Hope for the holidays

(This is part two of a two-part story highlighting how a formerly alienated child reunited with his Dad after parental alienation kept them apart for 18 years. Please scroll down to our December 15th entry for the first part of the story.)

When Oliver, Zach’s Dad, dialed Zach’s phone number on the dawn of the new millennium he didn’t know what to expect on the other end of the line. “I found out Zach’s Mom had separated from her second husband and left town,” Oliver explained, “so even though I hadn’t seen Zach in years I hoped the time might be right.”

Oliver’s hope quickly turned into disappointment when Zach refused to come to the phone.

“I was caught off guard and needed some time to digest things,” Zach said.

Zach often thought about his father growing up. As a teenager, Zach would get angry with his Mom and threaten to contact his Dad. “That would make her furious,” Zach recalled. “Then she would call Dad ‘the Devil’ and tell me to go ahead and contact him, but I never did. I guess I was afraid of the unknown. I also didn’t want to disappoint or betray Mom,” he added.

As it turns out, all Zach needed was about 30 minutes to make a decision. “Dad was shocked when I called back. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I was really excited. I was also really happy. I remember thinking, ‘Mom moved out of town so the pressure is gone,’” he recalled.

Oliver also remembers the conversation. “We talked for at least an hour. It was amazing. Zach sounded good. He was curious and also a little angry. I was flying high but cautious not to come on too strong,” he said.

Oliver and Zach began communicating on a regular basis. They also exchanged pictures – neither one knew what the other looked like. After a few months of emails and instant messages Oliver asked Zach if he could visit. “We were both excited to see each other,” Zach remembers. “The visit went really well,” Oliver added, “mostly because we had communicated so much via email.

Without knowing it, father and son followed a formula that many parental alienation experts recommend when a formerly alienated parent and child reconnect. Initially, Oliver and Zach focused on the present and did not address the reasons for their estrangement. As explained in A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, when a formerly alienated child is ready to discuss the past he or she will bring it up. Even then, however, targeted parents should remember that the conversation isn’t about them. The child is looking to understand what happened; and not, as many parents hope, validate Mom or Dad’s belief that he or she was treated unfairly.

Zach’s relationship with Oliver was back on track, but Zach still had one piece of unfinished business. “My first conversation with Mom was very uncomfortable,” Zach shared. “She was not happy. She tried to act like she was okay with it but I knew she wasn’t. But I was angry too. In fact, I think after I reconnected with Dad I was angrier that he missed my ballgames and school events than I was when I was young.”

Today, Zach is married and a father. He calls his relationship with his Dad “great” and his relationship with his Mom “rough.” “I still can’t say ‘I’m going to see Dad,’” Zach explained. “I have to say ‘I’m going to see Oliver.’” For his part, Oliver has also reconnected with his daughter even though repairing that relationship has been harder. They’re sharing their story to help other alienated children and parents avoid what they went through. “I’m here to tell alienated parents that miracles do happen,” Oliver said. “I would love to write a book or start a non-profit and reach people who are dealing with this tragedy,” Zach added. 

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11 Responses to “Hope for the holidays”

  1. Nicole says:

    Awesome post, Mike! I love hearing about happy endings! Today we go to court start the process of “winning” back our son/my step-son who, like the boy in this story, has pathologically aligned with his mother out of loyalty and a need to protect her at all costs. Reading this gives me, and I’m sure many others, hope that relationships can be healed. I wish this family the best of luck and I am sorry for the loss of so many years spent in a needless struggle to have what I consider the right to have a relationship with both parents–kids need this in life in order to be psychologically healthy (barring any real neglect and/or abuse). It is my hope that more people in the legal and psychological fields are made aware of the damage it can do to children when they choose sides. And, thank you for sharing a positive story about PA–something we don’t hear enough of! Great story!

  2. Andrea Zahm says:

    This story was written assuming the mother was quite horrible and wasn’t protecting the children from a destructive father. There are always 2 sides to any relationship. What if one parent truly breaks all promises to their child and only lives less than an hour away? What if there is a signed agreement that one parent has never adhered to? Many more thoughts and questions could arise within a different scenario. Parents should act like parents and love and protect their children as their priority. Some parents are not capable of this and put themselves first which I believe is the cause of many divorces and so a child may alienate the irresponsible parent to protect themselves.

  3. mike says:

    Andrea –Thanks for writing.

    In parental alienation cases like Zach’s the characteristics of alienation are remarkably similar. The alienated parent is not abusive or destructive. He or she wants to be in the child’s life and does his or her best not to break promises. He or she abides by the legal agreements and just wants the other parent to abide by the agreements too. Above all, the alienated parent wants to not only “act” like a parent to his or her child, he or she wants to “be” a parent — just like he or she was prior to the divorce or separation.

    No parent is perfect. There are times we all disappoint our children or make a decision that out of necessity does not put the child first. That doesn’t make anyone a bad or neglectful parent who does not deserve a relationship with his or her child. Of course, a pattern of disappointment and selfish behavior is not in anyone’s best interests, but that’s a different problem — it is not parental alienation.

    Parental alienation is when one parent pulls the child into the adult conflict and forces the child to choose between Mom and Dad to address his or her own unresolved issues and emotional needs. This behavior plays on the child’s worst fears and the result is a very unhealthy co-dependent relationship between the parent and child that leaves little, if any, room for the targeted parent.

    Thanks again for writing.

    mike jeffries

  4. my blog is… amothersbrokenheart18.blogspot.com

    Oh my god I lost 3 children to alienation I was maried to an arab i am Jewish he abusd me for 22 years I lived a life of hell and i lost 3
    children who hate me becauss i am Jewish they hate jews the western world they broke my heart spirit and soul i tryd so hard to
    connect with them they refuse i don’t know 2 of my grand children
    and 5 of them between 10-to 13 i have sean them about 5 times my heart is broken how do i go -on with out braking? please advise

  5. Kathy Boston says:

    My three year old granddaughters father is currently starting his daughter on the horrific journey of ‘Parental Alienation” It is the saddest times of my daughters life. He got custody by lying on his affidavit and she has proof but we are talking about the court system and these things take time even though an innocent child is at risk. I have contacted various agencies asking for help. My daughter and her child have never been separated for this long. She lives where she lived with her little girl. Nine hours away from where the father lived and during dangerous and treacherous road conditions he would give her less than 24 hour notice that she could see her baby. The same baby he never visited for a year. That time he let her see her baby for the entire weekend then wouldn’t let her see her again for a month. I know this man must be mentally because how can one do this to a child. He knows that my daughter is not a drug addict, not an alcoholic, never abused nor neglected her child and when she defied him and refused to live the way he wanted he took her baby via ex-parte order the judge had never met my daughter, he said he didn’t know where his daughter was and he did she has text messages to prove and the way my grandaughter was taken was done in such a degradable and inhumane manner. I created a page on my facebook a few months ago to provide information and support to other families going thru the same kind battles. Please feel free to read our page it is called “Faith for the children”

  6. Lynn says:

    I wish this blog was more current. I am experiencing extreme PAS, not only through my ex-husband but, having been successful in alienating me from my older three boys, they too are assisting in PA with my younger three. Because my ex has the support and falsehoods of my sons, the custody evaluator is recommending him to have full custody of my kids, even though I have been a SAH mom for 22 years, homeschooled my kids, am known for great meals and for being a loving and involved mom. I have court coming up this week and am beside myself.

  7. mike says:

    Lynn, so sorry for everything you and your children are going through. I hope you have professionals involved in your case who understand how to identify and address parental alienation. If you would like to contact me directly at mike@afamilysheartbreak.com I would be happy to check our databanks and see if we can refer to professionals in your area.

    Hang in there!

  8. Della Cowall says:

    First Name Parent

    Zach’s comment about having to call his father by his first name is a phenomenon that I experienced. Soon after my ex filed for divorce, he told my daughter to call me by my first name because, “she doesn’t deserve to be called mom after what she did to you.” Of course, I had done nothing to deserve being denied my my birth-giving right.
    It was my astute therapist that pointed out the psychopathy behind this phenomenon that many targeted parents experience.
    By referring to us by our first name, children sever that familiar tie and enable them to construct another persona for us that is separate from our loving, devoted parent that they know. It becomes easier for them to abuse and denigrate us once they remove that parental bond. They could a “devil” character named “Oliver”, but referencing “Dad” would reference the familiar relationship and conjure up parental/child feelings, memories, and feelings.

  9. mike says:

    So true Della. So very true. Thanks so much for your insightful addition to the discussion.

  10. Witholding Name for Legal Reasons says:

    I was touched by this story. Thank you for sharing it. My daughter is suffering from PAS and I live in another state and don’t have the money to visit her to bring her here for visits. Her dad stole her from me when I sent her to him for a visit. My heart breaks for her now that I understand her long-held hatred for me. I never understood it before. It just baffled me that she would act as though I had done things I hadn’t done and as though I was at fault for things her dad did. Like when he was in jail, she acted as though it was my fault and I was the one who should have been arrested, even though I wasn’t even there when he was arrested and had nothing to do with his crime. She actually said her reason for hating me was that my face was “fat,” which isn’t even true. Things have gotten very ugly and legal proceedings have begun. Fortunately I have come up with enough money for representation, and he is going pro se. So, perhaps there is hope, at least legally. What I need a miracle for is my daughter’s heart. It has been poisoned. Please pray for her.

  11. Tim Johnston says:

    Thanks Mike!
    Children never can be truly aware of the stress that Alienation has naturally incurred as they are developing into adults. As one parents brainwashes or controls the child through acts of extreme schedules or domination in order to show the courts the child has no real time to meet the out casted (alienated parent)

    In my case, My ex- says… my son Kai is busy all days and times of the week to meet me. we live less than a 2 kilometers away. Typical over education and using the system to make it look as the Mother or child is too busy.

    Children need Love and to know they’re loved more than to be controlled or brainwashed by a mother or a country that can overtake a young childs upbringing and deny them all those years of Joy and true love.

    The mother in Japan, knows the game that will make the mediation courts and all others think she is actually doing the best in the interest of the child, when in fact … She is playing the busy card and in Japan that means good……WRONG!!!!

    That means she is sly and the govt. is a Robot and the child is therefore neglected of knowing the parent that is alienated is truly trying to be a part of their lives

    (The parent that has access and lives with them programs them as to what to believe is the truth)

    Please, please!!
    Wake up Japan and realize children need to know they are loved and validate them by not imposing one sided views upon their poor and fragile minds therefore eliminating the brainwashing of a single parent.

    Tim Johnston Japan
    Father of:
    Kai Endo Japan

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