The following is an individual’s experience of growing up with parental alienation. I have changed the individuals’ names in the following post.
I never knew my mum. According to my dad and my two older brothers, she walked out on us all for another man when I was only three years of age.
I remember as a child my dad only ever talking about my mum occasionally. And even when he did it was in an incredibly negative way. And this narrative was backed up by my brothers.
“As a child I never questioned this.”
They also never referred to her as mum. They would only ever refer to her by her first name, Jackie. As a child I never questioned this.
I was told by my dad that ‘Jackie’ was an alcoholic, a drug user, a serial cheater and that she was someone that did not deserve to be called a mother.
“I never questioned this narrative. Why would I?”
I never questioned this narrative. Why would I? This story was also backed up by my older brothers who, according to my understanding at the time would have been old enough to at least have remembered Jackie.
Once again, according to my father, shortly after Jackie left us, he met a new woman who he claimed was everything that Jackie was not. Her name was Sandy. My dad encouraged me and my brothers to call her mum, which within a couple of months of Sandy’s arrival became quite natural to us all.
As I got older and naturally became more curious as to the exiting of Jackie from our lives, my dad would simply repeat the same narrative. He would not elaborate any further regarding Jackie’s abandonment of us. With my father’s same response with each inquiry I eventually stopped asking about Jackie. I simply resigned myself to the fact that my birth mother was simply a very horrible person. My dad made me feel that I should be grateful for Sandy being more of a mother to me than Jackie.
However as I entered my teens, there was a change of dynamics in the household. Although on reflection, perhaps it wasn’t so much a change of dynamics, but more a new awareness of the family dynamics that I had previously not been aware of. At around this period of time one of my older brothers had already moved out. My remaining brother started being very isolative within the family home.
Around this time my remaining brother began arguing regularly with my mum (Sandy) and dad. I remember these arguments making my dad be very hostile and domineering over my brother. I felt very intimidated by my dad’s aggressive behaviours during these arguments. I wished I had had the courage to stand up for my brother. There was something very unfair about my dad’s overbearing demeanour towards my brother, who was actually the more sensitive of my two brothers. My dad appeared to turn into someone else during these arguments.
Within a year my remaining brother left the family home and moved in with a friend. I was then left living alone with my mum and dad. As much as my dad had always been somewhat of a drinker, at around this time he began drinking every day.
“I started to find his behaviours more and more domineering, controlling and intimidating.”
The relationship between my dad and Sandy steadily deteriorated. At it’s worst, they were literally arguing with each other every day. My dad also became very controlling of both Sandy and I. He would always want to know where I had been, even if I returned from a night out with friends, even just five minutes later than I said I would be home. I started to find his behaviours more and more domineering, controlling and intimidating.
After another couple of months I also moved out. I went and lived in a different part of the country and moved in with a good friend of mine named Georgie, who I had known from high school.
As much as we had been good friends at school, it didn’t take long for us to become best friends. We both had dead end jobs; however we didn’t care. We were both living life as we had never lived it before, freely.
There was one particular night I will never forget. We had come back to our grimy little apartment after a night of cocktails. As we did quite often after returning from a night out, we stayed up all night talking. However on this occasion Georgie started talking about my biological mother. At first I insisted she refer to her as Jackie. Which she respectfully did.
“Most of them were spineless bastards and didn’t have the balls to speak out.”
However she went on to say something that would prove to be a trigger for a number of life changing decisions. I will never forget what it was she told me “you do know that most of the people in our hometown knew what really happened between your mum and dad? But most of them were spineless bastards and didn’t have the balls to speak out.”
Initially, I didn’t quite comprehend what it was she was saying. It made no sense to me what Georgie was telling me.
Trusting Georgie as I did, I reluctantly agreed for her to elaborate on what she had just told.
Georgie then went on to tell me words to the effect of “so basically your dad was cheating on your mum for years with Sandy. No one dared say anything though cos everyone in town was pretty scared of your dad. They all knew what he was really like. They all knew that he chucked your mum out in the middle of the night and basically told her to fuck off! He threatened her. He said that if she did not disappear he would make her disappear. So she left, she was heartbroken, but left because she feared for her life. Your dad used to beat your mum up. Everyone knew that. Everyone knew what really happened except for you kids [my brothers and I].”
I remember replying to Georgie’s above statement with something along the lines of “what the fuck are you talking about?”
However we continued to discuss this subject through to the morning. We both retired to bed at about four or five in the morning. Apart from waking up the next day with an obvious hangover, I remember feeling incredibly confused, conflicted and for some reason unknown to me at the time, very afraid.
That day Georgie and I spent the whole day together. In a state of sobriety we went back over the conversation of the night before. I vividly remember Georgie constantly apologising for what she had said. But ultimately there was enough evidence, my trust in Georgie and ultimately my gut feeling that allowed me to believe that everything Georgie had told me was true.
On further inquiry from me Georgie disclosed to me that my biological mother’s sister lived on the outskirts of town.
Within a few days Georgie and I had contacted my aunt, who’s name was Jean, and we arranged to go and meet her.
Given my father’s negative accounts of my biological mother’s general disposition and approach to life, Jean was not what I expected at all.
Jean warmly welcomed us into her home. She had never married. She lived quite modestly. She had a stall in a local market and rescued dogs from shelters to keep her busy and motivated. She immediately struck me as someone that was incredibly kindhearted, open and honest.
We invariably got on to the subject of my mother. Jean talked about Jackie with such warmth and love. Jean told us that Jackie had somehow ended up getting in with the wrong crowd at school and ended up starting a relationship with the ringleader of that group of kids. This of course was my dad. Jean stated that she never liked my dad. However she somehow had the ability to articulate this without actually talking overtly negative about my dad. She managed to be honest and open about how she felt about my dad, but did it in a respectful manner.
We then got on to the subject of the circumstances that lead to Jackie leaving her husband and three children. With an unintentional devastating effect on me, Jean confirmed Georgie’s account of events.
“Your mum understandably never got over losing you kids.”
This invariably lead to me asking the following question, “so where is my mum now?” As I said this question out loud I became acutely aware that it had been years since I had felt comfortable referring to my real mum as mum.
Before answering my question Jean came and sat next to me and took my hand in hers. She then told me “your mum understandably never got over losing you kids. Even though she realised within a couple of years she had married the wrong person, you kids were everything to her. She loved you kids more than life itself. She was prepared to stay in an abusive relationship rather than be chucked out to the street and potentially never see you kids again. This was the life she had resigned herself to. However it all changed when Sandy arrived on the scene. Your dad, being the kind of person he was simply discarded your mum. She never got over it. She came to live with me for a couple of years and then that was it.”
This then naturally lead to me asking the next question “what do you mean that was it?”
I felt a tightening of Jean’s grip on my hand before she answered my question. “Your mum lived with me for a couple of years. I supported her as best I could. However I was no substitute for her children. She had tried to fight for contact through the court, however she simply run out of money at some point. She was ill-advised by an attorney who was clearly more interested in taking her money than supporting her to have a relationship with her children. Your dad would have known she fought as much as she could to get to see you kids. However I would imagine he never informed you of this”
Jean then paused before continuing. “As if your mum was not going through enough, about two years after spending the last of her money on attorneys she was diagnosed with lung cancer.”
I sat there frozen in time. I was inconsolable at the realisation of the reality of my mother’s life and that of my own took hold of me. With an overwhelming amount of compassion and empathy Jean informed me that my mum was no longer with us.
Several hours later my aunt Jean handed me a bundle of letters written by my mum and addressed to me and my brothers. Maybe one day I will have the courage to share them in a forum such as this.
I would like to end my post with the following statement, “I may not have known what it was called at the time. I may not have known what was being inflicted upon my mum, my brother and myself by my very own father. However I now understand that many people label it as parental alienation. Whatever we decide to call it, it is abuse and destroys not only relationships, but ultimately lives.”