my journey was not without tragedies. The loss of my sons on top of that list.

    As JA and JR are now young adults, 26 and 29 years of age, the severely alienated children have become severely alienated grown ups. Men. They will not read about child abuse, parental alienation, or court injustices. I guess they don’t really have to – they have experienced it. Without the support to face our past the courage to acknowledge all that transpired, my sons are alienated adults.

    I can tell you what the “alienated child” looks like. I look at their photos every day of my life. Wish I knew what alienated adults look like, as I have not seen my boys in years. With next Wednesday’s court date approaching, I realize their father might have my sons accompany him to court. You see, he always did that years ago – have them with him, sneering at me, and ignoring my “hello” unless they answered it with hatred and venom in their voices. My loving sons – where had they gone?

    Please, help educate judges, law guardians, and your own communities. Please, stop this child abuse. Time is always of the essence.

    (Below is by Douglas Darnall, Ph.D., 1998)

    The child has a relentless hatred for towards the targeted parent.

    The child parrots the Obsessed Alienator, and makes statements against the targeted parent.

    The child does not want to visit or spend any time with the targeted parent.

    Many of the child’s beliefs are enmeshed with the alienator.

    The child’s stated beliefs are delusional and frequently irrational.

    The child is not intimidated by the court.

    Frequently, the child’s reasons are not based on personal experiences with the targeted parent. Instead, the reasons reflect what the child is told by the Obsessed Alienator. The child has difficulty making any differentiation between the two.

    The child has no ambivalence in his feelings; it’s all hatred, with no ability to see the good. (Black and White thinking)

    The child has no capacity to feel guilty about how he or she behaves toward the targeted parent; The child cannot forgive any past indiscretions or parenting mistakes.

    The child shares the Obsessed Alienator’s cause. Together, they are in lockstep to denigrate the hated parent.

    The child’s obsessional hatred extends to the targeted parent’s extended family without any guilt or remorse.

    The child can appear like any other normal and healthy child — until asked about the targeted parent, which then triggers the child’s hatred. *

    For more information about alienated children, see ‘Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children From Parental Alienating’, Dr. Douglas (Doug) Darnall Ph.D.
    In loving memory:

  2. Trish says:

    You are quite right in many ways 9/11 does not compare to losing your children through alienation, but in many ways it does. There is no body to bury but you mourn constantly. You know they are still out there but no matter how you try there is no way to have contact with them, the courts have proven fruitless, trying to call has proven fruitless, trying to just appear on their doorstep is fruitless since now there is a law against mental anguish and if you just show up magically out of no where, you can get hauled into court for emotionally damaging the child. Alienation to the targeted parent is rather sudden like the towers falling down, it’s happening but you never really realize it’s happening until the buildings fall, and then your children are so badly alienated they don’t want to come for your visits anymore, two months turns into two years and soon the judge is saying ” she is sixteen I can’t make her go….” next thing you know you are paying child support on one and then your son stops coming and then you are paying child support on the second one. Manipulation turns into an easy paycheck for the parent doing the alienating. Last saw my son in 2006 and have tried unsuccessfully to contact him. He will be 16 in April and I have missed the best years of his life as well as his sister’s, a child who was dragged into court to testify that her mother was “mean” and who won’t give me the time of day now. My only hope is that when my son is 18 I can try and see him to maybe explain and try to have him understand that I wasn’t out of his life because I didn’t love him… that way I still have a shot and I count the days until his 18th birthday….

  3. mike says:

    Trish… so sorry for what you and your children have been through.

    It’s hard to compare losing a child to alienation and losing a child to death. I am both happy and grateful that my alienated son, despite all the lost years, is healthy, and, from what I understand, happy and doing well. That’s comforting, and I imagine any parent who has ever lost a child due to death would trade places with me in a second. On the other hand, death brings closure, something alienated parents never get. Many alienated parents wake up every day for years hoping that today will be the day that something happens to begin the healing and go to bed disappointed that nothing happened. That’s a tough way to live, and these parents would give anything for some closure.

    Either way, l think it is safe to say that losing a child is the worst kind of pain. I hope you and your children can one day begin rebuilding your formerly normal, healthy relationships.

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