Let me tell you about one of my best friends. His name is Thor. He is a medium sized mostly black-furred dog.
Despite Thor’s extreme mistreatment in a kill-station in Romania prior to being rescued, he has a kind, docile and loving temperant. He has become an integral part of my life. Thor came to me with another rescue dog, by the name of Buda, who is tragically no longer with us.
“Thor has helped me immensely with my mental health without even realising it.”
I would currently describe my experience of living with depression as constantly being followed by dark clouds. You can’t get rid of these dark clouds. I have tried. I hear many others have also tried to permanently get rid of their respective dark clouds. They have also tried but failed.
My dark clouds are currently a comfortable distance away. But I know with certainty that they still continue to follow me.
When these dark clouds take control, they unleash a barrage of extreme negativity upon the affected individual. These actions make the affected person feel a blunting of emotion, a sense of loneliness, and arguably the most dangerous feeling of all, hopelessness.
The analogy black dog of depression is often used as a simple and effective way of describing the effects of depression.
However, the black dog in my life is not my depression. The black dog is my super-hero of a dog, Thor.
He will never know what he means to me. He will never know how much he has helped me through my numerous difficult episodes of depression.
Like super-heroes are expected to, Thor helped to save me.
“You don’t need superpowers to be someone’s hero.” Ricky Maye.
I was inspired to write this article following my own reading of Dr Childress’ latest blog entitled The Door of Empathy.
In this article of his, Childress explores the behaviour that an alienated child expresses when required simply to survive. In further understanding this, the targeted parent is more able to understand the importance of empathy and provide it for the child.
However, as Childress states:
“…not empathy for the pathology. The pathology is a delusion…instead…a resonant empathy for the authentic child alive beneath the pathology. An empathy that draws forth this authentic child, because we, through our empathy, we see the authentic child – and the child sees their own self-authenticity reflected in our empathy.
Childress goes on to discuss the importance of emotional self-regulation for a targeted parent in displaying empathy for the deluded child.
It is this last point that prompted me to reflect on my numerous misadventures with the evil that is parental alienation over the last thirty months.
In particular, it prompted me to reflect on the unreasonable expectations placed on targeted parents by the various stakeholders and professionals within the family justice system.
Targeted parents start their navigation through the family justice system already at an incredibly disadvantaged position. In addition to this, they are expected to have and show the patience of a Saint, the virtues of Aristotle, the mental strength of a mighty warrior and the financial resources of a millionaire.
And what do the various professionals expect of the alienating parent, who holds all the cards? In my experience: very little. Below are some anecdotal examples of what several professionals have expected of the alienator and I – the targeted parent – over the last thirty months.
Cafcass identified in their very first Case Analysis that the other (resident) parent was identified as exposing the children to emotional harm:
“being of the utmost importance that this identification of such emotional harm is not allowed to let slide along as the children will continue to come to more emotional harm.”
It was in the following year that, despite claims to the contrary, Cafcass clearly allowed my case to slide along. So, I put in a complaint against them in regards to what I perceived as their mismanagement of my case, and failure to safeguard my children from emotional harm. The response to my complaint was a telephone call from a Cafcass Service Manager, which I fortunately managed to record. The manager informed me, in a somewhat blasé manner, that “it’s difficult to know what to do when the damage has already been done” [to the children]. A remarkable, yet open statement of incompetence. And yet, nothing came of my complaint.
My ongoing concerns were further exacerbated by the following alarming statement of fact from another member of management within Cafcass: “Yes, I agree, btg-dad, this system is flawed.” I was also fortunate enough to take an audio recording of this telephone conversation. I can only suggest the manager made a Freudian slip during the challenging questions I posed to him.
Several months later into the case I encountered a social worker employed by the local Children’s Services. When I made a statement that the long-term aim for my children was to co-parent on a 50/50 basis with the other parent, she assertively replied “that’s an unreasonable expectation.” I queried her arguably biased, dismissive response, only to be told, “that is how it is!”
A District Judge once ordered the other parent to present me in a positive light in the eyes of the children, with immediate effect. She has never done this and continues to disobey his direction. Despite being aware, the Judge has taken no further action.
The structure of the family justice system does not permit complaints against judges. I have wondered on numerous occasions of sending my story to the press, be it local or national. However, disclosing any details of the case would place me in contempt of court. Ironic, and tragic.
At the risk of appearing naive, one would expect higher morals of such professionals, particularly those who work in the family court.
How is it that so many professionals within a flawed system are allowed to make such reckless decisions regarding these vulnerable children that are dragged through courts?
The following statistics show clear evidence of the family justice system that continues to fail in its remit to provide the best outcome for children, post-separation:
96% of all child arrangements order applications are made by fathers (University of Warwick, UK).
97% of residencies are given to mothers (University of East Anglia, UK).
50% of court orders are broken (University of East Anglia, UK).
Just 1.2% of applications for enforcement of court orders are successful (Ministry of Justice, UK).
My only attempt at an explanation for the way system currently works – or doesn’t work – is the proverb of the Three Wise Monkeys. The image and proverb used in Western culture to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to observe standards of honesty or integrity. People that simply look the other way, or feign ignorance.
I have no other explanation for the complete lack of moral fibre these people have.
“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” Origin of proverb unknown.
This post was prompted by the tragic circumstances of one of many alienated parents I come across their three-year battle to have a relationship with their children.
Joe* had a harrowing time of navigating his way through the family justice system simply to have a healthy and loving relationship with his children, as it had been prior to separating from their mother. His story is a somewhat typical example of unrecognised, mismanaged parental alienation. At the heart of this were his children being left open to significant emotional harm by a flawed system.
Joe’s relationship ended with his partner three years ago. She immediately made false, unsubstantiated historical allegations that Joe had physically and emotionally abused her and the children. As a result, Cafcass got involved and secured an order for no contact between Joe and his children while these claims of harm were investigated. It took three months to reach the conclusion that Joe did not pose any safeguarding issues regarding his children.
However, during this time, his ex-partner – the ‘resident parent’ – had taken the opportunity afforded by the slow progress made by Cafcass to alienate Joe’s children against him.
The Cafcass Case Manager at the time composed a report which found that the ‘resident parent’ was exhibiting “alienating behaviours.” Furthermore, the children were being exposed to emotional abuse, and that it needed to stop.
However, as the case continued, Cafcass were unable to provide any effective means to stop the harm being inflicted on the children, despite their own findings. Quite remarkably, rather than taking any pro-active approach to minimise the abuse, Cafcass went into great detail outlining the long-term detrimental effects on the children should the abuse be allowed to continue.
It took a whole year for a psychological report to be requested and the whole family was assessed over a period of several months.
The report was a damning indictment of the resident parent’s emotional abuse of the children. The clinical psychologist’s findings were that the children were being exposed to significant emotional harm in the toxic home environment with Joe’s ex-partner. The psychologist made reference to the term ‘significant emotional harm’ no less than seven times in the report.
The psychologist also stated that the resident parent presented with personality traits indicative of a Cluster A personality disorder**. As such, there was little evidence of the abusive parent being willing or able to change. Cafcass failed to understand this in the context of mental health and parental alienation.
Children’s Services became involved for a further year. They wrote several reports which minimised the findings of the clinical psychologist and came to the conclusion that the children did not meet the criteria that would identify them as being exposed to significant emotional harm. Their findings were that the children were in “emotional turmoil.”
Let’s explore this by highlight the following:
We have three parties:
Each party has different parameters when it comes to quantifying the level of harm being inflicted on children. They also have different thresholds regarding what they deem as being labelled as emotional abuse. Furthermore, they each have their own approach when assessing and classifying different levels or severity of “harm”.
The result, in Joe’s case, is that we ended up with three different findings, each from a different clinician or service.
The role of this government body is to promote the welfare of children and families involved in family court.
Cafcass identified that Joe’s children as being exposed to ‘alienating behaviours’ and ‘emotional harm’. (Since their initial assessment, they also stated that Joe’s case is in fact one of parental alienation).
A psychological assessment is a court ordered, clinical diagnostic, and a request for one is informed only by the evidence available to the court at the time. Such requests are made if the court believes it is in its best interests to gain further information from a qualified professional.
The findings detailed in Joe’s case were that the children had been exposed to ongoing significant emotional harm. It also detailed that there appeared to be little or no evidence of the abusive parent changing their behaviour.
The role of Children’s Service is to be responsible for supporting and protecting vulnerable children.
As stated above the findings from Children’s Service is that the children are only experiencing emotional turmoil, but not were not victims of “abuse.” This conclusion was reached despite various concerns raised by the two previous assessments.
Joe has since told me that Children’s Services say they are not able to intervene unless the children start to present with the following risky behaviours: self-harm; alcohol/substance misuse; any identification of physical or sexual harm.
Children’s Services have also told Joe that due to his absence, and their ongoing emotional turmoil, the children will remain at high risk of vulnerability to abuse. However, they will wait for signs of abuse to present themselves before they intervene.
To conclude, from what I know of the numerous cases of miscarriages of justice within the family court, there appears to be no pro-active, early intervention, or preventative approaches for child abuse being applied by any of the various parties that are involved in such cases. Therefore, we currently have a Family Justice System that knowingly fails to safeguard our children.
Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge. A protagonist that is initially presented in the above tale as a cold-hearted, bitter individual.
Scrooge’s persona has resulted in the use of his name in the English language as a byword for cruelty and misanthropy.
On a bleak Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob informs Scrooge that he has been condemned to spend eternity experiencing an “incessant torture of remorse.” Jacob attributes this punishment being due to a life spent obsessing over money and mistreating those less fortunate.
Jacob tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits and warns Scrooge to listen carefully to each of them. It will be Scrooge’s only chance to avoid a much heavier punishment than that currently being inflicted upon his late business partner.
The first spirit to visit Scrooge is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge to numerous scenes of his childhood, including when his one-time fiancé ended their relationship. Scrooge’s neglect of her and his obsession with money were the reason. Scrooge is then taken to a scene that depicts the same woman married with a large and happy family on Christmas Eve. Scrooge is upset by what he sees and demands the ghost remove him from the scene.
Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present who takes him to see various scenes in an attempt to prompt the old miser to repent. However, Scrooge declines these numerous prompts.
The third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, takes Scrooge to a Christmas day in the future, revealing a number of scenes. They visit the funeral of a disliked man where the apparent mourners are only there due to the offer of a free lunch. The final scene that the ghost shows Scrooge is that of a tombstone bearing Scrooge’s name. The grave is very neglected. On seeing this, Scrooge weeps and promises to change his ways.
The following morning Scrooge awakens a new man. Throughout the day he engages with many characters from the story in a compassionate and kind way, visiting family, and gifting the largest turkey to his poor colleague’s family. Dickens presents Scrooge’s new behaviour and zest for life as an embodiment of Christmas spirit.
Scrooge and Parental Alienation
How does this tie in with parental alienation? How does it compare with a parent being denied a loving relationship with their own child? For a detailed definition of parental alienation see here.
Dicken’s tale has several parallels with the dynamics of parental alienation, particularly at Christmas time.
I view the character of Scrooge being incredibly similar to that of an alienating parent. Both characters require a cold-hearted, bitter view on life.
When visited by the first spirit Scrooge selfishly demands he be removed from the last scene due to the upset he felt. He did not appear to reflect on his past behaviour that had upset those around him. As anyone adversely affected by parental alienation will know, the targeting parent will always put their own needs above those of others; even their very own children.
When Scrooge was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, he refused to repent. Such is the same response for alienating parents. They not only out-rightly refuse to change their ways, they will also all too often project blame out onto those they despise. Rather callously, they will reward those that support their negative and abusive behaviours.
The visit by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is where the parallels end. Alienating parents are unable to envisage the future. They are unable to comprehend the emotional damage they are inflicting on their children by denying them a loving relationship with the targeted parent. Alienators simply do not have the insight needed to understand the long-term damage they are doing to their children.
Tragically, unlike Dickens’ Christmas tale, all of us adversely affected by parental alienation know that alienators are not capable of any such epiphany. Ironically, like Scrooge’s former business partner, who is destined to experience eternal torture, in the most severe cases it is the children that will be left to experience the emotional torture; not the perpetrators, the alienating parents.
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.
The following is an anonymous contribution from a very courageous alienated parent.
I have four children. Two daughters first, followed by two sons.
Our story began 19 years ago. At the time, my eldest child was 13, and the others were close in age, at just 12, 10 and 6.
I could write a whole chapter on how I was messed about, but that’s for another time. I think I was at the forefront of changes yet to take place. I suffered domestic violence, humiliation and all forms of mental coercion and abuse. This escalated tostalking, and even being held hostage. The police were called out on 27 occasions – by this time I felt mentally under siege. Advice was given by a solicitor, who informed me that it was not unreasonable for my husband to use violence against me as I was the adult seeking separation.
Fast–forward to my youngest child turning 8, where I no longer lived in the same residence. Although still attending school, it was noticed he was falling asleep in class, and was regularly wet, dishevelled and smelly. I attended all appointments wherever they were, and tried to take care of my children, even though the Cafcass centre had noted distinct coercion to ignore requests from me.I was heckled and verbally abused before, during and after attending the contact centre, and on many occasions in between meetings.
It was all affecting my ability to stay focused. I was crying for much longer and even the simplest things were becoming increasingly difficult. Even sleeping,and then trying towake up, was a challenge.
I changed my solicitor and requested set times to be able to see each of my children. I was laughed at and told that my eldest was in a position to defy court action. To add to that, I was told nothing could be put in place for the three eldest children. My youngest was placed with me permanently on the grounds of neglect.
Even though I lived just a street from my ex–husband, he never asked about, or called to see our son. It got to a point where my son said he wanted to spend the weekends and part of each school holiday scheduled to be with his father halved becausehe didn’t want to miss being part of a family unit.
Things for the other children at the family home were dire, with no feeling of structure or function. They were upset and constantly fighting each other, frustrated with the lack of attention or responsibilityfrom their father. I had to routinely step in to solve problems and support them, especially when they were left alone to fend for themselves by my ex-husband.
I was still struggling, mentally. I had started university but increasingly needed mental health support.When a position became available for me to attend a psychotherapy unit, I took advantage of the opportunity.
Things did not really improve in relation to contact with my children.Their father had maintained that he was not one to make his children do anything they didn’t want to. In my opinion, that was just a cop-out.
When my youngest reached 13, I asked my sons to accompany me on a house move some 250 miles away. My eldest boy was 16 at the time and, unbeknown to me, had not attended school for almost a year. How did I not know about this? His father had told the school that our son resided only with him and made himself the first contact. I have no understanding why the school didn’t follow this up and check.
I did move. My daughters were 20 and 18 and living at home with dad. I had totally forgottento investigate school placements before moving and was told that the local school would not take on any more pupils. I didn’t know the area and was prepared to settle for the nearest possible school. However, both boys decided they wanted to return to what they knew, and so I had to let them to go back.
“It broke my heart.”
I saw my youngest in his holidays and at half–term, but never spent another holiday, half–term, Christmas or birthday with any of my other children again, despite my youngest saying he wanted to live with meonce he left school.
Fast–forward to present day –my youngest became a father aged 21, and my eldest became a mother at 28.I have no contact with my youngest son or daughter, despite us being a close family.I feel there has been deliberate intent to keep me from being a family member.My eldest son is the only person in regular daily contact.
My children are now all in their twenties and thirties.
Returning to this post, take a look at the following statistics:
These statistics speak for themselves. Another statistic that is not in the above image is that suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK. And the most high risk age range of suicide amongst men are those that are middle aged. So in the interests of equality, please recognise today for what it is. An acknowledgement of how important it simply is to look out for each other more.
Lets try and do this without any preconceived gender stereotyping. Lets do this because it is the right thing to do.
Carys Afoko in her article in The Guardian published today entitled I run a feminist group, but today I am celebrating International Men’s Day writes the following: “Women are not all delicate emotional flowers who need to be protected and rescued. Men are not all violent and sexually aggressive brutes who are only after one thing. Some people don’t even identify as women or men. All of us are living in a culture that puts us into boxes based on old-fashioned ideas that are well past their sell-by date.”
Apologies for not writing for a while. As an alienated parent, debts still have to be paid, so I have been working towards this end.
I am writing today about a song that I have recently had to come to terms with. A couple of years ago while driving in my car, when she loved me, by Sarah McLachlan, came up on my playlist. Without thinking I sang along, and the usual lump came to my throat and I stopped singing for a second. My youngest daughter, who is used to my singing in the car, asked if I was alright. I said that I was and carried on.
It made me think about what had happened. For people that don’t know, the above mentioned song is the one played in Toy Story Two ,and referred to as Jessie’s song. It was written by Randy Newman, who writes amazing songs, and this was designed to tug at the heart strings. Unfortunately, when Randy sang it for Pixar Studios, it didn’t have the desired effect. Sarah McLachlan was asked to sing this and the rest is history.
I mention this because for some people the connection between the song and an alienated parent will jump into your mind, and not so for others.
Let me explain. In the film Toy Story Two, Jessie talks to Woody about why she doesn’t see her owner anymore
When somebody loved me everything was beautiful every hour spent together Lives within my heart
And when she was sad I was there to dry her tears and when she was happy so was I when she loved me
This talks about how loved and special she felt; for me it reminded me of the special relationship I had with my daughter, and how every day, every hour spent together lives within my heart.
Through the summer and the fall we had each other that was all Just she and I together like it was meant to be
And when she was lonely I was there to comfort her and I knew that she loved me
This talks about the relationship Jessie had with her owner; the relationship I had with my daughter, was different to the one she had with her mother. Her mother had a child so that she didn’t feel left out by her friends. It meant that we talked about all sorts of things, we did all sorts of things, together.
So the years went by I stayed the same But she began to drift away I was left alone Still I waited for the day When she’d say I will always love you
Lonely and forgotten Never thought she’d look my way And she smiled at me and held me Just like she use to do Like she loved me
When she loved me
This part refers to when Jessie is found by her owner after being forgotten under her bed for a while. For me this is the hardest part of the song. My relationship with my daughter has been hijacked by her mother; the person that didn’t really want to do anything with our daughter, now does everything and forces my daughter to make decisions based on emotional blackmail.
Her mother buys my daughter’s affection with things, rather than spend time with her. She has over time, convinced her that Daddy is bad, and that we should be angry at him. For me, I have had to put up with all sorts of barriers and boundaries to spending time with my daughter. I have fought to keep phone contact, as this was all I was allowed. This has meant that as my daughter has started to grow, she has started to think for herself. I have never lied to my daughter, and have always told her everything, even if it doesn’t put me in a good light. I have been no angel and freely admit this, but this shouldn’t prevent me from being a part of my daughter’s life. Her mother is happy to take child maintenance from me, but would happily cut me from her life if she could.
When somebody loved me everything was beautiful every hour spent together Lives within my heart when she loved me
This part speaks more to, me than anything. Dearest daughter, just to make you aware, this passage isn’t about how I need to be loved. It refers to the fact that I love you dearly, always have, always will.
It doesn’t matter to me what anyone says to me, the time we spend together will always live together in my heart. I hope and pray (and I am not even religious!!) that at some point our time together will mean as much to you as it does to me.
I will never stop trying to have a relationship with you, in whatever way, shape or form, you want. Know that I have never stopped loving you, despite what others may say, and this will never change.
I still listen to this song. Tears don’t roll down my face as they used to, but it does remind me of what I miss and what I hope to look forward to in the future. “When she was happy, so was I. When she loved me “
[The following is an anonymised experience contributed by an alienated parent. This yet again highlights the flawed system that is the Family Justice System.]
Approximately a week ago I emailed the Senior Service Manager of my regional Cafcass Office. I asked him three or four questions by email. By far the simplest question I asked was the following:
“Is it really fair, ethical and morally right for my # year old daughter to be prevented from seeing me?”
The manager’s response was “there are complex dynamics at play, which professionals and the Judge have commented on.”
I then replied via email with the following response:
“This is not a competency based question. It is an ethics based question. I have the right to have an honest answer to this question, from the very organisation who is responsible for the well-being of my children while they go through the family court process.
It should not take you a whole day to answer this very simple question. It is either a yes or no. I can not make it any simpler for you to answer.
Is it really fair, ethical and morally right for my # year old daughter to be prevented from seeing me? Yes or no?”
At time of writing I have still not received a response to this very simple question. The lack of response to such a simple question, actually raises the following questions regarding Cafcass’ approach to the safeguarding of children that find themselves going through the Family Justice System.
The initial answer to the question (there are complex dynamics at play, which professionals and the Judge have commented on) was clearly avoidant. Why would such an organisation avoid answering such a simple question? What are they avoiding?
The above mentioned Senior Service Manager is also rather astoundingly a member of the local Safeguarding Children Board. So as a professional surely the answering of such a ethics based question should be driven by the individual’s own values and ethics? Not any protection of his professional reputation within a flawed system, where the toxic organisational culture clearly does not appreciate the disclosing of any truth?
Why are Cafcass not committed to the effective safeguarding of children going through family court?
Is it that Cafcass do not want to be held accountable for complex cases such as parental alienation?
So if anyone has any ideas or questions regarding my above points please feel free to leave your comments below.
To my beautiful children. Regardless of whether you all currently think you love me or not. Regardless of whether you all actually miss me or not. Regardless of whether you all feel your hearts’ are broken or not. Regardless of my absence in your lives; I would like to tell you a story of one of two creatures who became my best friends. I strongly believe they had a big part of saving my life.
[To those that follow this blog, I am an alienated parent. I have now not seen my beautiful children for more than two years. For those of you that ask the most simple question of why, the answer is simple. The other parent of my children has effectively brainwashed our children against me. They are led to believe a false narrative of events. They are led to believe I no longer love them. They are led to believe I have rejected them all. This set of abusive behaviours is known as parental alienation. The parent that ‘facilitates’ the false narrative is known as the alienating parent. The alienating parent will effectively and actively promotes false and toxic beliefs that effectively turn the affected children against the targeted parent. This set of abusive behaviours is known as parental alienation. Due to the current flawed system, there is a financial incentive for the targeting parent to increase the alienating behaviours. The less the targeted parent is ‘allowed’ by the targeting parent to have contact with the children the more child maintenance the targeting parent receives!]
Anyway, lets return to the narrative of this story. So, to my beautiful children this is a recent insight into my life (that you are unfortunately excluded from) that I would like to share with you.
A couple of years before the publishing of this post, within the context of my new life (which I so wish you were all permitted to be a part of) I adopted two dogs. One was from Romania, the other from Spain. Both were rescue dogs, taken from a life of depravity and abuse.
The latter sentence does certainly not equate to any entitlement of recognition on my part. In fact the opposite is true. What I and my new life got from these two dogs was unbelievable; unconditional love, devotion, attention and most valued of all, companionship, mutual trust and friendship.
As strange as it may sound kids, these two dogs gave me something that was lacking in my inner self as an alienated parent; an inner purpose, a sense of self, a sense of responsibility.
Kids, the Spanish dog in my opinion had the same grace, maturity and mannerisms of the dog ‘Shadow’ in the movie Journey Home. The very movie we all used to watch numerous times together. This very dog of mine that reminded me so much of ‘Shadow’ had many other endearing and cute mannerisms which I would rather tell you in person (one day I hope). As for my Romanian companion, like his Spanish counterpart, he is unlike any dog I have ever known before. He gives hugs! My God kids, how much you would love him. He actually gives hugs, proper hugs! He places his paws on your shoulder and snuggles his head in.
So kids why am I telling you such a story about two random rescue dogs I took under my wing as part of my new life? Allow me to explain. I know you all love animals as much as I do. As such please allow me to elaborate on my relationship with these two dogs and what, I feel we all get from our connections dogs as companions, friends and dependants.
I do not wish to dwell on the period of my life that I am about to discuss. Suffice to say, in the recent past I have experienced some very, very dark times. Maybe the language I am using is too ‘grown-up’ should you be reading this post now. However should you find yourself reading this content in several years time I would imagine you know what I mean by the phrase “I have experienced some very, very dark times.”
So to continue kids, in such times I would be alone, feel isolated and feel hopeless. Of course this was in the context of being an alienated parent. By the way, allow me to make this clear; none of this is your fault. I simply struggled with being denied the opportunity of being a part of your lives. As I continue to do so now to this very day.
However in such dark times who did I depend on (be it not exclusively)? Yep, you guessed it kids, my furry four legged friends.
Many an isolated, lonely afternoon I would unashamedly wallow in self-pity and sorrow, listen to music and cuddle up to my two furry friends.
During these dark days, these two furry friends of mine never appeared to judge me. They never appeared to ignore me. They never seemed to be fed up with providing me with love, attention and companionship. They felt to me to have a bottomless pit of such emotions. They would greet me with such enthusiasm when I returned home. They would even display the same enthusiasm if I had only taken the rubbish out!
During some of my darkest days I found myself listening to the song ‘Song for Zulu’ by Phosphorescent while cuddling and curling up next to my two furry best friends.
So what is the connection with the lyrics of this song and my two new furry friends? At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to explain.
“You will not see me fall, nor see me struggle to stand.” In my capacity as an alienated parent the above lyric resonated with me profoundly. Maybe one day I will explain it to you in person.
However the above lyric also resonates with me in relation to my furry Spanish friend, Buda. This song reminds me of these dark days and my furry friends beside me.
There was something special about Buda. Poor Buda had been born into a kill station. He was severely mistreated as a young dog. He was then rescued and that’s when Buda came into my new life.
Tragically, several days ago was the last time I saw my good friend Buda alive. I had seen Buda earlier that day struggle to get through the morning. Following his rescue from the kill station he had a couple of years in an incredibly loving home. And then his life was cut tragically short by an incurable disease.
Kids, all of you would have immediately fallen in love with Buda, as most people did when they met him. I feel Buda would have benefited from having you kids in his life. How much I would have loved you all to have been a part of Buda’s short life. You all would have most definitely have benefited from such a friendship with Buda. I am sure Buda would have loved you all too. He was a special, loving dog.
Maybe one day you will all meet Buda’s housemate Thor. As much as you kids would have loved Buda, you would all equally love Thor. Who wouldn’t love a dog that gives human-like hugs?
The lyric from the following song resonates with me for many reasons. Reasons that I would prefer to disclose to you kids, in private, one day.
“You will not see me fall, nor see me struggle to stand” Matthew Houck, 2013.
On Saturday 22nd September I had the pleasure of being one of the public speakers at an event called The Dad Takeover.
The event took place in London. It was organised by Priscilla Appeaning. Priscilla is the founder of The Step Mums Club.
“I set up this initiative to debunk the ‘wicked stepmum’ stereotype and give support to this growing community of mothers with their journeys.” Read more about Priscilla’s reasons behind creating her movement here: Why I Launched The Step Moms Club.
The event started with a panel of four laypeople up on stage. All of them fathers that gave different, interesting and unique insights into modern day fatherhood. This was well received by the audience and rightly so.
The next stage of the event involved a Family Law Solicitor, named Tejal and I going on stage.
Tejal introduced herself, her professional role and then spoke about the family court process regarding cases of divorce and separations. Tejal advocated for self representation and signposted the audience to where they could find the relevant forms online. It was refreshing to hear a family law solicitor advocating for self-representation. Tejal’s talk was clear, concise and helpful.
After Tejal had finished, I then took the microphone and introduced myself. First of all regarding my profession; I explained I am a Charge Nurse on an acute psychiatric assessment unit. I then introduced myself in a personal capacity; an alienated parent of three children, who I have not seen for over two years.
Staying within the event’s broad topic of modern day fatherhood I then went on to explain what parental alienation is. How it occurs, the long term effects on all those affected by it and the flawed legal system that enables it to go unchallenged and fails to protect an incalculable number of children from emotional abuse.
I was then bombarded (all be it appropriately) by numerous questions from the audience about parental alienation. There were many more people there that had/are experiencing parental alienation first hand. Some of these audience members were aware that it had a name, some did not.
There was then a brief break where I had another opportunity to speak with numerous parents and step-parents that are currently battling parental alienation, all at different stages.
After the break there was a general Q&A session. Such topics discussed involved the Child Maintenance Service, fathers legal rights, fathers mental health and society’s perception and expectations of modern day fatherhood.
The Q&A session invariably turned into a debate. However, as is always the case in such circumstances, the event simply run out of time.
After the last Q&A session there was enough time for all attendees to discuss with one another the various topics highlighted in the day’s event.
I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to many people that have been and/or still are affected by parental alienation. I was also fortunate enough to meet a member of The Cornerstone Community Project; one of many attendees that engaged in the lively debate.
From my own experience I know how emotionally difficult it can be to disclose your own personal story of parental alienation to someone you have just met. With this in mind I would like to say a big thank you those people that shared their stories with me. It is such shocking stories that fill me full of motivation and energy to use Peace Not Pas to continue to raise awareness of, provide support for and lobby for reform regarding all elements of parental alienation.
Thank you so much for having me Priscilla. I am very grateful that you gave me the opportunity to talk publicly about subjects that I am incredibly passionate about; parental alienation, mental health and last but not least the importance of shared parenting post separation.