Since moving to Lake Worth Beach, Florida nearly two years ago, many of my mornings have been spent at the beach, watching the sunrise. Its vibrant flair and constantly changing canvas made my mornings whole by allowing me to breathe the salty air and watch the sun break free of the horizon in utter glory. I have found these moments to be both quite visceral, calming, and important. The sunrise for me has always been a sign of a fresh start – another day to get things right.
I Haven’t Been on the Beach in Months
On December 28th, I went to Lake Worth Beach to watch the sunrise. I was alone, sitting in my folding chair about ten feet or so away from the softly turning surf. People were strewn about as they are on most mornings, doing yoga, walking, and of course, the woman that writes in the sand each day was present.
As the sun rose softly against the horizon, a feeling of angst took over me. My breathing began to slowly accelerate and I felt my hands turn clammy. As I sat – hoping for the right of passage these mornings have provided as a fresh start – my eyes began to well up with thick, unrelenting tears.
For the first time since being alienated from my only daughter (no contact whatsoever), I began to feel a parent’s worst nightmare. The death of a child. The death of my daughter. And while she was alive and hopefully well, the moment became more than I could handle. It was likely the culmination of a great many factors including the first set of holidays without her and the thought of not being able to wish her a happy 18th birthday.
I quickly packed my stuff and got to the car to not allow my emotions to get the better of me where I was. I still needed to get home, showered and dressed, and off to a public storage unit to assist with a work project.
This behavior is clearly one of avoidance – a very common defense mechanism. I have been working in therapy to identify defense mechanisms and the ones I choose to break my mind free of pain. Avoidance has never really been a mechanism I have ever strived to accomplish – I am proud to wear my heart on the outside and use my voice to help break the entanglements of mental pain and trauma. My personal favorite has always been sublimation.
A Sweaty Ride Home
By 10:30 a.m., I was back in my car returning home, expecting to work the remainder of the day. As I pulled onto the entry ramp for I-95, a wave of nausea and sweat ferociously pummeled through my body. My hands began to vibrate and I was unable to catch my breath. I was having a panic attack but had to keep it together. I was traveling 50+ MPH on the entry ramp straightaway with multiple cars in front and behind me. After what felt like an hour – but really only about 20 – 30 seconds, I used a breathing technique to regain my focus. If the attack had aftershocks, I should not be on the highway.
When I arrived home, I had calmed – but was shaken through and through. I have only experienced two panic attacks in my life.
Dealing With Guilt & Grief
Most of the work I am currently doing with my therapist is dealing with the underlying guilt and grief that the targeted parent in an alienated family system often feels. I tend to look back and mentally document the many past incidents of alienation, gaslighting, and triangulation throughout the years to justify my own guilt – though I am not supposed to.
And the grief of losing your own child can be more than any parent can or should bear. It is just not natural in a normal lifecycle. Its jarring presence manifests in waves – one befitting an incarcerated human that is innocent of a crime.
What Can You Do?
- Spread the Word with Facts:
- Parental Alienation is a family disease, it is a learned behavior that is passed down generationally: https://www.ncsc.org/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/42152/parental_alienation_Lewis.pdf
- At least 10% of targeted parents are alienated from their child(ren), upwards of 20 million parents: https://source.colostate.edu/parental-alienation-means-matters/#:~:text=We%20found%20that%2013.4%20percent,experience%20as%20as%20being%20severe.
- Alienated children suffer a lifetime of low self-esteem, depression, drug use, lack of trust, lack of empathy – and yes, it is very likely my daughter will alienate her child(ren): https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01926180590962129#:~:text=Findings%20pertaining%20to%20the%20long,%2C%20and%20(7)%20other.
- Many alienated children are influenced by the preferred parent that suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder:https://www.gjclaw.com.sg/articles/coping-with-narcissistic-parental-alienation/#:~:text=Narcissistic%20Parental%20Alienation%20syndrome%20refers,hostility%20towards%20the%20other%20parent.&text=Such%20behaviour%20may%20often%20distort,themselves%20from%20the%20said%20parent.
- Parental Alienation as a Form of Emotional Child Abuse: Current State of Knowledge and Future Directions for Research: https://childrightsngo.com/newdownload/downloadsection9/Parental%20Alienation%20as%20form%20of%20Emotional%20Abuse%20Family%20Science%20Review%202018%20Edward%20Kruk.pdf
- Dr. Amy Baker – one of the country’s top alienation specialists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2zNV1Jvc5I
- Consider checking out the literature from Parental Alienation Anonymous: https://parentalalienationanonymous.com/
- STOP Telling Me She Will Return: For me, my personal ask – whether you know about parental alienation or not – please do not tell me my daughter is coming back. Yes, there are some very unique circumstances in which a parent and their child(ren) can overcome the perils of this treacherous family disease, however, most alienated children never regain the type of relationship they had prior to alienation. There are underlying causes for this including trust issues, codependency with the alienator, and a general lack of empathy as a way to protect themselves from torment from the alienator.
Paul Michael Marinello serves as a writer and blog editor for CPTSD Foundation. Previous to this role he managed North American Corporate Communications at MSL, a top ten public relations firm where he also served on the board for Diversity & Inclusion for a staff of 80,000. Paul Michael grew up in New York and attended SUNY Farmingdale before starting a ten-year career at Columbia University. He also served as Secretary and Records Management Officer for the Millwood Fire District, appointed annually by an elected board of fire commissioners from 2008 – 2017.