If you are living apart from your child/children and it is not your choice and even if it is come to that, every day can feel unimaginably painful and empty, pointless and utterly miserable. The nights can feel so very empty, full up only with an oceans of tears and 3am is so very lonely. To me I felt the physical ache of loss and at times I felt dangerous when left to my own devices. I remember my partner being so concerned for my wellbeing one day, he took me to Wales, a 2 and a half hour drive in the car, rather than leave me alone in the house because I was having such a bad day, I was literally driving myself crazy.
Shutting down, isolating, turning to alcohol, food, sex, gambling or depression, sleep or insomnia, rage and living in pain can be some of the ways we ‘deal’ with what is happening to us, it is a way of coping, not the best way maybe but it is a way of just getting through and often, those things do get us through. As our hearts feel like they are breaking and our heads begin their mash up, looping and never ending tapes of ‘what is the point?’ ‘I am a bad parent’, I did/I didn’t …..’ and all the other crap you can pour on yourself from a great height and that takes you aways from that constant message can be powerful and diverting but can also be so destructive.
But, is there another way of coping? How can we help ourselves? Many counsellors believe we have within us our own answers but how many of us have enough money and time to share with a professional even if we find the right fit with one? Where are we taught acceptance of the very worst that life has to offer us? How do we learn to live with the constant, chronic and disabling pain of missing our children?
When Thomas was taken away, I spent a lot of time trying to find answers, I read self help books, I saw Drs and asked some of the counsellors I worked with as I worked as a counsellor, surely someone would have some answers. I talked and talked to anyone that would listen (and many didn’t want to). I searched and searched on line to find some answers. During my journey, I learnt as much as I could about how we work and how we don’t work. I thought that all that wealth of information and understanding might help to change the way I felt so I could start operating more like a rational human being. I explored my own ability to learn what we do with our pain. Whilst doing this my ex stepped up his alienation of Thomas and I felt more and more powerless to do anything about what was happening to my son. My ex just kept doing things I didn’t expect and that I couldn’t get my head around, I could not believe anyone could be so cruel. I kept asking why he hated me so much to do this. I had to find some answers and so I started researching other cases and what the experts had to say in order to answer that question and I am still learning!
Working with others did help me to see other perspectives. I saw that we can get entrenched in our own thinking, we react to our feelings and act out on them. I came to realise how little people want to listen to the really deep and painful parts of being a parent apart . I learnt to fear what others (and myself) may think and judged myself so harshly going on the vibes I picked up from them. I was a grown up, a mum in pain with no-one to really show me just how to start heal me. I lost friends and family members walked away, I lost my belief in myself and used not having Thomas in my life as a way of bashing myself over the head for being such a failure. I reached the bottom of the pit, made myself comfortable and settled in, I was there so long I even considered furnishing my rut. Deep inside though, somewhere through all the murk and misery, I knew that life was still beautiful, I caught glimmers of a beautiful sunset, heard the birds singing just for me and watched the flowers blossoming amongst other wonders, which touched my heart and soul deeply and reminded me of what it was to be alive.
We were lucky enough to go on a once in a life time wonderful holiday to the Maldives and whilst there, I came across some clown fish (like Nemo) with tiny babies that inhabited their own nursery, living amongst a coral that stings other fish, I picked up a shell, named it Thomas and dropped it by the clown fish, in the beautiful clear, warm blue waters of the little island we were staying on and came up from the reef crying my eyes out – not easy with a snorkel in your mouth! It helped though and it was the beginning of something much bigger for me – acceptance. I will write about this separately because it is such a huge subject. I did this in a bid to start letting go of the pain. It was a symbolic action and it really did start something inside me that felt like a climb out of the poo. It reminded me that there is still beauty to be appreciated and that I could see it and feel it, things that made my heart beat faster, that made a smile play across my lips and take my breath away.
Beginning to heal from life threatening wounds that are left after being alienated from my child didn’t feel much like a choice but who wants to stay in that place really and for how long could I keep doing that to myself, what would I be saying to someone else in the same position ? Facing up to horrible things (self made or otherwise) can be the start to feeling less pain, believe it or not, less sadness, less anger and letting more love into you and out of you. If you can think back to all the difficult things in your life, how have you faced them, what you did to get over them and what were the consequences of staying stuck? There are clues there for you to examine, to start finding your own coping strategies.
Below are some of the things that I did that helped me and I really, really hope that you can find just a little bit of respite from them if you do them for yourself and if not perhaps you could tell me what you do that helps or what doesn’t help?
I bought two note books, one I wrote horrible angry things in about me, about me ex, about how unfair life was and other victim-y stories, some justified, some ranting, raving loony madness that I am ashamed of now but had to get it out stories. It was the book I wrote how I really felt and I hasten to add, the things I would never do but felt like doing. In the other book, I started to write a list of how I would like to behave and feel. I then looked at what was stopping me from acting in a higher path type of way. Being angry and depressed is a natural reaction and I didn’t feel bad about this but it wasn’t really getting me anywhere and I wanted to shift some of the feelings I had.
I finally found a good lawyer who really understood Parent Alienation and recognised it. This was vital, I had 2 other lawyers who although I had good relationships with them, were almost ineffectual, not because of their professional ability but just because they could not believe just how manipulative my ex was prepared to be.
I tried to find someone to trust outside the family, to share my inner feelings, it took a while, I felt let down by many people who just didn’t understand or who were just so hard with my shattered heart. This is so important. My partner was/is wonderful but he was part of the story and I had to try and cope with and smooth over the extreme feelings he had sometimes about being involved in all the mess made it difficult to be objective. I found someone who was not judgemental and who wouldn’t collude with me into believing my own judgements about myself.
I wrote emails to Thomas everyday for 3 years. They are on this blog and Thomas knows about them now. It should that he really was in my thoughts everyday no matter what rubbish he had been told. I kept it light, told him of funny things, times of missing him and what the other kids were up to. He hasn’t read them yet but one day, I am sure he will want to know. He could never throw that horrible line to me asking me if I cared so much what had I done to be with him.
I kept wondering about karma. Did I get what I deserved ? – maybe, did my ex eventually get what he deserved? Yes he did and nothing, not the most horrible things I could have thought of, could match what actually did happen to my ex in the end. I will write about that one of these days, for anyone that ever wonders if people get away with things, he didn’t and although I don’t wish to appear smug because it doesn’t become me, he really went through a horrible time and none of it was my doing.
Learn to forgive yourself for not doing the right thing at the right time. A lot of my motivation was just for peace or because I was so afraid. People do a lot worse things for much less important reasons. A really good question to ask yourself if you struggle with self forgiveness is to ask yourself what you would say to someone else, would you sentence them to a life imprisonment in their own head?
Learn to love yourself. I am still doing this after all this time, I find I am the harshest critic of my life, no one can ever be as horrible about me as I am. Loving myself looks like eating a good healthy breakfast, treating myself with respect and taking time out for me, to restore my harmony, without doubt a difficult one but even if my ex couldn’t treat me well (or Thomas) I could, I was absolutely and totally worth it. Love yourself from the inside out.
If you have any coping strategies, please, please do let me know. I would love to hear how you manage to keep going. Never, ever forget, if you are going through this living nightmare, you really are stronger, more courageous and warrior like than you could ever have imagined. Facing the pain of loss, unrequited love and powerlessness takes extreme amounts of energy and resources, YOU ARE AMAZING! Replace the extra energy by maintaining a good diet, vitamin B complex can help, lavender oil is wonderfully comforting at bed time. A warm bath – haven’t got time? stop doing that ironing and take 30 minutes to treat yourself to a candle lit, bubble filled treat.
Give up hating you ex – you have got to love your kids more than you hate your ex. I am trying to put something together that will help with this, it’s called the Parenting Promise and I really hope it will help parents who cannot move forward by promising to commit to being the best parent you can be to your child even if you are no longer a married couple and hate, despise and wish your ex something very bad, I am hoping Parent Promise with help both you, your ex and most importantly your children – more about this soon.
My love and warm wishes go out to all of you living without your beautiful children. You are always in my thoughts and I am here if you ever need some ears. Xxx