A Childhood Lost, A Motherhood Robbed: Overcoming Parental Alienation
The breeze blows softly through the open windows, the sun shining warmth unto my face.
It’s a beautiful Sunday in February - the first taste of Spring in what has been a typical bitter Winter in Michigan. As I sit with a purring cat in my lap and a sleeping, content dog next to me, I contemplate my life - where I’ve been and where I want to go. There’s just something about the first taste of Spring and the birds chirping blissfully in the sunshine that rushes in childhood memories. Memories of riding bikes, chasing butterflies, hunting four-leaf clovers and searching for imaginary treasures. Yet every positive childhood memory I have, I realize, is one where I was alone or with friends. My family has no part in a single positive memory I have and I can’t help at times but feel deeply saddened by that realization.
I’ve lived a life that is deserving of a nail-biter of a book or an overly dramatic Lifetime movie. I have so many stories and so many experiences that no one should ever have, especially not a child. At some point, I learned to subconsciously “erase’ the painful memories of my childhood from my every day. Then there are times where I read an article or hear a song and all of those painful memories that I tried so hard to bury come flooding back. I remember. I don’t want to remember. I don’t want to think about it yet I know that it is these painful memories that have made me who I am today. As cliche as that is, it holds so much truth for me and I know for many others. I am a child of a malicious mother. A mother who never truly wanted me to begin with but used me as a tool in a vicious game of spite against my biological father. A mother who verbally and physically abused me and subjected me to a childhood filled with violence, alcoholism, drug addiction and stints in and out of battered women’s shelters.
At 5 years old, my mom remarried who I would soon become to know as “dad.” I can’t remember a time at all where my mom didn’t tell my brother and I to call this man “dad.” When you are so young, you rely on the parental figures in your life to guide you and you trust them to lead you in the right direction. I had no idea I even had a biological father at this point, or even that this man that my mom was marrying wasn’t my biological father. I was likely too young to remember my father and know any better than what my mom was pushing on me. My brother, 7 years older than me and old enough to know and remember who our real father was, never spoke of it. Brainwashed and broken, he did what my mom said, believed what she told him to and carried on like nothing had happened. Soon thereafter, the abuse began. This man my mom had let into our lives was a raging alcoholic with powerful and terrifying anger issues. Most of my childhood memories of him are of him coming home in a drunken rage, looking for any reason to pick a fight. It would be 2 AM, my brother and I both sleeping on a school night, and he would come home and blast Mariah Carey. Even over the loud music, I could hear the insults being hurled at my mother. Why couldn’t she look like Mariah Carey. Why she wasn’t attractive enough for him. I would hear my mom snap something sassy back or ask him to turn the music down, and that’s when he would unleash his rage on her. Broken bones, bruises, being pushed down the stairs, choked, spit on…I saw it all happen to my mom. When she would have to go to the hospital and be treated for her injuries, the classic “I fell and it was an accident” would come out of her mouth. The abuse never stopped. I was lucky to have never been as physically abused by this man I was told to call my father, but my mom, my brother and our pets took the worst of it. My brother would be punched in the face for no reason or for little things that all children do - things that are not deserving of physical punishment or retaliation. The worst I’ve seen was when I came home to find my brother tied to the tree outside, with a dog collar tight around his neck, his face bruised and swollen from relentless blows, and a dog chain connecting him to the tree. I still don’t know what happened that day but the memory of that sight still haunts me to this day. Through all of this, we were still told we needed to respect this man, we were told he was our father and that we needed to do as he said. At times, my mom would take me and flee the home, taking us to a shelter or a hotel for short periods of time. My brother would always stay. Although horribly abused, he began to attach himself to our abuser and refused to leave his side. The stints away and the threats of divorce never laster. We always went back. The abuse always continued. I can’t recall how many times I had to call 911 between the ages of 6 - 10 because this man was threatening to kill my mom and kill us all.
My mom was no angel either.
While the simple act of subjecting your children, whom you are supposed to love and protect, to a man that filled our childhood with violence, fear and rage-filled verbal assaults, is enough in and of itself to show the type of mother she was, it unfortunately did not stop there. At just 7 years old, after trying to surprise my mom by doing a load of laundry for her, I was called a “cunt,” a “bitch” and a “brat.” These verbal assaults continued throughout the rest of my childhood and even on into adulthood. When she wasn’t verbally assaulting me or telling me what a horrible daughter and person I was, she was throwing things at me, smacking me across the face or denying me of food because I wasn’t “thin enough” to be deserving of it.
There came a time when my mom, likely fueled by her anger towards her husband and her own mental health issues, sat me down and told me that I had a biological father. After everything she had put me through and subjected me to, she decided to unleash this on me as if to intentionally cause pain and emotional suffering. When I had questions, she told me dramatic tales of a drug addicted man who held a knife to my throat when I was a baby, who beat her repeatedly in front of me and my brother, and who was so incredibly evil, that she had no other choice but to completely cut him out of our lives. At first, the story was that she met my fake dad while she was in the midst of a divorce with my father. According to her, my father had stalked her and threatened our lives, so my fake dad, rife with tales of his ties to the mafia, sought him out and killed him. As time went on and I had more questions, the story changed. Then it became that my fake dad just went and paid him a visit, roughed him up a bit and told him to stay away from us, leaving us to never hear from him again. These variations went on and on, all through my teen years. What never changed was my mom’s adamant declaration that our father deserved to never see us again and that she did this for our own good - to keep us safe and away from his evil ways. The older I got, the more I began to see flaws in these stories and her logic. How could she be keeping us safe from someone else when the home she provided us to was a war-zone in its own right? When the man she chose instead of my father was a lunatic that shattered our innocence and childhoods? It just didn’t make sense. Then I got a hold of my birth certificate for the first time. I actually held it in my hands and what I saw stunned me. The father on my birth certificate was listed as this man, my stepfather. My mom went through all of the trouble to oust my father and have this new man, before we even knew him, legally adopt us and change the name of our biological father on our birth certificates to his. We even shared his last name - she made sure she got them changed. Who does that? Who just erases a person they were once married to and had children with as if they never existed? And if you are wondering if that’s even legal, yes it is. I requested a copy of my birth certificate from the state I was born in, and sure enough, it was the same. It wasn’t just some deceptive hack job - she actually went through the legal processes to erase my father as if he never existed.
As I grew up, moved out and began my journey into adulthood, I always wondered about my father.
Who was he? What was he like? Was I like him? Maybe that’s why my mom always resented me and viewed me as competition. Was he looking for me? Did he love me? Was he as evil as my mom made him out to be? Was he even still alive? I did some minor research here and there but my mom’s stories of him always plagued my mind and the fear always stopped me from going any further. It wasn’t until I went through a divorce of my own with an abusive sociopath who did everything he could to prevent me from being a mom to the daughter we shared, that I began to see things differently. It’s so odd how some things seem to run parallel. For me, it sometimes felt like I was paying the karma for my mom’s deeds. She ousted my father from our lives as if he never existed and here I was, a devoted, loving and exceptional mother, fighting for my rights because a deeply disturbed man that I once thought I loved was trying to oust me from my daughter’s life as if I never existed. I went through hell to keep my ex-husband from taking my daughter from me and I faced many hurdles in the family court system. It’s simply not designed in the best interests of children - it’s designed in the best interests of court officials, money and biases. I couldn’t help but wonder if my father had experienced some of this too and that’s why after all of these years, I still hadn’t heard from him. It must be hard to have a child ripped from you and have no where to turn. Even when you think that a court would rule in your favor and against such spiteful and damaging behavior, you learn that they really don’t care if it doesn’t benefit them or if they are dealing with another parent who will literally do anything to ensure you are erased from your child’s life. I’m sure there are so many stages of grief, loss and guilt until you likely reach the point of feeling like you could never be a part of that child’s life - feeling as if they must hate you by now, blame you and it’s not even worth trying. I can only imagine.
As if by fate, out of the blue, my father contacted me in 2013, during my own tumultuous dealings with a person who was trying to rid me from my daughter’s life. He found me on Facebook and bravely reached out to me. I held no grudges against him, yet I was still scared. I had no idea what to believe or if any of the stories my mom had told me about him held any merit. He was kind and loving. He told me how much he missed me, how he always thinks about me and how proud he was of the person I grew up to be. He told me stories of how he would take me for walks late at night when I wouldn’t fall asleep, of singing me lullabies and of all the fun daddy-daughter things we would do together. He never once spoke ill of my mom but when I asked what happened, he confirmed my fears. My mom had began an affair with the man she would later demand for us to call “dad” and left him. She asked for a divorce and when he challenged her ability to do whatever she wanted and go wherever she wanted with us, that’s when the spite began. He was more than up-front with me. He spoke honestly of the drug problems that both he and my mom had in the early 80’s and the lifestyle that he lived as a touring stage/lighting designer for major rock bands like Joan Jett. He was honest about the struggles to stop using and admitted that he went to rehab and stopped before I was born. He told me of a time that he came to our house looking for us, just trying to see us, and how my mom had our step-dad come out and threaten his life. I actually remember that instance, yet I had no idea it was my father standing out in our driveway. He told me how my mom utilized every shady tactic and loophole she could legally to prevent contact with us. That’s how my step-dad was able to legally adopt us. There was a loophole at the time that allowed a mother who claimed that she did not know the whereabouts of the biological father to put an ad in the local newspapers seeking him. If she did this, the biological father was given a certain amount of time to come forward and if he didn’t, his children became fair game for sole custody to the mother and up for legal adoption by any man she chose. He was so familiar to me, even after all those years. I finally felt like I was connected to something, as I never felt like I fit in with my mom growing up. I was so much like him and it all made sense - where my looks, my hair, my singing…where it all came from. I was just like my dad and my mom hated me for it and my step-dad resented me for it.
My father and I continued to speak for a bit here and there and he asked me to call him. At the time, I guess it was a step I wasn’t quite ready for. I was still talking to my mom at the time and she went ballistic when she found out that we were talking. She screamed insults at me and called me obsessively, reiterating over and over that if I talked to him, he would ruin me. He was just looking for money, she said. He was just trying to use me. He was nothing more than a sick psycho. That’s what she wanted me to believe and part of me still did want to believe her. She is my mom and it’s hard to break away from that. The fear she instilled in me got the better of me and I never did call him. I did manage to reach out to his 2nd wife and was told that he was a good man, that he loved my brother and I so much and fought for us legally to no avail. She said he spoke of us often and was tortured by losing us. He never had kids again. I asked my brother about all of this and he responded with the same script my mom so easily screamed off at me. He was bad, period. I shouldn’t be talking to him and he was lying to me. The conflicting information coming from every direction was overwhelming and I succumbed to the doubt and fear being drilled into me. My father faded away, likely feeling as if he failed and that I wanted nothing to do with him. He lived for 20+ years with the pain of not having me in his life and I’m fairly certain that at a certain point, you just feel unworthy. My refusal to call him likely reiterated that for him. I haven’t heard from him since and I still hope one day I can meet him again and get to know who my father really is, starting a relationship that should have never been abruptly halted by a vindictive and selfish woman who was supposed to look out for my best interests.
I stopped talking to my step-dad long ago but I permanently removed my mother from my life almost 2 years ago. I don’t hate her but I love myself enough to not allow her abusive and toxic behavior into my life or my daughter’s life. The name-calling, berating and constant denigration of my character and my every move was too much for me. When she publicly humiliated me in front of my daughter, went on a racist, bigoted tirade and tried to encourage my then 8 year old daughter to take nude selfies, I put my foot down and finally cut her out of my life. This time, for good. I don’t think I’m quite at the point yet where I can say that I forgive her but I am at a place where I understand why she is the way that she is. I try my best to look at her transgressions and abuse from a place of compassion, attempting to understand the tumultuous life she was raised in and the abuse she endured herself that led her to be the mother she was to me. I suspect she has several underlying mental health issues as well that she has refused to accept or seek treatment for and I hope one day that she will and can begin to understand the consequences her actions have caused. My life has been significantly better since removing her from my life and I no longer have to deal with the pain and stress of receiving hundreds of insulting and degrading text messages, phone calls and emails attacking my character. She still has refused to accept responsibility for her actions and still blames me for everything, laying stake to the claim that I am just a bad daughter, just like my bad father - always have been and always will be. She went as far as to reach out to my abusive ex-husband, whom she at point hated and blamed for me moving away from her. He was called every name in the book, accused of being gay and I was constantly pressured to leave him and move back in with her, with my daughter. But now that I put my foot down, she can’t help but to continue to try and hurt me by siding with the man who ruined 7 years of my life and subjected me to multiple forms of abuse, my daughter an unfortunate witness to it all. It only confirms to me that my decision was the right one, as was my decision to leave my ex-husband. I left him because I love my daughter and knew that I could not subject her to a childhood that I once had to live. As soon as the abuse became physical and verbal, and the first time it happened in front of my child, I asked for a divorce and got out of there as quickly as I could.
I am a daughter of a mother who alienated me from my father, erasing him from my life.
I am a mother to a daughter, whom I share joint custody of, whose father attempts to alienate me from her life every possible chance he gets. I no longer know my father, yet I miss him every day and wish I knew what it was like to be able to call my dad up when I needed support or just a laugh. I wonder what it would be like to be able to have my daughter have a grandfather that loves her and dotes on her. I may never have that, and that’s okay. I’ve reached a point of acceptance and remain open to whatever may happen.
What I do know is that parental alienation is child abuse. A parent cannot be replaced and no matter how anyone tries to justify their reasoning for cutting another parent out of their child’s life intentionally, it can never take away the fact that such an act is as selfish, atrocious and abusive as they come.
Because of my mom’s actions and decision to commit parental alienation, I now have neither a mother or a father. I walked through much of my life feeling like an orphan, a child that fell victim to parental alienation and a malicious mom who used her for spite while never really wanting her around. I am a child that was born, yet never raised. I raised myself, no reliable father or mother figure anywhere to be found. My mom’s mistakes made out of revenge and selfishness, and her lack of care as to the type of environment we lived in, shaped me and led me down the path I took once I was old enough to start making my own decisions. I made a lot of mistakes of my own, that I take full responsibility for; however, you tend to repeat the patterns you see as a child and follow the words that you are told that you are.
For me, I followed a path into abusive relationships because I lacked any kind of self-worth and had never seen anything different. I had no idea that I deserved to be treated any better. My story, although difficult, is sadly, not an uncommon one. My story is the story that is never told, the story that gets ignored. So often we hear stories of deadbeat dads and single moms working hard to take care of their children. We never hear about the deadbeat moms or the deadbeat parents who chose to alienate their child(ren) from the other parent simply because they didn’t get their way, because they want revenge or because they just simply want to punish the other parent for leaving them.
We never hear the stories of the children who grew up alienated from their other parent and the consequences they suffered because of it. We never hear how the parents who did the alienating abused and neglected the child, punishing them for being related to the person they feel so much hatred for. I’m one of the lucky ones.
My mom set me up for a life of failure, showing me violence, alcoholism, drug addiction and instability instead of love, compassion and tenderness. My mom thrust a man into my life that did nothing but abuse my brother and I and never gave me the opportunity to have a relationship with a father who loved me and wanted to protect me - a father who would teach me how to take care of myself, teach me confidence and be there to defend and protect me when I needed him. Between not having a father figure in my life and the constant criticism and verbal assaults on my being, I should have ended up addicted and broken, just like my mom wanted me to be. I didn’t. I made mistakes and I broke free from them. I felt the pain of being without my father and I did not succumb to it. I made myself work harder, try harder and be better and although I rose above much of it, I still struggle with feelings of not belonging and pangs of a deep, internal sadness from losing my innocence so early and having missed out on so much of childhood, that will likely never go away.
There are so many children and adults out there suffering because of parental alienation, either a child of or a parent to, or both, like me. They suffer in silence, afraid to tell their story and knowing that not very many people out there even care. They are plagued with depression, grief, anxiety and a pain that they cannot put into words. Let my story be a light that shines awareness on the malicious act that parental alienation is and the damage that it causes. I am the child of an alienated father and a mother to a child alienated from me.
I refuse to be silenced and I refuse to let it destroy me - and all of us who have lived through this pain should band together and be the voice to those who are suffering silently.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Christina Celeste