Alienation is the ultimate test of your abilities as both a woman and a mother, but you still have a job to do with those kids of yours, and it's the same job you always had: you need to set an example for them. You are responsible for showing them what dignity is, and how a woman shows her strength in the face of the worst kind of adversity. That strength is made known in how well you care for yourself, how deeply you still love them, and how you conduct your own life.
Some alienated mothers adopt a stance of feigned indifference, but you can't teach your children what love really is by ceasing to care. Some mothers become aggressive to the point of stalking, abusive behaviors. Acting like your ex...? Well, you get the dark irony there. And still others turn to self-destructive habits and behaviors in an effort to escape the pain. But as a mother, you know that you will always have the responsibility of parenting your children. You do that, even in a Maternal Alienation situation, by holding firm - for their best interests and for yours. Here's how:
Before anything else, stop reacting to provocation. Do not respond to anything negative or hurtful until your feelings have matured into thoughts, or you'll play right into the alienation games. Have stock responses on standby, phrases such as, “I’ll certainly give that some thought,” or “I see what you mean.”
Second, develop an aversion - like a threat of anaphylaxis - to the Three Com's:
Competition (in other words, live and let live, and especially when it comes to the ex);
Complaining (build a life that you don't ever feel the need to whine about); and
Compromise (hang on to your principles like a series of lifelines - because that's what they are).
Then, rejoin the living. Don’t withdraw inside the pain of being alienated - because you have a life that matters to you, to the world, and to your children. The key is in keeping your mind and your heart open to what your life can be, by managing your emotions with an eye towards channeling them into good works. What’s happened to you is wrong. It’s unjust, and it’s rooted in evil; however, every time you refuse to relinquish your dignity, you heal a little more of yourself while you chip away at the alienator’s games. Every time you reach out and do something that benefits others - in spite of having to live with the consequences of someone else’s decision to hurt you - you strike another blow at the power of evil, and you reclaim another part of yourself.
And by the way, that’s a great example for your children to follow, isn’t it?
Begin a journal for your children. Not about your pain and angst and fears, but about life. About the things you want them to know, mother-to-child. No matter the outcome of your situation, they'll need it one day. And when you are with them, be gentle but firm. Your children, too, are confused, hurt, and more needy than they’ll ever acknowledge - and your inclination may be to parent them out of guilt or pity. Or both. Neither response is in their best interests, or yours.
Hold to your standards, but don’t be militant with limits and boundaries. Expect melodramatic language from them, as well as baiting (which often takes the form of false accusations), and respond with concern and understanding - not shock, and definitely not defensiveness. If they have a legitimate complaint against you, you need to be open to hearing it. Take it seriously, offer an apology, and let them know that you’ll be thinking about it. Ask for their input on how to make them feel better. With each encounter, you want them to be reassured of three things as they walk away: you love them unconditionally, you will always be there if they need you, and you all will be okay.
What they most need to understand, though - which they will do by watching you - is that while you would happily die for them, you can no longer live for them.
As your lives unfold, the value of that lesson will serve all of you well.
Finally, and only if you really need to - and eventually, you shouldn’t - find a safe person to whom you can vent. The keyword there is "safe." If the ventee has anything at all (read that as anything at all) to do with the ex and/or your kids, even tangentially, then talking to that person about your issues is a great big “no.”
I’m not saying that any of this will bring your children back to you. No one knows if that will ever happen. It may not. Sometimes, you’ll still have those quiet moments at the end of the day, the times when you hear the echoes of your children’s voices. You’ll pull an old photo of them from a box, and you’ll hear the laughter of their childhoods - and the sadness of your life without them will wash over you, sucking the air out of your lungs.
It will hurt. A lot.
When it starts to hurt, look up and thank God that He gave them to you to raise and nurture, because He knew that you were the only one who could. Then ask Him to take it over for you, because you know there’s so much more to do, and you need to get busy.
Then pat yourself on the back, Mom. You're doing your best for them. You always have, and you always will.
Because you will forever be their mother, and that’s what mothers do.
'Til next time,
A staunch advocate for abuse prevention and recovery, Jenna Brooks is a critically acclaimed novelist, a seminar author and instructor, a columnist, and a professionally trained and certified coach specializing in divorce, post-divorce, and Domestic Violence. She has a particular interest in the issues confronting Christian women, and is certified by The American Association of Christian Counselors. Find out more at Jenna Brooks Online.