Helping the Hopeless: Caring for the Alienated Parent


I am currently working on a new project with a colleague who is a whole self practitioner with experience with alienation, work which she recently termed ‘the valley of death’.  This conceptualisation of working with parental alienation is very close to my own feelings about this work, which is very much at times like working in the killing fields.  Yesterday, in my regular supervision, we were discussing the negative transference, that phenomenon when as a therapist we trigger the alienating parent’s negative projections which then turn towards us instead of or as well as the targeted parent. It made me realise how much the intrapsychic world in which I work and others are forced to live, is draining and toxic to the self and the soul. Which prompted thinking about how to care for the alienated parent, something I am often too focused on children to properly consider.  As we are in the process of writing a series of articles for self care in this field, I thought it might be helpful to write about the impact of alienation on you as the targeted parent and how you can more properly protect yourself and care for yourself through the shadows in the valley of death so that you do not succumb to the terrible outcomes that too many people in your situation suffer.

I have written frequently about the need of your child to have one healthy parent who can, eventually, offset the worst of what has been done to them by the alienating parent. That is all well and good but how do you keep yourself well and healthy throughout what can be a marathon period of time during which you know your children are being harmed?  Being biologically hardwired to care for your children, not being able to do so because their minds have been poisoned is a cruel and unusual torture that you are forced to undergo year after year in some cases. Going mad, turning bad, feeling sad to the degree where the very life force that flows through you becomes poisoned too, is a real risk for all alienated parents. The lack of real acknowledgement and support that is available to support you is corrosive and damaging to your very existence on the planet.

As is the lack of acknowledgement of your experience of having been alienated. Whilst there is such a lack of understanding in this world about the problem, many of you will face disbelief or worse, the belief that if your children are not with you and do not want to see you, it must somehow be your fault. Bearing that injustice alongside the horror of knowing that the part of you which lives within your child has been steadily erroded and killed, can bring insanity to some and despair.

And why wouldn’t it?  What parent would not feel all of those feelings in the same circumstances?  The first part of coping with your suffering is knowing that your suffering is normal. It demonstrates your health. If you did not feel those feelings you would be a psychopath and your child would be better off without you. Accepting that what you feel is normal in the face of what is unfair and unjust and desperately cruel is an important step to take.

I call this working in the killing fields when I find myself at the low point of despair, that point where I have done all that I can do but I know that despite that the child’s mind and soul has been taken over so completely that I cannot intervene or that my intervention is making things worse for the child not better. That point comes when I know that the court cannot hold the structure in place to give enough impetus to change the power dynamic. That happens for many reasons. Sometimes because professionals are pulling in different directions, sometimes because a parent has done something that has been used by the other to bind them further into the illusion, sometimes because the damage done to the child is simply too much and to intervene would not in fact change anything.  My supervisor said to me once that if we were to cut some of these children open (forgive the imagery), the poison running could not be cut out because it runs in their very DNA.  What hope for children in such circumstances? Very little indeed. Telling a parent that their chances of saving their child are minimal is one of the worst aspects of this work but we do it and if we can we provide the after care which is so desperately needed.

Underneath the nastiness of the litigation process, are people whose hearts are broken and whose minds are fragile as they are left to come to terms with their losses and the sorrow that brings.  When we work with parents in these circumstances we do not work to give false hope but to help them to identify what is possible in terms of reconnection in the future and what they might expect to happen. Then we turn our focus to supporting that parent’s rest of life journey because we know, that in almost every case of alienation, a child will need that parent one day. And when they need that parent it will be likely to mean that the harm done to them has become so bad that they can no longer cope in the world. When they reach that point they are going to need someone to lean on.  If you are not there or worse still if you are but you are a shadow self because of the pain you have suffered you cannot help them which leaves them lost in the wilderness of their own lives for a very long time.  If you cannot resolve the alienation in the present moment and you know you have done all you can do, put the burden down and refocus upon your own self and soul in preparation for when they do need you. And they will.

Self care as an alienated parent is hard because you are alone, you are struggling with highly toxic feelings and you are scared for the future of your children.  In this scenario you must do the following things –

  • Reconceptualise yourself as your child’s healthy parent, put down the shame and the guilt, you have done all that you can do.
  • Love the world that you live in and retrain your brain towards what is good about it not what is unfair, unjust and full of hatred. That doesn’t mean adopting a zen like persona or pretending that it doesn’t hurt, it means training your brain to appreciate those things you do have instead of zoning in on what you don’t have. Look at the birds, watch the world go by, take up a hobby, walk, move and put yourself back into the flow of life, let go of the hatred and let the love in, even if it feels difficult at first, it will come.
  • Care for yourself. Eat well, limit alcohol, do not take drugs, cook, walk, swim, write, find people you can laugh with.
  • Withdraw your locus of self from the soul of your child. This means stop seeing yourself as only alive through the being of your child. You brought this child to birth but you cannot help them at this time on the earth. You will always be their parent but for now your sense of self must not be located in the being of your child it must be located in you.
  • Grieve for the loss of the time and the restraint on your capacity to care for your child. Grieve for yourself, grieve for your child. Make rituals. Create boundaries and endings. Not forever endings but endings for this particular part of your child’s life. Acknowledge what could have been and grieve for it.
  • Eat well. Limit alcohol. Do not take drugs.
  • Talk about your children, show people pictures. If you are asked if you have children say yes I do and I miss them every day because I don’t see them, they have been alienated from me.  Say it. Make other people hear it. Do not labour the point but do not hide it either. The more people understand about what has happened to you the more help and love you will receive.
  • Own the fact that you did all you could.  Own the parts you wish you had done better. Own it all. It is your experience. Own it, feel it and then let it go.
  • Stay healthy and well. Eat good food, drink small amounts of alcohol, avoid all drugs.
  • Recognise that no-one is omnipotent, no-one can change everything, life has a way of taking over and there will be a balancing, eventually. What has been done is a great wrong. It will be put right, one day.
  • Find people to talk to about the world, find something that gives you hope. There is always hope. Life would not be life if hope did not exist.
  • Share your journey in a journal, online (but don’t let the bitterness out online it is completely contrary to healing and it is potentially harmful to your children too), privately or in a journalling group (more about that soon).
  • Love the child inside of you. If you are alienated from your children, explore the back story to your arrival on this earth, were you alienated from someone when you were a child? Did someone have coercive control over you in your childhood? Dig deep, explore, find out and get perspective on your life in the here and now.
  • It is not all pain and suffering. Allow yourself to notice the good things that surround you.
  • Eat well, limit alcohol, avoid drugs.
  • Drink lots of water.

It can be hard to do all of these things so don’t try them all at once, try one thing each week and then add another in. Know that there are people who understand what you have gone through and that it IS real it IS damaging and you CAN cope with it.

We are constantly thinking about new ways of helping families and building our services to include as much help and support as we can offer. Some of our projects have taken us time to bring to birth but they are on the way and the focus then will very much be upon helping alienated parents to help themselves. I hope you will join us in sharing that new journey everyone is welcome.

To coincide with the publication of our new book we will be offering support for alienated parents in groups and online. This will be part of the self help focus we are creating for families which is an additional service to our coaching and court based activities. Our groups will be focused on self care and not on reunification with children and as such are for parents who have done all that they can do and are now in the place where they simply have to survive. We want to bring nurture to the world of those parents and our groups will offer an intensive approach to that. More soon, if you are interested in joining a group either in London or online please email us at




55 thoughts on “Helping the Hopeless: Caring for the Alienated Parent”

  1. Link to this article posted on an American support site for parents who are estranged from their adult children.


    1. I have been the target parent of an alienator ex spouse. The article was helpful in that there are so few people I have encountered in the last five and a half years since I have been with my two beautiful boys. I grieve everyday. My heart crushes when I am awake and I am tormented by nightmares, wondering if my children are okay. When the Ga supreme Court recently upheld the trial court’s decision regarding my spousal support, both boys (21 and 16) declared me dead to them forever. I find it hard to survive. I can barely breathe. I am losing hope again. There has to be someone who believes in me. I am stigmatized by society as a noncustodial mother who doesn’t have contact with her children. I did everything I thought was right. Served my country, volunteered in neighborhood and schools only to have my husband of twenty years cheat and divorce and set out on a vendetta to kill me by suicide. I dont know what to do.


      1. I know it sounds impossible, but read what Karen wrote and try to let go for now and take care of yourself. The only thing you have control over is yourself and your reactions to this horrible, traumatic situation. If court is done and all is settled, then focus on finding support and caring for yourself. When your sons figure this out (which could be years from now), they don’t need to carry the guilt and shame of your death, they will need a mother who loves them unconditionally and can help them heal. As hard as it is to believe, even at their age, they have been poisoned by their father and don’t see truth in a rational way. They are his victims, too. Find the strength to protect yourself from the abuse your ex is still trying to level at you through your children. Get angry and get therapy and don’t let him succeed in his vendetta against you.

        I know it sounds impossible, but it really isn’t. The first step is disengaging from any drama you are caught in with your ex and sons, they are all toxic to you right now. Hang in there, you are most certainly not alone in all of this. Reach out to understanding and caring friends and family and focus on yourself and your healing.


      2. Jennifer – The most frustrating part for me a year ago (when I found out by pure chance my alienated daughter had just had a white wedding) was that I had no voice. I felt like a condemned person who was innocent but sentenced to hang. It was unbearable. Then I found an American site for parents of estranged children and I found my voice. Almost one year on the mothers on there have allowed me to vent and then to help others. I am in a much better place now than I was! The site is


      3. I would also check out – it’s a supportive community and geared to alienated kids of all ages, people like me who have adult children now (it’s been that long) may find it more helpful, because legal and custody issues are no longer part of our story.

        I want to add one final thought, it’s incredibly important to respect that everyone is different and usually at different places in their story and that what may work for you will not work for others. The common thread of PA I have found in all groups, blogs, etc. is that the magnitude of the grief can be overwhelming, you wouldn’t tell someone how to grieve and no parent should tell another parent what to do. By all means share what works/worked for you in a respectful way, but one size does NOT fit all.


      4. I walk in your shoes most days thinking that without my son I cannot survive…some nights I go to sleep.and pray I don’t wake up to face another day!! But some day, not today, not tomorrow and maybe not for years, I have to believe my son will knock my door and I will have to put my arms around him and tell him it’s all ok….. I also.think I’m lucky that I have a wonderful daughter of 13 who sees right through her daddy, and tells me regularly, someday mum, he will come home!! If I didn’t believe this I’d walk into the tide!

        Frankie x


  2. This article is bang on!!!!!! I am a survivor of cancer and of alienation. Everyday I battle and survive but it is very difficult. My great saving grace is having an exceptional father who has supported me throughout this. ( my mother is deceased ) Also I go to GoodLife almost everyday and I exercise and exercise. I do Body Combat classes which help me to let out some of the anger but really I don’t feel anger so much. It has been 14 years and 14 years of pain, worry and heartache but most people would have no idea I am suffering. I am a happy person on the outside and refuse to let those people bring me down as they have worked so hard to try to do. My life is getting better and his is falling apart I can see. Maybe my children are seeing this and will be back to me soon. And yes hope is all you have in the end. Thank you for this article. It is very real and very true.


  3. Thank you, Karen. My husband has found some peace by doing a lot of these things, and they do make a difference. He keeps a picture of his son at age 4 right in front of his computer, where he sees it every day. When asked about his son, he says, “I don’t see him, he’s been alienated from me,” and generally, people are sympathetic and supportive. He has been able to not beat himself up, not believe all the blame that was thrown his way, and find peace and happiness in other parts of his life. Still, he worries about his son all the time, as we can see the effects of the alienation in the limited information we do get – poor grades and school attendance, lots and lots and lots of online video gaming . But thank you for the hope that some day, he may get to be a father again.


  4. Thank you so much for writing this, Karen. It ties right in with your A to Z on why so many men commit suicide which you wrote many months ago. It still is mostly men who experience the utter despair of alienation, though not entirely, of course. Your advice on dealing with it is spot on, I think. The problem can also be that one is often dealing with the alienating “unhealthy” parent being a clever, manipulative individual with a personality disorder. Even after the situation is resolved, and residence reversed, the formerly alienating parent, can turn the alienation claim around, projecting it onto the other parent, and claiming that the parent previously separated but now resident is the one doing the alienating. This is often believed by people in authority, especially if the now non-resident parent is a mother, and if she is a believable liar, adept at playing the victim and working the courts, who still seem usually to think that children should be with the mother, not the father.

    Also part of the problem is that the children, having suffered under the emotional and physical abuse inherent in living with a disordered parent, actually hate being forced to spend time with that parent, having stuck to their guns, insisted to social workers and through them to the courts that they want to live with the formerly absent parent, and having achieved that, only to be forced by the courts to spend time with the parent they have escaped, who is still abusing the children and seeking revenge for having “lost” as they inevitably see it. That situation is difficult to deal with, especially as the children are facing further harm every time they spend alternate weekends and half the holidays, as is usually ordered by the courts, (which would be right and proper if both parents were “normal”) with the disordered parent, who perhaps has an unacknowledged alcohol problem which endangers proper care, let alone the continuing rows, threats, coercion and abuse. Your thoughts on how to deal with this aspect of the whole alienation spectrum would be most useful.


    1. My stepson decided he wanted to live with us at 14 and seemed to recognize the alienation – even saying he was “brainwashed to hate his father” (which we had never said to him). His mother convinced the court, and the boy (who lied to support her), that it was actually me and his father who were alienating him from her, and walked out with a court judgment that said that she was the “superior” parent and that we had almost successfully alienated him from her. It was like a nightmare. At that point it became very clear that it was time to let go. Trying to hang on would cause him far more harm than letting him go.


      1. Your story is very sad, Cara. I believe Karen is right, and your husband’s son will need him in the end. Keep a record of everything you both did to help and to keep in touch with his son. It might eventually help to show him that you only retreated for the reason you just gave, and that you never lost hope that the father/son relationship will be healed eventually. Very best wishes, Gay.


  5. I have to caution parents about this ***The more people understand about what has happened to you the more help and love you will receive.***

    This was NOT my experience, in fact the opposite, I have been blamed because people who knew my daughter as she was didn’t believe it, wouldn’t believe it, refused to believe it. I rarely talk about it anymore, gave up trying to make people understand and hoping, begging for support. I’ve been much happier since then, this is not the case for everyone, do not feel there is something wrong with you or question reality when you don’t get the support you need and deserve, do all you can to see it’s their problem not yours.


    1. Hi OM, yes this can be the experience but I mean tell people what has happened without expectation of love and happiness returning from them, I mean tell people the truth and expect nothing what you will get is something very different, perhaps not from those people you have told but from the wider world because when you tell the truth to people you allow the truth to flow and you are not having to hide anything or live in a world where you do not feel able to face people because the lie which is being fed to you is starting to corrode you too. Do not be ashamed of what has happened, simply tell people the truth without expectation of return. It is the hope of a kind return which is then met with disbelief which is so harmful if you set no store by what you say but be truthful, your whole demeanour in the world is different and love will come when you remain open to the flow of life without expectation of others. I know it sounds metaphysical but it isn’t, it means simply be, live the truth and expect nothing from others and only accept the love which is freely given, that is the only love worthwhile. This is a reframing approach to living life, it moves you from locus of control out there to locus of control inside which gives you a much greater sense of self, direction and peace.


      1. I should be more specific, because i don’t think i’m being understood. Parents please use caution and expect nothing from your family, all my in-laws from my second and happy successful marriage turned on us (after 13 years of being together) and my husband lost his family. My family uses it like a weapon and my mother is 100% aligned with the alienator (takes one to know one.) We had limited expectations with friends and family, we were poison afterwards and told and continue to be told we “must have done something, you must have abused her,” insanity. Do I talk to other alienated parents about it and find kinship, most times yes, but talking to strangers is not the same as talking to people you thought loved you.

        I greatly appreciate your work, but this piece seems generic and as you out it “metaphysical” or new age-y, the advice is cookie cutter and can be applied to any difficult situation, that doesn’t make it less valid, but PA is an extraordinary situation with a terrifyingly high suicide rate for parents. It’s fine if you don’t post this, but please hear me. Like you I was also an alienated child, I know it from both sides.


      2. Sorry you feel misunderstood OM but I think it is important that when we talk about these issues we own our experience as our own. This is because each situation IS unique to the dynamics of that particular family. There are many alienated families for example who stick together and pull each other through, many grandmothers stand firm behind their daughters and sons, many are very strong because of that.

        What I am saying in this piece is that if you are able to be honest about the reality of what has happened to you, without expectation of anything from anyone in return, then the reality of the situation remains the reality. The hardest thing for many alienated parents is the point at which they begin to accept the corrosive experience of believing that they must have deserved it. Then is when the alienation runs into your veins and you begin the process of dying from it too. You have to stay free of that. I don’t think the advice is cookie cutter, it is born out of working with alienated parents who have survived over the long term and reunited with their children as a result, you will see one of them commenting above you. The issue is that what works for you, may not work for other people and you were an alienated child, so you have a particular formulation in which one would expect the alienators in your life to align with each other. Not all parents have those aspects. When I give generic advice it is from the perspective of relocating the locus of control inside of the self so that the world is not out of your control anymore. As such all actions as listed in the article can be used by any parent, the point you raised about not telling people I attempted to clarify but I think you perhaps feel that your experience isn’t reflected in that. This work is metaphysical in some respects because we are working with the intra-psychic environment in which alienation arises. The not said, the unspoken and the invisible lines of power. What I hear in your comments are that you have become increasingly silenced and increasingly disempowered. That is not surprising when you face your birth family aligning with the alienator. What you have to do in those circumstances is withdraw your investment in the birth family, recognise the damage that was done to you and the way in which that propelled you into the space of an alienator and how that affects you still in the here and now. Because your mother cannot change and so her support is worthless to you anyway. Don’t waste time on people who harm you, they are not worth the time it takes to say goodbye to them. Instead find people who invest in you, who support you and who will offer you love and care in return. You may need to work through some stuff yourself in order to get to that place because you have been alienated and as an alienated child, when you become an adult it proves very difficult to receive from people the love you deserve. Alienation causes a wide range of psychological issues which MUST be resolved all throughout your life, that is what will lead you to being able to speak freely about your experience without any attachment to the response that you get. I wish you well OM, I am with you on your journey.


    2. I get the feeling that this works better for alienated fathers than for mothers – everyone is ready to believe the story of the bitter ex-wife that cuts the father off from the children, but struggle with the idea that children can reject their mother because of an angry ex-husband or any other reason other than bad parenting. I don’t know if you are female, but if so, I suspect the greater stigma attached to a mother losing custody of children is part of it. But do it anyway – I had a female coworker that was alienated from her 4 children long before I knew anything about this issue. She talked openly about it and got much support from many people – she did it in the open way Karen describes, while moving on and living her life as happily as possible. Some people may never believe it, but many will. For what it’s worth, her alienating ex-husband died and she has regained a relationship with 3 of the 4 children since.


      1. I think mothers suffer a terrible double bind Cara, they suffer the loss of their children and then shame and suspicion. The corrosiveness of those two things can be a killer as OM says. But speaking about it, when fully conscious of the reality that some people will care and some people will not is liberating and it does prevent the descent into shame and guilt that can end too many lives. The key is that if you were an alienated child and you have become an alienated parent (a very very common pattern) then the work on self that restores the self to the self and repairs the broken psychology is where anyone must begin. Being a parent is hard enough, being a parent when one has only an alienated parenting template to work from is nigh on impossible and requires a lot of conscious work to find the stable self and soul. Self care for all alienated parents is an absolute must.


    3. OM – I too have endured that terrible nightmare that felt like almost everyone was pointing the finger at me, the targeted parent.

      In time, I came to realise that MY “understanding” of what had happened was far more critical to my survival than the understanding of those who, to put it bluntly, were nowhere near emotionally intelligent enough to assess the situation with any degree of maturity…..I had, unfairly, placed an unrealistic “expectation of understanding” on their inadequate shoulders!

      A person’s compulsion to accuse, blame and criticise has far more to do with their inability to regulate their own feelings about things they experience in the world. These people will often, lazily, fall into the old trap of defaulting to the binary “law of absolutes” where there must be a good/bad, liar/trustworthy and/or likeable/unlikeable label attached to each parent.

      You are so right when you say “it’s their problem” (where support is withheld) but, at the same time, it’s also OUR problem to understand ourselves as targeted parents, which l’ve found helps enormously with understanding others in the world and, thereby, assists with having realistic expectations of them. I think this is what Karen means when she says “tell people what has happened without expectation….”. Don’t allow the alienator’s attempts to make you feel inadequate (through shame and guilt) silence you into isolation… my opinion, inadequacy and isolation are the two emotions that will most likely have us turn inward with subconscious self-loathing.

      I recent read the following…..
      The process of making the unconscious conscious is painful. For those who have used substances or other coping strategies to “not feel” or to escape from painful emotions, feeling their pain without anesthetising it may hurt – but it will also heal. The feeling of community, identification and support that a group can offer in these painful moments goes a long way toward correcting the original experiences of emotional isolation – of nowhere to go where it felt safe to hurt. These healing moments, slowly and over time, help to lower the walls of defence that keep people from being able to experience themselves, others and life more fully and replaces them with a more integrated, balanced and secure sense of Self.

      I, personally, believe the above is at the core of PA recovery and, for that reason, am extremely excited about Karen’s new project


      1. Not sure why you are directing your advice at me.
        I have never felt “inadequate,” or felt shame at anything I have done with regard to being alienated. Angry? Hell yes? Abandoned? YES. Insecure about the quality of my parenting? Never. It’s one of the few things in life I know with certainty I did well and did right. I haven’t “felt” that anyone pointed a finger at me, I have seen and heard them do it to my face, there is a difference. You are projecting an awful lot of thoughts and assumptions on to me that are incorrect, not sure why that is. I raised hell, talked about it, fought it for years and shielded my daughter from the sickness as best I could. I got us through the last 18 years of PA, and now myself the nearly 5 years after alienation was fully realized by her father and his wife and I lost my daughter completely. By the time anyone listened or tried to help it was way too late. If you knew me, which you do not, the notion that I am not fully living in reality is laughable. I’m sorry if this response sounds angry, I don’t like people ascribing incorrect characteristics to me and I don’t like feeling patronized and I am done with this post and thread.


      2. OM, I don’t think anyone is saying that you are not living in full reality or ascribing characteristics to you, EHFR is trying to help but perhaps not in a way that is helpful to you right now. If the concepts written in the post are too off beam for you you don’t have to accept them, no-one has to accept anything at any time, we all have individual choice about what we take on board and what we don’t. I don’t want this blog to become a place where you feel that you are misunderstood and everyone on here is dealing with different things at different stages. I have also noticed a clear difference in the way that men and women deal with the issues which can cause some jarring. I really don’t think anyone on here wants to do harm though, the discussions are well intentioned. I will ensure that anyone posting in response to you is held back on this subject.


      3. it is the corrosive aspect of the alienation which I feel must be guarden against, that moment when you as the alienating parent begins to accept the projections in which you begin to question the self in a manner which can be deeply unconscious which is most dangerous. Alienated children are likely to become alienated parents, this is one of my absolute understandings of this work over the years, the experience of being brought up in a world of psychological splitting, in which things are good or bad causes an real inability to trust the self in adult life. which means that attraction to people with qualities of the alienating parent are likely and then alienation from children is possible because one has set oneself up in the same toxic triangle that one grew up in. This is a deeply distressing and yet familiar place to be and it is in exploration of the self that one becomes free of the bind that has existed for years and perspective is built and then strategies for psychological health can be built. This is the work that I encourage all targeted parents to undergo to become free of the splitting that they are bound into by the alienating parent and the alienation in the child. This work is deep self care and it produces some astonishing changes in life because the ripple impact in the relational world is very clear. This kind of discussion isn’t for everyone but it is for those who wish to liberate themselves from the deep schisms which alienation causes in order to live freely in a conscious awareness that one has done all those things which can be done to retrieve and achieve health and wellbeing. This is what our groups will be focused upon, I very much hope you will be part of our London group EHFR.


      4. OM – apologies for any offence I may have caused. I was expressing MY past feelings, at their worst, in the hope that other readers identifying with those feeling might find what I’ve learnt, to date, of some use to them. The main thrust of my comments was about the unfair judgement of alienated parents and not intended to judge you…… you rightly say, I don’t know you. I’ve lived alienation my whole life and am fully aware that no two PA stories, whilst similar, are never ever the same

        Karen, you’ve expressed exactly what I haven’t the experience and/or knowledge to articulate but was attempting to convey. Trust me when I say that if I possessed half your ability in this area I’d have dedicated my life to this “scourge” many moons ago – I’d love to be part of the group (that’s just saved me an email I had to send :-).


      5. not yet EHFR, I’m so busy on cases and training that I haven’t had time to get it set up yet. I was thinking we should start it up from September this year.


  6. Spot on Karen. The phrase ‘what you resist persists’ was powerful for me, took a few years to understand what it meant but actually feel much more enlightened on life because of the alienation process. I have one child back and have been waiting 5 years for the other one, she is with me every step and every breath of every day.


  7. This is a fantastic ground-breaking idea, Karen. I have no doubt the opportunity for us all to learn more on how to reverse negative conditioning and also better express our respective experiences of PA trauma will transform treatment in this area

    Thank you


  8. Karen, this is a wonderful article but no matter how often you try to adopt self care you can be overcome with the pain of being bereaved. You often feel the same pain as losing a loved one through death.

    Nevertheless my family will fight on but it is definitely getting harder to maintain a life. Parental Alienation is all about lies, pain, poverty, incompetence and the absence of a beautiful vulnerable child.

    Karen we need more trained specialists like you to save our children, keep up the good work as you and your team make a massive difference to families.


  9. Anonymous above: “but no matter how often you try to adopt self care you can be overcome with the pain of being bereaved. You often feel the same pain as losing a loved one through death.”

    I experienced the death of my first child aged five. It’s not the same as the pain I felt when my daughter (then an only child) became alienated from me increasingly over 19 years (by my husband). With the death of a child there is profound grief, grieving and finally closure leaving only faded but mostly happy memories. There is no closure with the rejection you face through alienation. Though, like bereavement, the grief fades in time, it’s still an open wound and the happy memories are overshadowed by the pain and rejection.


  10. Karen, if I get you correctly, you are suggesting that alienating parents who have themselves been alienated in childhood perpetuate the cycle, and can be capable of looking deep into themselves and of reversing the cycle of alienating damage. That’s good. But I venture to suggest that if the alienating parent has a severe personality disorder somewhere quite far along the psychopathic spectrum, they will be unable to change, ever, but might appear to change for the sake of trying to achieve their ends. Such people wear masks. And the damage they can do is infinite. They are convincing liars, and they fool many people, including professionals. They are hard to spot from outside the home where they reign.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there is some confusion here about the matter of recovering the self from the alienation situation. I am not saying that in doing deep work on self you can change the other parent, their stuff is their stuff although why you were in a relationship with that person might be of interest to you because whatever anyone tells you, you got into that relationship because of something in you not just the other person. I am talking about how you deal with the issues in yourself that led you into this place so that you can find peace, balance and health, so that you stop kicking at the closed door of the other parent’s psychology and focus on your own. Forget the other parent in this process of self care, this is your road not theirs. When you do this work you come to understand what has been done and how it has been done and you own those parts you can change and you regain health and perspective. You may not recover fully from the loss of your children but you will be healthier on the inside and you will be standing steady for when your children come to find you. That is what I am discussing here. Yes the other parent may never change but your experience of life will change because you have retrieved the locus of control and placed it back inside of yourself, which if you were alienated as a child is one of the first tasks you have to achieve because the blame of others is a core part of being alienated. Hope that helps.


      1. Thank you for your reply, Karen. You mention …”that moment when you as the alienating parent…” In the case I know of, the mother who tried to alienate the children from the father did not succeed. She managed to go to court to get the father turned out of his house and then to prevent him seeing them for months, though he had done them no harm, ever. It was his face that was smashed. That period of deprivation was, as others say on this blog, a time of grief, like a death but with no closure, and without strong perseverence might have gone on forever. (It was all about money. The parent with residence also gets the money, from the other parent and from the government, or she does if she’s the mother.) Once residence was reversed to the father (the social workers gave the court the recommendation for this because of emotional abuse from the mother) the mother immediately claimed that the children were being alienated by him, even though he actually transports them both ways to see her in the reversed child arrangements. He gets no financial support from the mother whatsoever; not even school lunch money. This was the point of my warning: when the separation is actually alienation, or ordered by the court as a result of false allegations, the pain is appalling. But some people can shout “alienation” (Wolf, Wolf!) when no such thing is happening, even when the children actually don’t want to go back to an abusive parent, but they are encouraged to do so. Every visit, the noŵ resident father worries about the rows, the drunkenness, the coercion not to “tell”, the threats of suicide “and it will all be your fault” through bared teeth at the children. This sort of behaviour was all hidden before the marriage, and few saw it in the open after it. It is a very complicated issue. The children still have to face their mother’s fury, witness the rows etc, when they visit her. How to protect them? It’s a great improvement on what went before, and I would say, as indeed you do, never give up. “You got into that relationship because of something in you, not just the other person”, you say. Hmmmm…. I wonder if it wasn’t all about a gentle, empathetic person being targeted for money. I don’t really go for blaming the target. The empathic person simply does not see it coming. And in this case, neither parent was alienated as a child. You might say that this particular case is not about alienation per se. But it is about attempted alienation, and projected accusation of it when that failed. It is another layer in the whole complicated alienation misery, and, I feel, something to justify a “heads up”.


  11. I wonder if ALL alienated parents have SOMETHING in their backgrounds that leads them to choose a partner who is likely to alienate them in the future. I would be seriously interested to know the percentage of parents this applies to.

    My mother was very much ‘self’. My father was anything for a quiet life and followed her lead in everything. They had three children (I’m the eldest). She never showed any love or affection or even spoke to us other than to keep us in control and out of her way. We didn’t dare to cross her. I am pretty sure there was something in her be it a personality disorder or a mental illness that made her that way. I never cut her off but I couldn’t wait to leave home. I was desperate for someone to love who would love me. I craved affection, a cuddle or a hug. I thought in terms of fairy tale endings and I swore my children would NEVER know the kind of emotional neglect I had known. When my husband found me I thought he was the one. I thought I’d have my fairy tale ending. But what I didn’t know until I’d married him was …….

    His father was like a cardboard cut out. In the year I knew him before he died I never had a conversation with him and can’t remember him ever saying anything. His mother was manic depressive and from an early age my husband was always coming home from school dreading he’d find his mother dead. As a child he pulled her out of a fume filled garage, he turned the gas off when she had her head in the gas oven and he found her dead to the world after taking a cocktail of tablets. A year after we got married she jumped from a hotel balcony whilst on holiday with her friends and finally ended it all. He worshipped his mother and to this day mourns the loss of both his parents and his sister who hung herself a month after his mother died.

    Because of how I’d been brought up I had no self-esteem. I thought the way to get people to like me was to continually try to please them – that’s how I’d tried to get my mother to respond to me. I did this with my husband from day one and waited on him hand and foot. He let me. I was desperate for love and reliability. I don’t know why he married me but my constant looking after him and trying to please him may have been a key factor. I was 18 when I married and thought myself really grown up. It was what I knew. How I’d lived. Always trying to work out what the other person was thinking so I knew how to react.

    When we had our first child seven years after we married and she started to become profoundly handicapped I grew up. I had to grow up. I saw what had always been missing in my marriage (and in my life). He carried on as usual giving very little. I fought for my child, not with him but to get her help and treatment. To understand what was happening to her. There was no treatment and she died aged five.. I became far less ‘involved’ with him and more involved with my child. I expected him to help me care for her. He didn’t. My rose tinted view shifted. I saw both of us differently. I grew up.

    So when Karen says:
    I am not saying that in doing deep work on self you can change the other parent, their stuff is their stuff although why you were in a relationship with that person might be of interest to you because whatever anyone tells you, you got into that relationship because of something in you not just the other person. I am talking about how you deal with the issues in yourself that led you into this place so that you can find peace, balance and health, so that you stop kicking at the closed door of the other parent’s psychology and focus on your own.

    I 100% agree with her.

    If I had my exact time again I know that, unless I could have a happy, loving childhood, I would still end up with the type of person I married. And I think (but cannot know) that because of his childhood, my husband would always have looked for a girl who would always try to please him at the expense of herself. I believe he needed someone to make him feel good about himself and our daughter did that. I couldn’t fill that role because as his wife, I expected more from him and “demanded” more. I would never have been what he wanted. If he could have had lots of cupboards he could open and shut, with a different woman in each to fulfil a different role (all to please him), and if he could have closed each cupboard door whenever he wanted ‘a bit of peace’, he might have been happy!

    I am no longer that person who married him at eighteen. Realisation dawned eventually. I spent many hours researching, trying to find answers. I KNOW that my childhood affected my choices. My husband on the other hand refuses to believe that his childhood affected him in any way. My alienated and estranged daughter is 100% certain that I use my childhood as an excuse. I say that I learned from my children and swore my children would never feel how I felt then. I did everything I could to make her childhood a good one but it still ended up the way it did because of the kind of marriage I was in and how I reacted within it.

    So yes, I agree with Karen.


  12. Karen, if you haven’t been told before I will be surprised but I think your work is ground-breaking!

    I have contemplated suicide many time over the years, and this piece you’ve written is hope for those of us who feel unable to cope! I will not labour the point…suffice to say you’ve kept me here for when my son eventually does come home!!

    Besides that, suicide is an awful legacy to leave a child with… would they ever recover??
    Keep up the amazing work…you’ve saved my life more than once!!
    Frankie x


    1. Totally agree with you Frankie, Karen has saved all our lives more than once…and yes, you don’t want to leave that type of legacy for anyone. I’ve been where you are, and somehow or other, as time passes, you will find strength. What will help you to know is that they WILL make contact at some point so we need to be prepared for that because it’s how we handle that that will make a lot of difference. I’m minded to not say anything to them about their mother or her family or even her friends.

      The other thing that will help you to know is it’s better to just move on with your life so that you are well and healthy for when they come back.

      My life came to a complete standstill for something like 5 years. And even now, some 2 years later, I haven’t got it into the right gear, but it’s better than it was and I’m even regretting letting it come to a standstill. And maybe the best part is (if there is one!) is that the other side are flabbergasted that I getting on with things and that they haven’t destroyed me for that is what they wanted to do…so that’s something that drives me too


  13. Frankie a hug from me. As you can perhaps see from my post above, suicide is a terrible thing to do to a child. Alienation is very, very painful and soul destroying but if you can hang on to hope, however small and insignificant, surely it’s better to grasp at that than give in to the pit of despair. I so wish you well.


    1. I would add a hug and an endorsement of Willow’s words Frankie, suicide isn’t the answer to children’s suffering it is simply to add to their burden. Whilst I absolutely understand the acute and enduring pain that comes with having your children taken from you, my way of being in the world is always that there is hope and that the targeted parent is a child’s best hope for rescue and recovery in the future. I am glad you find what I write so helpful, it comes from experience both professional and personal. sending you my very best K


      1. Just want to let you know I got a big hug from my son a few hours ago when he and his daddy arrived to take my daughter for a few hours!! It’s like all my Christmases came at once!

        My ex continually brought my son to sit at the bottom of my drive while waiting for my daughter but as its his birthday (17th) and he’s been alienated for 4 yrs I took birthday cards down! Fx I th his father sitting back side him he got out, said thanks mum and gave me a big hug!!

        I’m keeping the faith you’ve shown me works Karen!! I’ll carry on til it’s fixed!
        I just kept on loving him and keeping in touch even though I got no replies…..

        Thanks again

        Frankie x


      2. what Joy Frankie, I am so happy to hear this, he will come back, let him come to you and bide your time, he is on his way, that hug is the first step. sending you lots of love xxxx


      3. We all converse on internet but you’ve become a real-life heroine to me!!

        Hope to see you if I can get into the conference on 18th May in N Ireland!

        No thanks will ever be enough Karen for all you’ve done and I hope it gives some comfort to those who are in the dark places I have been!!
        Frankie xx


    2. And a hug from me – one of many (in the PA family) who are always here for you.


  14. Reblog to traciie, I’m in tears from this comment section there’s just so many of us, so much needless suffering. It’s truly overwhelming…


  15. Thank you for this post, Karen.
    I have been thinking I would like to go to a support group for targeted/alienated parents & that as none exists near me I should set one up myself.
    I am very interested in the in-world & on-line groups you will be setting up.
    Personally, I am finding that attending a Buddhist Meditation class, practicing Reiki & reading/watching/listeng to the work of Eckhart Tolle & Byron Katie is helping me.
    Sending love to all other parents like me who are loving into the void, & to our children who will one day (hopefully) love us right back…x


  16. As Louise Hay said in one of her famous books…”good health begins with loving the self “… certainly helps. What I keep wondering is why have we got so many cases where the wrong / innocent parent ends up being the one alienated from their kids and the kids live with the alienator (particular interest in UK) ……surely there must be some way of sorting these disastrous cases out correctly and avoiding painful years hoping your child/ children will reappear….. Presumably in the cases in which Karen you and your colleagues are involved this doesn’t happen given your extensive experience in this field?


    1. Sadsam, this is a reply to this and your other comments.

      1. You are not to blame your are not and you never were.

      2. Do not accept in whole or part, any of the allegations made against you they are not true.

      3. Getting you to wonder whether you did something is part of the alienator’s skill set, it is called gas lighting and it is designed to foist their unwellness onto you so that they don’t have to carry the problem but you do.

      4. This is a serious mental health issue for the unwell alienating parent, it is causing your children to act out the illness.

      5. You have to fight and fight and fight to show how this works, you have to become alienation aware and determined, you have to understand the issues you face and then you have to use strategies to show others the truth.

      6. people do not understand the problem because it is a counter intuitive way of working and most people want to believe it is a he said/she said problem.

      7. Family services in the uk don’t understand it because they don’t have the training and are steeped in their own bias.

      8. It doesn’t happen in the cases we work in because we know the nature of the problem and how to work with it. we train others to do it too.

      9. don’t be alone, don’t let it eat you up and never let it convince you it is you it is not, it is the other parent and your kids are caught in the dynamic.

      10. Start by reading around this blog then move out into reading more, if you need expert help we are at K


      1. Anastasia… I think your reply is for me….if it is, thank you. I’ve dealt with many challenges in my life but never ever did I imagine that living as a ‘rejected parent’ would be one of them but that is my reality and I must once again rise to the challenge as best I can….as we all must do.


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