Homecoming: The Paths and Pitfalls of Reunification With Lost Loved Ones

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
Little Gidding V,
Four Quartets.
— T.S. Eliot (1943)

A wave of reunifications between now adult children and their lost loved ones has been happening recently in the UK and in the midst of this I have been helping families to understand the paths and pitfalls which occur in this momentous occasion in their lives.

Whilst so many long to be reunited with the children they have lost through parental alienation and the failure of the family courts to resolve the difficulties the family has in making the transition from together to apart, the reality of that process is often shocking as well as or instead of it being wonderful.  For when the longing of the years gives way to the encounter with reality, the buried feelings of the past, which have often been held in emotional aspic, come rushing up like ghosts demanding to be attended to.  Again and again I am asked by parents and children and wider family members –

why, when I have reconnected to the person that I love, do I feel so bad?’

The answer of course lies in the way in which estrangement or alienation from loved ones causes the stultification of normal feelings of attachment and the way in which loss of a loved one who is still alive cannot be mourned fully.  This causes a traumatic wounding pattern in which feelings of anger, fear, dread and terror plus sadness, grief and despair become fused into one overwhelming feeling of helplessness.  When the child returns, this fused ball of helplessness begins to unwind itself and so with it the disparate feelings which have been too traumatic to be processed properly.  Entering into a depression shortly after reunification is a common issue faced by reunited families, in my view this is about the overwhelming negative feelings which are now emerging to be properly processed.  This is why, in my experience, no reunification programme is complete without therapeutic aftercare.  To leave a reunited family alone too soon is to abandon them to their capacity to cope with the feelings which emerge.  Feelings which the reunited children often do not experience in the same way (because the loss for them is different and their lives are all in front of them) but which the parents and wider family members definitely do suffer from.

Reunited children experience different feelings which are very much based upon their need for the neglected parts of themselves to be attended to.  Of course as those parts which are unattended to are now demanding attention right at the time when the newly reunited adults are coping with emerging unprocessed feelings, there is the very real possibility of a perfect storm of misunderstandings to arise.  For onlookers, the confusion about why the reunification which was so longed for is less a happy ending and more an emotional and psychological jumble sale, can become both frustrating and bewildering.  Understanding what is going on under the surface helps to steer a steady course through the ruins of the past and into the building of a new future.

The point of reunification is both the ending and beginning and within that moment is contained all of the hopes, fears, dreams and determinations of everyone involved.  This is a rebirth of a child/adult relationship and unless it is recognised as being both a point of possibility and of despair, disappointment will surely follow.  For the parent the end of a long wait is here, for the child a point at which a new start is signified, two paths which diverged have now come together again and falling into step requires time, patience and a willingness to understand and hear the voice of each other.  Those who achieve this are those who will walk on together in life and who will be seen in years to come to be in healthy relationship with each other.  Those who do not achieve it will find the estrangement more comfortable than the reunited relationship.  And there are many more of these relationships which foundered on the rocks of reunification, than you would ordinarily imagine.

The work of receiving a lost child into your emotional and psychological life is incredibly difficult and for some the fear of failing leads to a preference for the status quo than for change.  When someone has not been in your life for many years, welcoming them back takes courage and sometimes the willingness to allow them to bring a little bit of chaos with them. I often liken reunifications to aircraft landings, some are smooth and we barely know that the wheels have touched the ground, others are turbulent, bumping their way onto the ground in fits and starts before coming to a screeching halt or careering to a halt in the long grass.  Being able to remain open to that process requires psychological strength and the capacity to be able to maintain perspective.  In each reunification process we counsel people to recognise that this is a process not an event, it  will bring tears as well as laughter and being open to letting our world be enriched by the people who live within our relational systems is what life is all about.

Sometimes reunifications do not go well. These are the those in which the rigidity of mind in one or both people concerned prevents the resurrection of the warm attachment bonds.  For children who encounter this in a parent they have sought out, this is tragedy in their lives twice over.  Because not only do they have to deal with the split off and denied feelings of guilt and shame for having pushed a parent away in the first place, they now have to deal with a block to their seeking of health through the restoration of that relationship.  It is cruel blow to children and one which in my experience is amongst the most damaging things that can happen in reunification.  Why it happens is not difficult to understand. Parents become bitter, enraged by having been denied for so long and fixed in their belief that their views must now hold sway.  Fear populates this relational system too, the fear of the parent that they can no longer bring influence in their adult child’s life and fear that there is no other role for them if that influence is no longer theirs to exercise.  What these parents fail to realise is that their own fear is what maintains the barrier to their child’s longer term health.  Those who cannot shift beyond fear based reality will cast their children back out into the wilderness and whilst that may be difficult for many who are alienated from their children now to believe, trust me, it is a far more common outcome for families who attempt to reunite, than the popular narrative would have us believe.

Because at the end of the time apart the beginning of the time apart is also present. The end is in the beginning and the beginning is always in the end.  This is because ultimately, alienation, like estrangement, like all of the reasons why people disappear out of each other’s lives, is a human relational issue. And in all that we do we are all, always still human.  What we find in reunification work is that which caused the splitting in the first place and being able to hold that with the families we work with is our greatest responsibility of all.  Bringing families to the place of dynamic change is what reunification is about, entering into that liminal space on the threshold of the past, present and future, is to be human in relationship to families.  It is both an art, a privilege and a time of great fear as well as rejoicing.  Nothing can be predicted in a reunification, which is not based upon how life was to the point where the two paths diverged. And that is the simple truth of the matter. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.  Reunification depends upon the openness of heart and spirit and the capacity to take risks. If it was not there in the beginning, it won’t be there in the end which is also a new beginning.  Drawing upon those strengths and helping families not to be tripped up by the inherent weaknesses is what reunification work is all about.

My top five tips for reuniting families?

  1. See this in perspective, it is not a fairy story and this is not a happy ending, reunification is a process not a one off event and you have to work at it.
  2. Recognise that the dynamics which were present at the point where the paths diverged are going to come howling into the present at the point at which the paths converge again.
  3. If you are a parent get help to deal with the reactive shock that encountering long buried feelings brings.
  4. If you are an adult child recognise that your parent/other adult relations need time to adjust.
  5. For wider family members, keep boundaries and know your limitations in terms of being able to make things different.

Above all be patient, let time and proximity do the work of reigniting buried feelings of family, warmth and attachment. Do not expect too much too soon and always always keep in touch, however hard it is, this is what will ultimately oil the wheels and make the vehicle of your relational system work again.

Homecoming can be happy ever after but just like all families, it will take work to make it turn out that way.

 

19 Comments

  1. A very powerful piece Karen. Thank you.

    For me, so much time has gone by, my teenage daughters are now 19 and 22 – one even a college graduate (yes, I was deliberately excluded). Who are they now? In my mind they are still 13 and 15, daughters who still spoke to me, who were part of the family I had always dreamed of. Who are they now? Blocked on their phones, I have not seen them nor heard their voices in almost two years. Who are they now?

    I read you words and nod in understanding. While I want nothing more than to “have them back”, I wonder – Who are they now?

    Oh, this is such a cruel thing, this alienation. The cruelest…

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  2. This was so helpful to me Karen. I recently had dinner with my daughter, alienated for 6 and a half years. It was wonderful and everything I could want. I could not understand why I didn’t feel elated afterward and in fact, depressed. Now I understand. Thank you!
    Lynn Steinberg

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    1. so much to process Lynne, there is a need to actively embrace the feelings and allow the relational system to live again. Much to mourn in the loss of six and a half years and that must be done before the joy of what lies ahead can be fully embraced. All work which is vital in this process and which is much misunderstood and unknown. I will write some more, it is part of my thinking in my research work and a growing need in terms of clinical work too. Sending support to you K

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  3. Time does not stand still……the children you once knew are now adults, the parent you once were has changed as you have had to find an accommodation with your loss…… memories abound on both sides of who each once was…….but who are we now? For it is in the scenario of who we are now that reunification must take place ……now strangers who once shared a past……. old wounds repened and old hurts live again…..anyone who can navigate through this maelstrom successfully…… I salute you.

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  4. Be brave, take the plunge and commit. Try to understand the walls that have kept you apart not through what your Ex may or may not have done but what was missing.
    Because you can use this new opportunity to fill that void (what’s missing), with good things helping to form healthy ties in this present moment and new opportunity that you have created.
    Don’t use your non-invitation to the graduation ceremony to not go; to remain as one who is separate and is cast aside. Go to the ceremony and smile, be proud, act as if you are what you want to be.
    Behave as you would like to be seen.

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  5. For my husband, the alienation is not the worst part – the worst part is that by all evidence we have available to us, his son has become as mentally unwell as his mother, in the same ways; lying, manipulating, cheating, blaming others, playing the victim, making little effort and expecting special treatment. While I realize he’s enmeshed with her and has taken on her sense of self, it’s hard to imagine a successful reunification with him given these behaviors; and it’s hard to imagine him disentangling himself from his mother and becoming someone healthy that my husband can have a strong and positive relationship with.

    Many people on here seem to have alienated children who are at least (externally) developing appropriately – graduating, moving out, working, getting married, living independently. That doesn’t seem to be happening for my stepson. My husband says that his sadness and anxiety comes more from how poorly his son is doing than it does from his son’s refusal to speak to him.

    I’m not sure how this will play out as he matures more, but I’m not optimistic. Seems like reunification would be hard even under the best of circumstances, and this is not that.

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  6. Hi Karen-

    Touching base again at 6 months post-reunification. To recap: my daughter suddenly returned home to me last November after approximately 7 years of alienation and 8 months of complete silence. You were kind enough to post our reunification story as an article on your blog a few months ago, and asked that I give updates now and again. I thought the comment section of this article was a fitting place for an update.

    After her return, I gave my daughter space to “unpack” what she had been through and told her there was no rush to discuss it and sort it all out. I told her I knew it was overwhelming… re-evaluating what she was told for years and what she thought she knew, analyzing everything through fresh eyes, seeing a bigger picture version of her former microcosm world. I explained she would probably be unpacking things for years and that’s okay, and even to be expected. It’s a lot to process, and it will all happen in due time.

    After our first conversation the night of her return, touching on things that had happened recently on her end to prompt her move, we touched a little on our dynamic and incidents in the past before she told me she didn’t really want to talk about the past anymore. She asked if we could just move forward. I told her that was fine, but if she ever did want to talk, I’m here. Since then we’ve had multiple in-depth conversations, all initiated by her. I let her approach the topics, and I answer her honestly when she does. We’ve learned a lot about each other. She said she doesn’t remember a lot about specific incidents involving me, that she must’ve blocked them out. I told her that was probably for the best. She got tears in her eyes and told me she was sorry for everything she May have done that hurt me. I thanked her… it was truly touching… but told her there was no need to apologize. She was a victim as much as I was. She and her brother were manipulated and were pawns as much as I was. I told her that if she felt the need to apologize to me then I should apologize too, for not having been able to stop it and protect her and her brother from what happened. I told her that in truth neither of us owed apologies, we were both pawns of a dysfunctional dynamic, and that I don’t blame her or her brother for anything. It was a cathartic conversation for us both.

    In the beginning she was hesitant with me. After a few weeks she confided that she’d been initially nervous for multiple reasons. For one, her stepmom told her before she left “Your mom won’t want you back after everything that’s happened.” And after my daughter replied that I’d already said she could come home, stepmom said she’d call me and tell me horrible things so I wouldn’t want her. My daughter cried as she recounted this and said she was so afraid I’d reject her after her stepmom called. I reassured her that her stepmom clearly doesn’t know me if she thinks that’s all it would take.

    My daughter was a month away from her 18th birthday when she left her dad’s house. The catalyst was her stepmom’s controlling, erratic, and harsh behavior. Among other things my daughter said stepmom accused my daughter & her own 18 year old daughter of things that hadn’t happened, forced them to apologize for damage to things the stepmom damaged, spied on the girls through their bedroom windows, and ransacked the girls’ rooms—emptying drawers, clearing countertops, turning over mattresses, leaving clothes and possessions in a heap in the middle of the floor “looking for evidence” of wrongdoing. She found nothing. Stepmom grounded them for a month, saying they wouldn’t even be allowed to go to school because the girls took a stroll to look in store windows after breakfast one day. Stepmom told them they had permission to have breakfast but not to walk around, and since they hadn’t asked first they’d be grounded to teach them they aren’t to assume they can just do what they want. They protested, so stepmom ended up kicking her own daughter out and told my daughter she couldn’t leave the house until she turned 18, four weeks away. My daughter told her stepmom she was going to move out, and stepmom went into the verbal tirade above saying she’d make sure I didn’t want her back. Stepmom called and told me the girls had been doing drugs and drinking and being promiscuous. It was all lies (my daughter admitted she had tried alcohol twice at friends’ homes but had never even been to a party, and hadn’t yet even held a boy’s hand or been on a date because stepmom was so controlling they weren’t really allowed to spend time with boys without stepmom in the room.)

    My daughter said that before leaving she asked her dad why he let stepmom treat her and her brother the way she did (belittling them, making unreasonable demands, doling out severe punishment that outweighed minor wrongs, name calling, etc). Her dad responded that he stood by everything stepmom did. When my daughter left in tears she told her dad “I love you.” He just said “good luck” and shut the door on her.

    In the few weeks after leaving, my daughter was contacted by her stepmom who continued to berate her via text message. My daughter is in college and found out that her stepmom had cleaned out her financial aid account, approximately $4,000. Stepmom told my daughter that the money was used to cover living expenses while my daughter lived with them. She told my daughter that my daughter had a big ego if she thought there wouldn’t be consequences for her actions. My daughter replied: so you’re stealing my financial aid?? Stepmom said if my daughter hadn’t defied her she’d still have her money. Unfortunately, because my daughter was a minor, law enforcement said her parent was technically allowed to take the money, so they wouldn’t pursue it. My daughter had to pay for college books out of her own pocket when school started back up. The last text my daughter received from her stepmom was after my daughter turned 18. Stepmom said that now there are no more financial ties, my daughter shouldn’t contact her again. If she needs to talk to someone she can call her dad.

    I told my daughter that I understood that reading that hurt her. I told her it was ok to recognize that stepmom has issues but that she also meant something to my daughter for a number of years. I told my daughter that the best-case scenario is for her to see that there was still some good mixed in with the bad, such as trips they took and experiences she had, and it was important to acknowledge that part too. I told her that seeing her stepmom for what she was without hating her, and doing the same for her dad whom she now calls a coward for not having defended her, was in her own best interest. I told her that distancing herself from them now, in these early stages, was probably for the best (especially since they continue to talk badly about her and me). But that in time I hoped she could see them objectively without hatred, not because I care about them but I care about HER and harboring hatred for them will hurt her in the long run.

    Here are a few specifically notable things that have happened since her return:
    – we’ve had deep conversations about things that transpired. I’ve told her it’s important to think of everyone in terms of shades rather than absolutes;
    – she sleeps well. She told me she hadn’t slept more than 3 or 4 hours a night for moths at her dad’s house. She rests easily now and told me it feels like a huge weight off her shoulders;
    – she’s kind to me. She will bring me little gifts now and again saying she thought of me that day, and we talk every single day, even when our work schedules conflict;
    – for Mother’s Day she asked if I’d spend the day with her. What was for years a sad occasion for me was wonderful this year as I went to breakfast with both my son (who is still at his dad’s house) and my daughter, and then my daughter treated me to a hot tub soak with her at a spa followed by mom/daughter massages. It was amazing!
    – and the biggest milestone: last month, for the first time in about 8 years, my daughter said “I love you” to me. And yes, I got tears in my eyes.

    One important thing about our reunification is that we’ve agreed not to dwell on missed time or imagined missed opportunities. It’s nice to imagine all sorts of glorious and ideal “could have been” mother/daughter moments we’d have shared if we we had been close all those years. But that’s just fantasy, and a form of mental torture for us both. The truth is we may just as easily have gotten into a fatal car accident while I was taking her to a sports lesson in a variant past. We don’t know what alternate pasts may have held for us, but it’s equally likely they’d have been bad as they would’ve been good. What we can say for certain is that the real past led us here, to this moment where we are living happily together. It was a hard road, but if any of it had been different or had gone another way, there’s no saying we’d be here now. And now is good. She is happy, healthy, doing well in school and in her new job, and she chats with me daily, texting and calling just to share little moments in her day with me. She is relaxed and silly and at ease, and a joy to be around. And as for me, my heart is truly happy.

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    1. “To recap: my daughter suddenly returned home to me last November after approximately 7 years of alienation and 8 months of complete silence.”

      Holly your story is heart warming……best wishes to you and yours.

      Can I ask you to clarify something? In the statement above you seem to indicate that although alienated, you had some degree of communication with your daughter…….had this communication been present throughout the 7 years?

      To me alienation is an absence of contact and communication…..or at least of any communication that is not offensive.

      Thanks Holly in advance if you choose to clarify this for me.

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    2. Holly – thank you for sharing – a pleasure, albeit with some sadness, to read
      – the pleasure is easy, and I wish you and your daughter a long straight road ahead – it sounds like you’re doing a great job of building her resilience by not encouraging her to use swap one alienated parent for another
      – the sadness is because there is no wicked stepmother in my story – well, I’m the stepmother, and definitely have been denounced as wicked, but what I mean is there isn’t anyone in my stepsons daily direct-contact life, apart from his mother and grandmother, so if he wants to kick against anyone it will have to be his own flesh and blood, and that seems 100 times harder than some malevolent external force, paired with a weak natural parent.
      Like Cara above, my stepson seems totally enmeshed still, and will be 18 later this year, with no signs, that we can see, of any interest in changing the status quo. There are lots of people around him it seems who have a strong vested interest in keeping him where he is, whether at school, or physically, so until he realises he’s trapped behind briars, even though from his side it maybe looks like a rose garden, this particular sleeping prince (ok i’m stretching the metaphor now!) will stay where he is until something pricks his finger to start waking him up.

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    3. Thanks for sharing your story, Holly – both uplifting and informative.

      Also, a true inspiration in relation to prioritising the needs of your children over other matters and making the return journey home as easy as possible for them both. Retaining your sense of perspective seems to have helped enormously.

      What better role-model could they have as they recover from their past experiences

      All the best

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    4. Thanks for sharing your story, Holly – both uplifting and informative.

      Also, a true inspiration in relation to prioritising the needs of your children over other matters and making the return journey home as easy as possible for them both. Retaining your sense of perspective seems to have helped enormously.

      What better role-model could they have as they recover from their past experiences

      All the best

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  7. Well done Holly and thank you for explaining your thought processes and actions, very helpful and constructive.
    You are performing an emotional rescue in difficult circumstances. On the other side of the wall you have Dad (seemingly dormant of emotional intelligence perhaps ensnared by his new wife’s control mechanisms) and a stepmom who parents in an authoritarian and controlling manner. Whilst authoritarian style parenting is commonplace, in these circumstances where your daughter is caught being asked to make choices about which parent she should follow, you have released her into a world of ambivalence.

    Before she was a bird with her wings clipped, grounded, now she soars freely in the open skies. You have gifted her ambivalence. You haven’t pushed her or created a rule book, you have patiently listened, and waited and soothed. You have described a different world where you have adopted a healthy parenting role and made a safe emotional haven for her.

    You have the gift of empathy. Like Karen does, you walk in your child’s shoes and understand their feelings, their experience.

    You don’t hold grudges. You look at disagreeable behaviours and try to understand where they came from.
    You leave the horrors of the past in your wake, making present moments good ones. (A huge magnificent undertaking)

    The doors of perception remain open, the windows to the past are just that, windows to the past and no more, you strengthen your connections with your daughter by your willingness to listen to her, to be emotionally available.

    You are not caught up in what is right and what is wrong, what is justice and what is not. You have an unerring respect for opinions and move gracefully on healing and protecting and allowing your children to breathe, to grow, to develop into rounded caring individuals. You nurture trust and understanding, building resilience into your child’s life, boosting self-confidence and self-esteem.

    Thank you for sharing your gift. You made me cry, toward the end the words became so fuzzy I had to stop reading….

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  8. Thank you for all of your kind words and well wishes, everyone. I truly appreciate them!

    sadsam: I had varying amounts of court-ordered contact with my children over the years. When they turned 16 the court allowed them to choose how to divide their time. My son, now 20, has only spent one night in my home since then (that happened 2 weeks ago!!! Another amazing milestone, and more hope that things are slowly progressing with him as well!!) And my daughter had cut all communication with me for the 8 months prior to her return. But even with court-ordered time, I was still an alienated parent, deemed by multiple counselors who met with us over the years as “moderate-to-severe alienation.” My daughter would flinch from me if I touched her; my son withdrew to his room and told me he didn’t consider me to be his mother, because he only needed one mother and that was now his stepmom; my daughter told me she hated me and couldn’t wait until she was old enough to leave and not be forced to ever see me again; my son said I was a liar and when asked what I lie about he’d say “she knows” without further explanation; my daughter told counselors she made up lies about me to friends and their parents and told them she hated me so none of them would like me. And in the meantime their dad and stepmom had taken to referring to stepmom as Mom and encouraged the kids to do the same. On school paperwork she listed herself as their mom and scribbled my name/phone in a margin without identifying my relationship to the kids, and told people they met that she was their mom so when I met people they’d correct me and say “you mean you’re their stepmom?” I had to prove to one school I was their biological mom by producing a birth certificate and court documents showing we had joint custody because I wasn’t listed in any of the paperwork stepmom had completed, listing only her and my ex-husband as the children’s parents, something my children went along with. This post is already growing long and those instances merely scratch the surface, but give an idea of what our relationship was for those years. So yes I had contact but it was very difficult and strained contact.

    Now that my daughter is back home with me, she confirmed that they got punished, subtly and overtly, for showing me affection or speaking kindly of me. They were called ingrates, had their phones taken away, were denied participation in family activities, and were told that if they ever talk to me about anything that happens in that house, no matter how small, they won’t be considered family and won’t be welcome in that home. So they shut down and obeyed. If asked by me, my friends, or anyone in my circle any benign questions about school, friends, summer plans, etc, they’d reply with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” To clarify my understanding (and that of multiple counselors we saw over the years): Alienation doesn’t necessarily mean a complete lack of contact. Different experts have different definitions of alienation, but the primary factor is the unwarranted rejection of one parent (the “unwarranted” element is key).

    CG- hold tight to hope! There were so many dark days in my past, so many times it seemed I’d never find my way out of the Rabbit Hole, the upside down world where nothing made sense. I was nearly beyond hoping for reunification anytime soon… I had begun accepting that if in the future I could have a relationship with my grandchildren, then that would be enough. I was resigned to the idea that I probably wouldn’t hear from my daughter for years. Then, suddenly, after months of silence, without any warning: my daughter’s trembling voice on the phone, nervously asking “Mom… can I come stay with you?” It can happen at any moment. Really! So continue to be hopeful. Continue live and take care of yourself. Whether days from now or 10 years from now, you’ll need to be your best you when your moment of reunification comes.

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    1. Thank you Holly for your reply …. and for your openness. PA can be a very isolated place to be and hearing a story of hope and success such as yours brings light into the wilderness.

      I wish you every success in your continuing relationship with your daughter and hope for you that your son gets closer again too. Thanks again for sharing your story so honestly.

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    2. “……It can happen at any moment. Really! So continue to be hopeful. Continue live and take care of yourself. Whether days from now or 10 years from now, you’ll need to be your best you when your moment of reunification comes.”

      I absolutely love this, Holly – thoughts I’ve hung on to for 17 years and, more importantly, have driven me the entire time. To hear them echoed by someone who’s trodden that lonely, uncertain road is (for me) a welcome validation of holding tight to the above vision

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  9. August 2014–it only took 3 days of brainwashing and promises to my two teen sons and they became abusive, vulgar, mom haters. I was stunned as I had been their primary caretaker their entire lives, then a contentious divorce in which we both agreed…until we went to a mediator and my husband was told about splitting assets. After working with children most my life and obtaining s degree in education, a Protection from Abuse Order was placed on me mere days after that first mediators meeting, a meeting my husband stormed out of in rage. The PFA was quickly overturned, yet my sons were gone as I had known them…forever.

    In 2016, when I’d given in to accepting there was nothing more I could do…my then 15 was rejected by my ex husband. I was shocked, as though the dead has risen. My dream come true, yet I felt afraid and triggered. My son refused 100% loyalty to his dad and was discarded.

    Now it is June 2018. I’d accepted my now 20 year old was a “lost cause”. Yet last Sunday I received message….he was being ignored by his father. This is his third night in my home! The blog entry about reunification leading to uncomfortable feelings was a blessing, I feel guilty because my still alienated friends mourn…yet I’m going through a stage of mistrust, who are you, someone I had compartmentalized and put away to move on with life (finally), has now appeared and I’ve not processed the grief of losing him nor his rebirth in my life.

    When communication was practically nothing, and abusive at best, after I’d accepted not being “the mom” any longer…they both are back.

    My heart always knew the truth, yet my head wanted to blame myself like they did…although never an idea to fix it.

    Lies have speed…truth has ENDURANCE!

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  10. Dear Karen,
    This post is so useful as I have found out I will see my daughter (19) this weekend, for the first time (apart from at a distance, hiding) in 3 and 1/2 years.
    I needed to check the psychology because since knowing it is going to occur I have been excessively emotional and tearful. I am struggling to know how I will keep theses feelings in check. But, I at least know they are standard.
    The event is my father’s birthday (a significant one) and there will only be 20 people there so in theory it will be difficult for her to avoid me.

    Holly, your description of the reconciliation with your daughter sounds like the way I would hope it will go with mine. I want to support her, not direct blame anywhere. I want it to be the beginning of our future not just a patch on the daily pain. Which doesn’t get better.

    Whether I will achieve this is one dimension; how her father will react before, during and after is another. I know from her brother he (dad) still justifies his parenting based on his feelings towards me. My son (21) and I have a good relationship until discussing the family when his level of enmeshment becomes apparent. (He believes his father’s version of events is accurate…)

    I don’t think luck is what I need but a full scoop of positive thoughts and some sunshine on the day!!

    You have just started your retreat for alienated mothers, I hope it is a fulfilling and supportive week for you all.
    xxx

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  11. Karen your post gave my mind a break and some fear at first but at least s tiny new thing to focus on and holly your words and story were helpful advice that gave me reassurance of who I am as a mother in the hopeful day and what it will take in the event that my daughter ever comes back home to me and gave me so much hope. As well as hearing others who had their children return too. I just have no where to turn to anymore and can’t find anything to hold to on while I wait for my own little girl to find to way back to me that that this time has gone on for 4 years. Been dealing with it for 7 that had another almost 2 year span but it’s gone on literally since the day she was born. I just don’t know how to get through this anymore.

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