Even though we attended church as a family, we fit the cliché of “Sunday only” Christians. When I was burdened about not having family devotions together, my then husband, Charles touted, everyone could “do their own thing.” I attended bible studies alone. I prayed alone. I walked with God alone, but how greatly I prayed and longed for a husband that would be the spiritual leader of our family and our home.
We were not a Godly family. We were a “churchy” family. We put on our Sunday clothes, carried our bibles and “played like.” I didn’t realize prior to and even shortly after marriage, Charles’ goals were immeasurably different than mine. As our children matured and became more independent, the disparities between my values and Charles’ intensified.
I didn’t learn of parental alienation while our children resided at home. The first time a counselor told me that was the rationale in the attitude toward me, I gleaned an understanding of my children’s actions. From the time our children were young if I said “stop”, Charles said, “go.” I still hear his words when our children were toddlers. “I want to be their friend. I don’t want to be their disciplinarian.”
Dr. Susan Heitler in Psychology Today cites, “Parental alienation syndrome, a term coined in the 1980s by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner, occurs when one parent attempts to turn the couple’s children against the other parent. A parent who is angry at the spouse or ex-spouse accomplishes this estrangement by painting a negative picture of the other parent via deprecating comments, blame, and false accusations shared with the children. They may also “hoard” the kids, doing all they can to thwart the other parent from spending time with them. In my clinical practice…I have also had multiple families in which Dad is the alienating parent, turning the children against their mother. In general, the alienating parent is the least emotionally healthy of the two; they’re often more wealthy, as well…”
This has not diminished the grief I’ve endured with not having my children and grandchildren in my life, but it has given me some understanding of the cause. Over the past eight years, I’ve spent almost every holiday totally alone, while Charles is celebrating with our children and grandchildren. There have been countless family celebrations when I was not included. This has validated to our children and grandchildren I am not as esteemed in their lives as Charles.
When I was on my knees praying for healthy children. I was praying for “our children” that “we” would rear in the love of God. During the divorce, Charles’ attorney requested copies of my personal counselor’s notes. Several counselors noted the times Charles mandated I be excluded from family events and the sorrow I bore. God has given me the tenacity to endure. Recent counselors have remarked on my incredible strength. “But God”! The mourning over the lack of love and support is tremendous, but God has allowed me to see that He is truly the only one I can count on.” Psalm 136:26 ESV, “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.”