If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you are with.

The week before Christmas and the workload at the Family Separation Clinic is heavy, a sad reminder that this is the time of year when people who are living apart from their children struggle the most. All around us are messages of love, family and togetherness, the words of the Chris Rea song ‘driving home for Christmas’ ring out in just about every supermarket and shop in town. I, like so many others who have suffered family separation, know the pain that is the other side of this joy. If you have loved ones around you at this time of year, be grateful for them and pull them close. If there are missing places at your table, light candles for the lost ones to light their way home again. Most of all, if you cannot be with the ones you love this year, love the ones you can be with. Loving each other is what gets you through this hardest of times.

Last year I wrote about the tired man and the battles he faced. This year I am writing about those of you for whom Christmas has become a day to get through, a day to bear rather than enjoy and a day you wish would come and go without you having to think about it. So many of you this year have told me that the pain of missing your children is so great that you will hide away from the world on Christmas Day. The image of so many people having to hide away in order to cope with the pain of missing children is painful in itself and so this year, this post is for you, to let you know you are not alone and that your loss and your pain is shared by so many around this country and indeed the world.

Being prevented from seeing your children is a cruel and unusual punishment which takes its toll on you if you let it. Bitterness and anger are corrosive emotions which can harm your self and your soul as well as your physical body if you let them. Keep in mind as you go through this period of time in the year that this is a long road that you are travelling. Missing special times that can never be replaced is an acute pain but if you let it become chronic and long term it will finish you. And if you are finished you will not be there when your children come to find you. And they will. All children come looking one day. When they do, make sure you are there, healthy and well and waiting.

This year I have been working on some astonishing reunifications, with families where children were long estranged, where parents had felt them to be long lost. In all of that work I have seen the strength of blood ties, of attachments which are unbroken along all the years of separation. I have seen smiles on children’s faces as they emerge from their frozen fears and rejection and I have seen again the way in which strong bonds are reformed very quickly when the dynamics are right.

I have also seen the suffering of children who are still stuck in fixed and alienated places who have taken it upon themselves to use the coping mechanism of rejection of a parent to protect themselves from what they fear. These children will emerge too, one day, like butterflies from a cacoon, one day, when the sun is warm enough and the sky is unclouded and blue.

And I have witnessed most of all, the way in which the family courts and family services fail our children over and over and over again. And the damage this does in the prolonging of unnecessary suffering.

But most of all I have witnessed and worked with the most amazing strength and resilience in parents I have worked with whose children have rejected them and I feel privileged to have known each and every one of you. In every case that I have worked in the parents I have met have shown fortitude, forebearance, love and understanding. And they keep on keeping on, despite their loss, despite the pain, despite the secondary suffering imposed upon them by the systems they have had to interact with. There is something shared by all parents in these circumstances, it is unending love and unrelenting determination to love their children regardless of the obstacles placed in the way of that. Children may be taken away, removed, distanced and seemingly lost, but the river of love from their parents flows towards them anyway. And thank goodness it does for it is this which in the end safeguards those children and this that in end will bring them home.

My lesson this year in my working life has been to understand at a deeper level the faulty fit between family services in this country and the needs of the families they are supposed to be actually serving. I have begun in this work to understand why so many parents are rejected and so many children are suffering radical parentectomy in their lives. This understanding is something that we will be writing and talking about more widely in 2015 alongside continuing to research and develop new treatment routes for families in conflict and crisis. We will raise our voices louder on behalf of the families we work with and we will keep on speaking about what we learn.

And so, as Chris Rea whines his way through the next seven days and the pain inside grows greater, know that you are not alone, that there are many who will, like you, be coping as best that they can and that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Give yourself time and space and peace, when the pain of missing them grows too great, make like a river and let life flow by you, observe the pain and let it go, this too will pass and the leaves on the trees will return and the colour will come back again. Love yourself, love your children anyway and if you cannot be with the ones you love, love the ones you are with and let them love you back.

Love is what will bring your children home, let love flow in you and let it lift you and carry you through. It won’t change the past but it can change your present and it can radically change your future. Wrap yourself up, walk and talk with friends, eat well, contemplate, turn the suffering into something that helps other people. Whilst you are waiting, make like fishermen do when the sea is too stormy and mend your nets. This is your life too. Make it matter, make it count.

Your children would not choose this if they were allowed to choose the life they really want. No child is born with a capacity to say I choose to lose this parent or that parent. Your children are caught in the prison of the minds of others and are forced into these places by circumstance, by the actions of others and by the faulty family services that surround them. They need you to be strong enough to cope with this until they are old enough to free themselves. And they will.

From me to all of you, with love. Thank you for your comments, your arguments and your hugely important contributions to the issues surrounding parental alienation. I hope it doesn’t sound strange to say that I hope that many of you won’t be with me next year, but it is true, I hope you won’t be because you don’t need to be. My greatest hope for everyone suffering the impact of parental alienation is that you will find healing and peace and reconnection in 2015.

With gratitude for being with me throughout this year.


Projects for 2015 at the Family Separation Clinic


Parental Alienation: Learning to cope, helping to heal – publication date will finally be confirmed in January – thank you for waiting.

Transgenerational Assessment Models for analysing Domestic Violence in cases of Parental Aliention

Research Projects

Transgenerational trauma patterns and Parental Alienation

Alienation, Abduction and Annihalation – protocols for assessing risk (new)


Coaching for parents

Therapeutic Mediation


Multi model support through court (new)


Launch of our new website for everyone interested in and affected by parental alienation…date to come early 2015.


  1. Thank You as ever for your wonderful warming hopeful inspirational words that always pick me up when I’m sinking
    You are both mighty in this fight for the worlds children and u feel truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to share in the knowledge you both strive to bring to us all

    Hope you have a wonderful well deserved holiday
    From feb


  2. This is beautiful. If my own alienated mother had people helping and encouraging her to care for herself and regain her strength, I think that things might have turned out differently for us. Your message is so important for alienated parents. If the walls of grief and anger are too thick, the love will not flow through as freely.


    1. This is such an important message for all parents who are alienated, I hope everyone reads and take notice. Thank you for posting. K


      1. You’re welcome. I am blogging my memoir and it was not until recently that I learned how terribly common parent alienation is. I grew up thinking I was the only one to experience such estrangement from a parent. I hope my story will shed light on it in a way that is healing and empowering. I am so grateful there are people like yourself ‘in the trenches’, doing this invaluable work. I don’t think this was the case many yrs ago. I can hardly think of anything more important.


  3. And Thank You to you too Karen…. I really don’t know what would have happened to me had you not been there. And I still don’t.

    Which is why I never thought I would ever utter these words – I also hope not to be with you next year! And I only, only say so because I know that it will probably always be either you or my kids! (And I still secretly hope that you and they will still meet!)

    Whilst I’m alone without them, I also know that they will also be “alone” without me and be despairing or seething as they see other intact families soaking in the Christmas spirit.

    However, it’s the not giving up hope that keeps me going any which way I can. That’s the “keep on keeping on” for me. I always try to keep up hope because, particularly through this forum, and your good self Karen, I know that one day they will come! Even writing this is filling me up with tears – and I just do not cry – but this year this forum has also done that to me.

    What would we do without you, I just don’t know. But I do appreciate wholeheartedly that you are here and I pray for you and yours for all your wellbeing and joy and blessings.

    A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you Karen, and to Nick, and to your team, and to all the other parents here and everywhere. Regardless of everything else, may everyones days be filled with Love and Laughter and mirth and joy. God bless and good wishes 🙂


    1. Thank you PMK – I think you know as I do that there is a light shining at the end of your tunnel, remember what comes first is a great outpouring of anger (that which is sat atop the love and longing and missing) and then comes the reconnection. It is all happening exactly as I expected it would. There will be ping ponging and there will be turbulence as it unravels, but it is happening and when it happens there is no putting it back. You have shown me the depths and strengths of a father’s love for his children over the years and I have learned much from you. Remember what I said, when you change things change and they are changing. I don’t think you will be with us next year very much, unless it is to help others, which is always welcome. K


  4. Congratulations Karen on another good article. At first I found it uncanny exactly how many parallels with respect alienation, and conclusions with respect to coping mechanisms we both share. As I thought on though, I realised it should not come as a surprise. Parental Alienation has been termed as ‘syndrome’ in the past for good reason, because similar behavioural patterns can be seen in all cases.

    Parental Alienation is now a common issue within the UK, but still there is a general lack of awareness within the general public that needs to be addressed. This is something that each and everyone of us that has been on the receiving can help to combat in our own way. I hope in 2015 there will be a lot more of us working together to get general awareness raised so systems will be eventually changed.

    For more information on how bad alienation can become if not addressed and my views on coping mechanisms, you can refer to radio interview in the link below.

    Wishing you and all your readers good fortune in 2015.

    Regards Luke.


    1. Hi luke, thank you so much for some reason the interview is not showing, I will investigate. I am aware that you have offered your help and i have not responded, please do not think that I am ignoring you I have been so incredibly busy, I do so want to work alongside people like you, if you can message me with a number to call you I will be in touch between now and 12th January which is my period for reflection and gathering up thoughts. K


      1. Hi Karen. Thanks for your reply.

        The radio interview between James Wiilliams and I starts after 14 mins 15 seconds in the above attachment. Up until then is a preamble on Parental Alienation by James. If you are having trouble with the link, you can search the net on ‘Parental Alienation’ ‘Luke Matthews’ ‘James Williams’ ‘Can’t Explain’ and it will direct you there.

        I have left my telephone number via the FSC webpage. Look forward tot hearing from you.

        All the very best,



  5. Thank you for all the work you do, the dedication to blogs that help and encourage so many families that are torn apart by parental alienation and a dysfunctional family court system. I choose hope over hate, love is the answer. May you have a blessed Christmas and look forward to more of your work in 2015.


    1. And to you too Tracey, I am glad that what I write is helpful, I wish hope and happiness and reconnection for you in 2015. Best wishes K


  6. Thank you Karen for your words and support for us both. The illumination and understanding they have brought to us is immeasurable.
    We have left a light on, literally and metaphorically, for the child who can’t be with us this Christmas. We will continue to pray for him to see the light.
    Best wishes for a peaceful and recuperative break for you and Nick, and for your wider team.
    I wish all parents and their children peace, love and understanding.


    1. And our very best to you and yours CG, this year has been so hard on you all. Leave the light on, he will come home, smile when you say his name and talk about him, let his love and yours come together even though you are not together. I hope that 2015 brings him strength and you too. K


  7. Hi Karen

    This post could easily have been inspired by the chorus line of this song: played here by the Isley Brothers.

    Stephen Stills wrote it but it’s been covered by these guys and the Neville brothers.

    It is now a little more than a year since my daughter returned home and it’s another good time to celebrate and reflect. It’s a time to recollect two of the preceding years and Christmases when there was no contact whatsoever with her. They were some of the lowest times I’ve experienced but they were made bearable by unwavering support from some wonderful family and friends: the people I could be with.

    For me, the “penny dropped” after doing the things you advise here. The big “eureka moments” arrived whilst tramping winding paths in the low sun and ancient volcanoes of the breath taking landscapes of Tuscany. Just as important though were some of the glowing log fires, great meals, lovely warm company, playing music and lots of home made Sangiovese. All these things helped facilitate the much needed healing and changes.

    On balance, Christmas changed from an ordeal to an opportunity with so many good consequences that were inconceivable when I received an early Christmas present in the form of a damning and dreadful CAFCASS report only days beforehand.

    Loving and being loved by the ones I could be with made all the difference because it did not stop at Christmas. It heralded a change in attitude that would not have happened otherwise. But I am still aware and petrified that the reaction could happen again so I’ll still be looking in for some time to come.

    Thank you so much for all the help, inspiration and warmth you give.

    Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Christmas and New Year.

    Much love



    1. Thank for this Padre Stevie and I hope you will write more for us in 2015 so we can share the knowledge and the skills and the hope that your story brings. When we bring together people who understand and who are at different stages of the road we will start to share the human faces to the human problem that PA is and we will by pass and avoid the need for the interaction with the family courts that causes so many problems. I am so glad to hear about your happy times now that things are repaired and also about how you got through the hard times. Love is what sees you through.

      Thankyou for posting the Isley Brothers version of the song, it has been pointed out that the lyrics are not perhaps the most appropriate (think its a bit free love and all that) but the title is catchy and it is loving the people you can be with that gets you through in the end.



      1. Sorry Karen. I am grateful to you for pointing this out.

        Having worked as a musician for many years I have learned 1000’s of tunes. Unfortunately, remembering so many notes has been at the expense of paying too much attention to lyrics. My memory of these is restricted to only a handful of songs that I know all the way through. This approach has been great for work and quizzes but, in a few cases, it has involved some embarrassment for me and, I hope, laughter for others.

        My daughter thinks it’s very funny when I get the words wrong, or make them up and loves correcting my patchy knowledge of lyrics. I’ve promised her that I’ll pay more attention to lyrics in 2015, provided she does some more practicing. This will probably be for everyone’s enduring benefit!


  8. Thank you Karen, and Nick. Making a big difference on a personal level. Also very pleased such an articulate and good voice is raising this issue in the Family Court arena.

    Altogether a huge difference.

    Peace and Love


  9. Thank you Karen for your inspirational and heart-warming words. As a mother of 4 who’s barely seen her two boys at all in the past 2 1/2 years and the girls sporadically, it’s looking like this Christmas will again be one of disappointment as they refuse to even allow me to give them their presents personally. They demand they are left on the door step. The boys are now 20 and 19. I’ve drawn the line and gently but firmly advised them I want to meet them if only to say happy Christmas and give them presents, while allowing them to choose when, where and how. To date I’ve had no reply. I keep plugging away, by endeavouring to send positive and loving messages on email and text, but more often than not I am met with the wall of silence.
    Your blog has provided me and I’m sure many others, so much hope and the reminder that despite everything, we need to look after our own selves whilst we wait in hope.
    Have a very happy Christmas. Your blogs are more valuable than I think you may realise. In some case I would say they are literally life savers. Keep it up please!


  10. Thank you Karen for another Christmas message of hope. I year ago I had just emerged from a final hearing in which the judge accepted my ex-wife’s false allegations against me as likely to be true and my daughter’s guardian recommended no contact with me, not even by post, not even for Christmas and birthdays. I had had no direct contact with my daughter for a year and she had written letters to me and to the judge making clear that she no longer wanted me in her life. I had withdrawn my application for contact which I had been pursuing for two years and was numb with grief and despair. My daughter was then eight years old.

    A year later and change is in the air. I have had direct contact with my daughter twice in the past month. The first occasion was at school, at a craft afternoon when parents were invited into class to help their children make Christmas decorations. I went, her mother did not. The class teacher, who knew that there had been no direct contact between father and daughter for two years, handled the situation with great tact. My daughter was very shy and wary, so rather than make a direct approach I occupied myself with helping the teacher and other parents and children, all the while allowing my daughter to see these people interacting with me as though I was a normal human being, not the father-problem-monster of the court system who can only be seen through ‘contact’, if at all. By the end of the session I was sitting chatting with my daughter and her best friend as we made decorations. My daughter was reluctant to look me in the eye or initiate conversation, but she would answer politely when I spoke to her and allowed me to give her a little hug and kiss before I left. It was quite clear she was not the severely-alienated child who could not bear to be in my presence that Cafcass, guardian and judge had all believed her to be (though none of them had actually seen the two of us together). I am convinced now that the letters rejecting me were written by her under duress.

    The second direct contact was at her mother’s house yesterday. I was allowed to visit, give presents and talk to my daughter for a few minutes with her mother present, a situation which obviously made our daughter very uncomfortable, but once again she was polite. Her sadness when I gave her Christmas greetings from grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins she no longer sees was very obvious to me, as was her resentment of her mother. Mother is no longer even pretending that our child is severely alienated, but is relying on sheer power backed up by threats to maintain her position. I can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and it is not, as Raymond Briggs would say, the oncoming train…)

    I have no illusions of reconciliation with mother. She allowed direct contact only because I had promised to buy our daughter an IPad for Christmas to help with her schoolwork, but I refuse to be drawn into giving regular gifts in order to buy contact. She has also made threats against our daughter’s godfather and has cut him off from all contact as punishment for being in touch with me. We have a difficult journey ahead. But I sense the balance of power beginning to shift away from mother as daughter grows and gains in confidence and begins to know her own mind better. The bond between father and daughter has not been broken, despite all the efforts of mother and of the court.

    I write this as encouragement to other mothers and fathers in my situation. Don’t give up hope!


  11. Well done Daddyhardup or should I say Notsodaddyhardup.

    You could be me some seven years ago. You seem to have had your eureka moment. So many marginalised parents seem to think that all the answers to their problems lie somewhere else. |The Courts, the social workers, the Auntie, the Ex e.t.c. but you have taken on the responsibility of regaining the heart and mind of your child all by yourself. I can’t begin to tell you how good that makes me feel.

    You have strategically parked your Ex’s behaviours where it belongs; with her. You have avoided the trap that so many of us fall into….one that we may never win……i.e. changing our Ex…

    You are cocentrating full blown on the activities, needs and development of your daughter. You have maintained excellent relations with the teachers where your daughter spends a great deal of her time. (offer yourself as a reader to the children at school..that’s also a great way to connect).

    You have demonstrated that it’s not just about hope; there is so much practical work to do too.

    Being in the right place at the right time. Forging good relations with the people who are connected with your daughter’s life………………so many things can be done independant of your Ex’s misgivings about you.

    Kind regards

    Merry Xmas to all who contribute.


    1. Alas, my application to become a Volunteer Reading Partner at the school has been refused by the Head Teacher. Because of the outcome of the final court hearing (over a year ago) which she had not previously been made aware of, she does not want me to come onto the school premises unless at the request of my daughter.

      I begin to understand this emphasis on the Wishes and Feelings of the child. The professionals – Cafcass, Guardian, Head Teacher, Judge even – prefer to wash their hands clean of the decision to eliminate a parent from a child’s life, and push the responsibility onto the child herself.

      Still, I will find another way….


      1. I sincerely hope you find another way of staying connected and can enlighten us all, but I fear you are going down a road many of us have trodden before. Regrettably, the systems/authorities that are supposed to support the family unit, tend to stand in the way of alienated parents, putting all sorts of obstacles in our path to reconnecting with our children. Sometimes the harder we try, the more difficult it becomes and we feel the only option is to wait for our children to see the light, which can take many years.
        However, I do believe that we can take positive action to speed things up if we can raise awareness of Parental Alienation and the futility of the Family Courts within the general public. This would serve two purposes.

        1. It has the potential to speed up the realisation process among grown-up alienated children as to what actually happened when they were younger, with a view to increasing their desire to reconnect at some later stage in their life.

        2. We might get some real traction in starting getting the current inadequate systems/processes within the Family Courts, CAFCASS, UK Law, etc. changed for the better.

        It will take some time, but if there are enough of us working together in some sort of co-ordinated effort, I believe we can get results.

        If you wish to know more of my own experiences and views on how to battle Parental Alienation, please visit my website http://www.cantexplain.co.uk.


    1. One very important message I have learned is ‘NEVER GIVE UP’. I always said I would never give up on my children but easy to say and not always so easy to do when they kick you in the teeth (metaphorically speaking); they ignore you; treat you as if you don’t matter and in a nutshell ‘reject you’. This is not their fault. They are being brainwashed and lied to by the alienating parent who effectively has the control and pulls their strings like a puppet. My eldest son is 20. I’d not seen him for 2 and 1/2 years and have very little reciprocated communication. Previously I’d been effectively told to leave presents on their door step. This year I made it very clear that I would not be leaving anything on their door step and that I would be giving them to them direct.
      I’ve bent over backwards and rallied round them from my position of weakness, and effectively done what they wanted when they wanted these past 3 years.
      I’ve had enough and reinforced my desire to give them presents direct. They know how very much I love them and will do all I can for them and despite numerous offers of lifts, help and support they were rarely accepted.
      Imagine my complete joyous surprise when my 20 year old son asked me (very politely) if I could collected him from his works Christmas ‘do’ on Christmas Eve? (well Christmas morning at 1.30am!)…..I’d have gone to Timbuktu if necessary!
      There he was outside the club and in front of many party goers his gave me the biggest hug and kiss and virtually swept me off my feet!! Let me assure anyone that that was THE BEST Christmas present I could dared have hoped for. It was surreal but strangely familiar in that we chatted away for 45 mins before dropping him off as if we’d never been apart. He talked about his work and girlfriend mainly and there was no awkwardness from either of us. He was a pure delight and just the tonic I needed and hopefully that relatively brief meeting will have gone some way to restore his trust in me.
      What an emotional rollercoaster. From reading these blogs and books I have bought, I will be careful to allow him and his brother and sisters to dictate the pace and I personally will be alive to the reality we have a very long way to go.

      Thanks again Karen and contributors for all your help.


      1. I think you have plenty of reason to have hope that his trust WILL be restored in you because of the never changing fact that: The Truth always remains, while lies will fall away. In time, he will see the truth of your love for him.


  12. “If you cannot be with the ones you love, love the ones you are with”. These are such poignant words, Karen, and they have helped me tremendously in coping without having direct contact with my children. It has been nearly four years now and they are now 12 and nearly 9. My ex-wife has, with the help of the family court, conducted an effective parentectomy in quietly removing me from the lives of my children, but as you know, I am dealing with this in a similar way to that described by daddyhardup. I have no faith or trust in the family court and family services and am looking for a path that will not involve the “one size fits all” approach that I have experienced from the same. My ex-wife refuses to engage with me, as you know, and will not accept reasonable suggestions to move things forward so that our children can enjoy the loving relationship they had with both of us prior to our separation. Why should she do so when she has obtained what she wanted? This is her position as I see it.

    However, I am in a good place to deal with this now. I will keep on keeping on and thank you and Nick for your support so far. As you say, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and I have been building up my reserves of stamina ready for the next stage.

    Wishing you, Nick and the team at the FSC a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Peaceful and Successful 2015.


  13. Hugs to you all, from the US! I have only contact with my middle son and family for the past 5 1/2 years. I took their abusive dad to court over some mmoney he stole from me over a piece of property. I am glad I did it, even if I lost my kids over it. It mmay sound crazy and I love my kids to the moon and back, but I had to fight for what is right. It has also been a lesson of healing from domestic violence in my life. I pray my children will one day have this healing, as well. I finished my degree in human service and am now employed as a victim advocate. I hope to be a voice here for victims of PAS. So glad I found this blog, karen! Praying for family healings for us all!


    1. Hi Sheryl. Good for you. I too found myself fighting for ‘economic justice’ during the divorce. I had worked full time for over 30 years and my EX tried to lie about his finances and that did not go down well with the Judge. He used this against me as a tool of alienation and a powerful emotional crutch of self pity towards my 4 children by making out I had taken the children’s money! I stood firm in the naive and innocent belief that one day they would realise that I have stolen nothing from them. In fact I paid for everything during my 19 year marriage. Things are slowly improving and with the help and guidance from Karen and several books I am reading I am now far better equipped to handle the rejection.I have seen and spoken to my eldest son who is 20 6 times in the past couple of weeks followingover 2 years of ‘stonewalling’ . Karen, you really are a life saver and “child giver” Thank goodness. There are many many of us who soak up your every word. THANK YOU SO MUCH..


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