Archive for the ‘Divorce and healing’ Category

Hooray for Hollywood? Not for a long time

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

For some reason, I’m watching a lot of old movies lately. Really old movies.

Last night’s selection was Blonde Venus starring Marlene Dietrich and Cary Grant from 1932. In the movie, Dietrich plays a German night club singer who meets an American chemist named Ned, played by Herbert Marshall. They marry, have a son, and then Ned discovers he has been poisoned by radium. He’ll die within the year unless he can find enough money to travel to Germany and get treated by the only doctor who has success treating radium poisoning. The only problem is Ned doesn’t have $1,500 to cover the cost of the trip and the treatment. Yes, let that one sink in for a moment — in 1932 $1,500 bought you a round-trip ticket between the U.S. and Germany and medical treatment for a deadly disease.

In any event, Dietrich’s character Helen returns to the nightclubs against Ned’s wishes to raise the money. There she meets Nick, a millionaire played by Cary Grant. Nick is smitten with Helen and writes her a check that allows Ned to leave for Germany.

The story takes off from there. Helen falls in love with Nick. Ned arrives home early from Germany to discover his wife is cheating on him with Nick. Ned asks Helen to bring his son Johnny to him since Johnny is, “all I have left.” Instead Helen kidnaps Johnny and takes off, moving from town to town to evade Ned and the people Ned hired to find her. Finally, Helen realizes that life on the run is no life for Johnny and agrees to give him to Ned, who asks her to never see Johnny again.

Eventually, Helen decides she does want to see Johnny again and returns home. When she asks Ned to let her see her son he refuses. Helen asks Ned if Johnny remembers her and Ned replies, “I hope not. I’ve been doing everything I can to help him forget you.” Finally, Ned caves in to Helen’s request. Johnny does remember his Mom and asks both his parents to tell him how they met; the bedtime story Helen and Ned used to tell Johnny in happier days. Ned pretends not to remember the story but with a little prompting from Helen and Johnny he overcomes his anger. The movie ends with Helen and Ned back in each other’s arms.

Watching this 80-year old movie just reminded me how much parental kidnapping and alienation are ingrained in our culture — especially our storytelling, cinema and television shows. While these issues are more fairly represented in entertainment today than in the past, a movie like Blonde Venus is just one small reminder of how long parental kidnapping and alienation have been used as plot lines with producers giving little, if any, thought to the messages they were sending to their audiences.

I heard once that it takes three generations within a family to create a negative pattern of behavior and three more generations to undo the damage. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake that within the family of Hollywood writers and producers the same timeline doesn’t apply to stories about parental kidnapping and alienation.

Unspoken truth comes from unlikely source

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

On Two and a Half Men the other night there was a touching scene, at least by Two and a Half Men standards, between long-time co-stars Jon Cryer and Angus T. Jones that probably resonated with every divorced parent watching the program.

In reality, producers have demoted Jones and his character Jake to recurring status for the show’s upcoming 11th season. To explain his absence as a regular from the program, the writers have Jake, who is now in the Army, transferring to a base in Japan for one year. Before shipping out, Jake goes home one last time to see his Dad, Alan.

Father and son take a road trip and during the trip Jake admits that while he initially blamed Alan for the divorce from his Mom, he now realizes that the breakup wasn’t all Alan’s fault. Alan, touched by the gesture, thanked his son but indicated he wasn’t going to say anything bad about his ex-wife.  Jake replied, “Yea, but you probably hope I do.”

How many of us announce we are taking the high road by saying, “I’ll never say anything bad about Mom/Dad,” but secretly want the child to say something bad instead? Maybe we need a little validation or reassurance. Whatever the reason, if you’re honest you’ll admit you’ll take whatever putdown your child is willing to offer.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Father’s Day is next month. This year on Mother’s and Father’s Day give your children a present instead of expecting one. Don’t say anything bad about your ex, and don’t send them the unspoken message that you hope they say something bad instead.

Holiday miracle gives hope to alienated parents

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Whether you believe in the miracle of Christmas, Hanukkah or the Miracle on 34th Street, you hear the word “miracle” a lot this time of year. Many alienated parents pray for a very specific miracle during the holiday season – the miracle of reunion.

Zach White of Birmingham, Alabama knows a little something about miracles. Zach was alienated from his father when he was two years old. Nineteen years later, a holiday miracle brought father and son together. They’ve been together ever since, but in order to appreciate where Zach and his father are today, you should know where they’ve been.

In all honesty, their story isn’t unique. Zach’s Dad and Mom divorced. Mom interfered with Dad’s parenting time. Mom told Zach and Zach’s sister that Dad was mean and violent. Zach and his sister behaved badly when they were with Dad. The children were coached to say they wanted nothing to do with him. Dad sent presents and the presents were returned.  A court-ordered five weeks with Dad turned into a few days of drama before Zach and his sister forced their return to Mom’s house. Alienated parents could probably substitute their child’s name for Zach’s and insert his or her name instead of “Zach’s Dad.” As we said in A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, the examples that define parental alienation are remarkably consistent.

The last time Zach saw his Dad was 1991. Zach was 12 years old. During a court-ordered visit the children first refused to leave the airport, then locked themselves in a room at Dad’s house and wouldn’t come out. During the same visit, Zach’s Mom called the police and accused Zach’s Dad of abusing both children. A short time later, Mom and Dad were in court. The judge ruled that Dad didn’t have to pay child support and the children didn’t have to see him if they didn’t want to.

“My earliest memories of my Dad are him trying to visit me and my sister and my Mom not allowing us to have anything to do with him,” Zach remembers. “I was very confused. My Mom kept telling me he was mean and violent and I didn’t know enough about my Dad to know any better.”

All it took, however, was a couple of visits with his Dad for Zach to form a different opinion.

“I saw Dad was not the horrible person Mom said he was. At this point my life became very difficult. I wanted a relationship with him but knew I couldn’t let Mom know because she would be furious. I also felt a sense of loyalty to Mom. I knew she disliked Dad so I felt like if I liked him it would hurt her,” Zach also recalled. 

Zach’s sister complicated his life. She was three years older than Zach and he quickly realized that if he was too nice to Dad when they were together his sister would report back to Mom. “I felt like I couldn’t be myself around him,” Zach indicated. “I felt like I was walking a tightrope.”

Zach’s Mom promised Zach that he wasn’t going to have a relationship with his Dad and she was true to her word. Nine years passed. Zach and his father were living in different states, but for all the contact they had they could have been living on different planets. Mom, now separated from her second husband, moved away.  Zach was in college and returned to Mississippi for the Christmas holiday. Ironically, he was staying with his Step-Dad in the home they had shared when Zach’s Mom and Step-Dad were together. The date was December 31, 1999. While many people were worrying that the Y2K bug would stop the world in its tracks, an alienated Dad in North Carolina picked up a phone and placed a call that would jump-start a relationship that had been dead in its tracks for nine years.

Do you believe miracles can happen for alienated children and parents?  If you do, come back on December 22 and have your faith validated.  If you don’t, come back for a story that may change your mind.

Professional journal recommends A Family’s Heartbreak

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

The October issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry calls A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, “insightful for the general reader but also for the mental health professional.”

The review of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation was part of a parental alienation theme in the Journal’s latest edition. The Journal also reviewed the novel, The Look of Love by Jill Egizii, and Parental Alienation, DSM-5, and ICD-11 by Dr. Bill Bernet.

“I feel like we hit the parental alienation trifecta,” said Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation. “For this very prestigous journal to review not one, but three, parental alienation books in the same issue just goes to show how important alienation has become for mental health professionals. We commend the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry for sharing resources with its membership that will help professionals identify and address alienation in their practices,” Jeffries added. 

The Journal concluded its review of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation by calling the book, “… a resource for mental health professionals and the general public alike. The reader is left not only with an education about parental alienation but also an appreciation of its significant impact on families.”

Keeping alienation in perspective on 9/11

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

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.

Adult children of parental alienation

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Imagine cutting yourself off from the outside world on July 15, 2000. You’d never know:

  • The Twin Towers are missing from the New York City skyline.
  • George Bush isn’t President of the United States and an African American is.
  • The Dow Jones is 1,300 points higher yet people talk about a recession.
  • The internet is on your cell phone.
  • Kodak no longer makes film for your 35mm camera.
  • There are more Harry Potter movies than books.
  • You could follow a stranger’s thoughts — as long as he or she communicated in 140 characters or less.

Severely alienated children who remain cut off from their targeted parents and extended families years after the alienating parent selfishly pulled the child into the adult conflict are just as in the dark as someone who knows nothing about September 11th or Twitter.   

These now alienated adults refuse the love and attention of their targeted parents and take a pass on meaningful relationships with their aging grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and formerly close family friends. These grown up children intentionally skip making memories that most people cherish.

There are countless adults still alienated from a parent years after everyone else in the family drama moved on with their lives. Perhaps it is easier for them to stay alienated rather than deal with the guilt of accepting a parent who never did anything to warrant the estrangement. Maybe it is easier for them to stay away rather than run the risk of disappointing their alienating parent. Perhaps these alienated adult children are simply too proud to admit that turning away every time the targeted parent tried to heal the rift between them was wrong.

Whatever their reason, these alienated adult children remain in the dark. They don’t know anything about the events and celebrations that define close-knit, loving families. They don’t know anything about the things that comprise one half of who they are. And saddest of all, they don’t even know that they remain stuck in the past while their targeted parents and extended families move forward making more cherished memories.

Wake Up to Parental Alienation

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, discusses the cost of parental alienation with host Melody Brooke on her womensradio.com program, Wake Up Call.

Brooke, a licensed marriage and family therapist, devoted the entire 30-minute progam to helping her listeners understand what drives one parent to damage, and sometimes destroy, a normal, healthy, loving relationship between a child and the child’s other parent.  “Melody sees parental alienation in her practice so she knows how parental alienation, if not addressed quickly and effectively, can have a life-long effect on everyone involved. Devoting her entire 30-minute program to the topic will hopefully help her listeners avoid these devastating consequences,” Jeffries said.

Brooke’s interview with Jeffries can be found at http://www.womensradio.com/episodes/Wake-UP%21-To-the-Cost-of-Parental-Alienation/9782.html.

Alienation no more

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Many readers of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation say the journal chapters, or diary approach, to describe my family’s descent into severe parental alienation are the most eye-opening and informative parts of the book. In these chapters you can literally watch my relationship with my son go from normal to non-existent in a few months.

When most parents write us they are looking for comfort or suggestions to help them deal with their own heartbreaking situations. That was the case with Carol. She was at the end of her rope in January — even questioning her own existence. Now, however, she is rebuilding her relationship with her daughter. Since many of you say the journal aproach in A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation helped you, we’ll let Carol tell you her story the same way.

January 24, 2011
I would like to report that I picked up my copy of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation from the book store yesterday morning after church. I finished reading it at 9:00 p.m. the same night. 

I am humbled that I am no longer alone as I walk down a road that no loving parent should ever know exits. A few weeks before my daughter’s departure from my life I was asked by my church to start training to be their deacon. Once she was gone, however, I not only questioned the existence of my God, but my very own existence. I now see that my daughter, just like myself, was never given the choice to be part of each other’s life. I raised her myself. I told her every day for 16 years how precious her life was. I still can’t believe this is happening.

January 26, 2011
I just called my daughter’s school. They’ve been poisoned like everyone else. I am escorted off the campus when I show up for my court-ordered visitation. The court order is not worth the paper it is printed on. My daughter’s father continues to violate it, and nothing ever happens to him.

I called because I wanted my daughter’s grades. They hung up. I called back and they put me on hold for five minutes. Then they told me they are not allowed to give me my daughter’s grades. I asked to speak to the principal. He was not available. I’m not holding my breath for the return call.

I feel so hopeless. I have been judged by dozens of people who know nothing about me. I have not spoken to my daughter in almost six months. The only two times I saw her I was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. I do not have her phone number. I can’t email her. Now I cannot even call her school without being treated like the lowest form of life on this planet.

February 16, 2011
I went to court today. My ex continues to interfere with visitation. The judge told him that if he this situation continues he would go to jail for five months and have to pay a fine.

My ex brought my daughter to testify against me. She did not testify but instead she learned that that I have been fighting to see her for more than six months.

February 19, 2011
My ex did not block me from my daughter today. I called and it was the first conversation we had since August. Her attitude was disgusting. She said she didn’t want to see me. She told me I was an awful person. But she stayed on the phone for 18 minutes. When I told her I loved her she said, “I know.”  

February 22, 2011
Now that I finally have my daughter’s phone number I can call when I want. I called today and the phone went straight to voice mail. I hung up. My daughter immediately called back. The conversation was not as hostile as the last time we talked. I tried to keep her on the phone as long as possible. Eventually she said, “I don’t want to hang up on you but I have a lot of homework to do so I have to go.” I said ok.

February 28, 2011
My ex called my lawyer today and asked if I wanted to see my daughter this coming Saturday. Of course I said yes. I will finally get to spend time with her!

March 1, 2011
I called my daughter today. The call went to voice mail but she called back. This time, the conversation was just like the old days. She was sweet, wonderful, smart, funny, caring and courteous. And the most wonderful thing that happened. As we were getting ready to hang up, I said “I love you” and she said “I love you too.” Her entire life that was the way we always ended every single phone call. After we hung up I cried tears of joy. 

* * * *

Carol asked us to share her story on our A Family’s Heartbreak blog. She wrote, “So many times I wanted to give up and well-intentioned people told me to walk away. I couldn’t do that even though it was killing me inside. I want to be an inspiration for other parents going through this horrible nightmare. I want to let them know there is hope. I thought I had lost my daughter forever and that she would never want to see me again. I know we could regress in a split second, but I want to let other parents know that even during their bleakest hour that you are still in your child’s heart.”

Jeffries visits Men Matter Radio on February 25

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Mike Jeffries, author of A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation, visits the internet radio show Men Matter, on Friday, February 25 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Program host Dr. Kevin Maguire will interview Jeffries on issues surrounding parental alienation.

“Dr. Maguire is an alienated father who knows about the pain, hopelessness and frustration associated with parental alienation,” Jeffries said. “We have a lot in common with the listeners and I look forward to sharing the coping mechanisms I’ve used to help others live with their heartbreaking situations.”

Listeners can call into the program at 347-539-5024. They can also listen via the internet at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/syndicatednews/2011/02/26/men-matter-dr-kevin-maguire-and-guest. Jeffries also will be taking questions from listeners.

A holiday shopping list for alienated parents

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

There are only ten days left before Christmas. Still shopping? 

If you are an alienated parent struggling to find gifts for the people in your life you’ve come to the right place. The following gifts are affordable and don’t require shipping. As an added service, we’ve even matched the best gifts to the most deserving recipients.

Forgiveness – for the alienating parent.

Tolerance – for parental alienation critics.

Knowledge – for legal and mental health professionals who don’t understand alienation.

Respect — for people trying to make sense of a situation that doesn’t make sense.

Understanding – for friends who don’t know what to say.

Empathy and Support – for other people struggling with parental alienation.

Charity – for non-profit organizations working on the behalf of alienated parents and children.

Patience – for parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. They’re hurting too.

Attention – for your spouse or significant other. Don’t take him or her for granted.

Unconditional Love – for your alienated children. They are hurting just as much as you are.

A Good Example — for your non-alienated children.

A Break — for yourself. Parental alienation is not a referendum on you or your parenting. You don’t deserve parental alienation. Neither does your children.

Hope — for yourself and your children. Keep hoping. Keep trying. Anyone can give up, it’s easy to do. But to hold it together when everyone would understand if you fell apart, that’s hope.

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