Parental Alienation ~ Whose Loss Is It?

Dr. Jeanne King, PhD. 05/20/2024

By Dr. Jeanne King, PhD.

In the last 25 years I have come to recognize that the real loss for families of parental alienation* is for the child, whether minor or adult.

This article assumes an understanding of the term “parental alienation.” However, for those unfamiliar with the term, here is a working definition.

“Parental alienation” is a term used to describe a process by which one parent tries to cause the child to reject, fear, or avoid contact with the other parent. It’s a conditioning that often occurs during and after high conflict domestic violence divorce. When it is real (as opposed to a sham legal ploy), it typically involves an abusive parent eliminating a protective parent from a child’s life.

Common belief among those experiencing this nasty syndrome is that the loss is for the targeted parent. These parents suffer what is close to the death of a child.

For some, it is even worse because there is no burial and no closure. So, they feel this death day in and day out. It’s an ache to the core of your being. Words cannot express the pain these parents suffer.

Other people will claim that the real loss is to the child. They say it is “child abuse.” Clearly, it is a psychological abuse to a child to have a parent ripped out of their lives.

I’ve seen the hole it creates for several children. It’s a hole they cannot fill. Many resort to unhealthy activities to compensate for the loss of this natural parent. Others go on and end up evidencing physical ailments reflecting their unresolved trauma.

I think the way a child processes this trauma has a lot to do with the predisposition of the child and where they are developmentally when the estrangement occurs. Nonetheless, the trauma is significant.

Who Really Loses in Parental Alienation

From this, you can see that both parent and child actually lose a fundamental part of life when a child is denied access to a natural parent and a parent is denied access to their natural offspring.

I have noticed how these parents heal and outgrow the injury. And what remains is a tremendous capacity for loving and giving in other ways. Many of these parents set limits relative to their estranged adult children, when they encounter continued harm toward themselves through interactions—carrying the agenda and conditioning of the alienating parent.

Danial Says No More

Take Danial for example. His adult estranged children were conditioned to believe that he was a misogynist and a monster. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their mother completely brainwashed these minor children to believe that he was responsible for destroying the family and would be a serious detriment to their lives.

As adult children, they repeatedly attempted to implicate him in legal maneuvers that invariably could have positioned him in serious felonies. Danial drew the line in the sand, and decided no more. He realized that each contact with his adult children, no matter how much he loved them, posed a real threat to his safety and well-being.

Melody Loves Loving

Melody came to a similar conclusion as Danial because of the same issues. While her adult children were not implicating her in potential felonies, they were setting her up for repeated legal actions accusing her of transgressions she had not committed. Her defense of these actions depleted her resources emotionally, mentally and financially. And so, she let go.

As Melody moved on in her life, she developed mentoring relationships with adult children for whom she grew to love. In caring for them and giving to them, it was so clear to her that her natural children were now the ones who lost. There is truly nothing more potent than the love of a natural parent.

Sam Is Done

Sam’s daughter had not spoken to him for decades. He never met the grandchildren. Then one day, Sam’s adult daughter shows up at his doorstep with her child. Sam opens the door, sees who is there as she calls out. Without even stepping outside, Sam closes the door. He had already moved on.

In all of these cases, these adult children grew up with propaganda that was likely the opposite of who these parents were, and instead a projection of the alienating parent. These children lost truly knowing their parent and benefiting from what naturally could have enriched them.

Parental alienation is never easy for parent or child. Look around. You, too, may know someone in this situation. Or, you may have your own personal parental alienation story. Seek to hold reverence for the healing these people evidence and compassion for what they endure.

For more information on parental alienation and the life cycle of narcissistic domestic abuse, join us here

© Jeanne King, Ph.D. — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention

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