Tag: P.A.S.

cps, parental alienation syndrome
P.A.S.: What Grief Does to the Body & What it did to mine (warning: graphic picture)
Parent Alienation Is An Unresolved Loss

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome or P.A.S. ?

Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a term introduced by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to describe a distinctive suite of behaviors in children that includes showing extreme but unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent.

Parental alienation is the intentional targeting of a parent by the other parent, but it also can be done by another non-parent adult in the child’s life. 

In its severe form it is referred to as”obsessed alienation”.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has been described as the brainwashing of the child’s mind much like a cult leader would brainwash the cult members.

It is an intentional act with the goal being the interference with the relationship and affections between a child and the targeted parent. The longer the alienation is allowed to continue the more damaging the long term effects will be.

If the alienation is allowed to continue uninterrupted for too long, the relationship can become so damaged it is irreparable.  Without strict intervention the parent/child bond will be unfixable. The bond will be forever severed.

In my case, the alienation began when my son turned 8 in 2004.

I became the targeted parent in an unnatural campaign of hate by my own mother.  She was bitterly angry at me for reasons that had nothing to do with my son, so she teamed up with my ex-husband (despite knowledge that he was under investigation for multiple sex crimes against children). The two of them ABDUCTED my son from church on mother’s day.

When court ordered by the judge to return my son to me, they voluntarily placed my son in foster care to keep him from coming home.  He was abused in foster care.

As a defense, my mother and ex made false allegations of horrific acts of child abuse against me. The claims of abuse were brutal. Those allegations of abuse against me were never substantiated. 

Had they been true, I would have been a monster to ever do anything to my child. I didn’t even believe in spanking my children. If anything, I was overprotective.  

In retrospect, my  (fatal) mistake was a belief that if i was truly innocent (which I was), then the system would not wrongly convict me. 

I believed that without concrete proof of abuse, they would not take away my parental rights. I was a good, loving, attentive parent.

In other words, I believed in the system.

I believed in the United States Constitution and the rights of families to raise our children free of government interference.

I believed the government protected those rights.

I believed in the law.

I believed that cases were judged by their merit and on the weight of the evidence presented.

I had been foolishly NAIVE.

I learned the hard way that merit had nothing to do with it. 

Until I saw for myself, first hand, I would have never known how crooked and corrupt the system can be. I had no idea how flawed the sudden really is.
By the time I figured all that out, it was too late.

Nevertheless the entire process of losing my son, and the campaign of alienation was so strong (see obsessed alienation) it extended into my entire family.

My family, two brothers who are attorneys, another brother and a sister and all of their spouses, ALL failed to intervene or attempt to stop the tactics my mother and ex employed. 

All of the members of my family knew the allegations against me were false and that my ex was under investigation for sex crimes.

It was over ten years before I saw or talked to my son again. I still have no contact whatever with any of my family. They are all in my son’s life though and I am not.

By the time I saw my son again- it was at my father’s wake. My father passed away in May of 2010- 5 years later – my son was not my little boy anymore but the shell of a damaged young man.


He has been on a self destructive path ever since.

What Is An Ambiguous Loss?

The grief associated with the loss of a child to P.A.S. is an experience so painful and deep. The loss is called ambiguous or unresolved.

This type of loss is often described as an “ambiguous loss,” which is a term used to describe the nature of trauma, grief or mourning people endure when they have experienced a loss that is open-ended. (Boss, 1990).

Targeted Parents encountering alienation from their children are experiencing an open-ended loss.  This type of loss is often times more difficult to come to terms with than the grief of morning a death. 

When someone we love passes, the absence of the person is final  and the mourner recognizes this finality.

In dealing with my grief, I have said many times that if my son had died, I could have layed him to rest, and grieved. I could have moved on, with a place to visit him, at his grave.

Of course I have heard the argument that as long as he is still alive, he is somewhere out there in the world. There is hope of a future in that. But is there?


At first, i believed that one day it would happen.

I visualized it.

We would embrace.

We would talk through the night, tell each other our stories and life experiences while we had been apart.

We would compare notes and both understand what happened to us.

We would hug and cry and get to know each other again. Then, one day, it happened.

I did reunite with my son. It was, to me, glorious, but not at all as I imagined.

He refused to talk about what happened, so I never have been able to tell him my side of things.

Instead he spoke of tall tales. Experiences that he has had that I can’t imagine could have been real.

He didn’t engage me, but talked over me and through me. He told me things almost to see if he could shock me.

He was a stranger.

It was only after that first reunification, that I saw how the years of brainwashing he endured (and STILL endures) have damaged him. Our bond that was once so close, was gone.

 In fact, the harm done was so incredibly deep that I am struggling to accept that my years of hope had been nothing more than an illusion.

Is this really what my mother wanted to do to us? Did my family really think we deserve this pain?

Finding my son again only led to me losing him again.

It has been almost 17 years since our loss and I am grieving today, as deep, if not deeper than the day he went to church and never came home.

I lost him. 

To learn more about ambiguous loss and ambiguous reunification, click here.


The physical effects of Grief

range of studies reveal the powerful effects grief can have on the body.

Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you may already have- and cause new problems. It also batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection.

The following two pictures are of me before I lost my son, and during the initial months after he had been taken. In the moment of the most stressful times. (Warning, that picture is graphic, but an honest representation of the whole body response to stress and grief).

Photo taken before my son was abducted

I was so affected by the loss of my son, my friends described me as “disconnected” when they talked to meI spent the first few months writing over 1500 letters to anyone I could think of desperately begging for help. I would not allow myself even a moment to rest. I felt like I didn’t deserve to rest while my son was locked away in foster care.

The stress from the grief quickly landed me in a hospital having emergency surgery. The doctors had to drain an antibiotic-resistant infection from my eye socket and nasal cavities. The doctors said if it had reached my brain, it would have killed me. They said I was hours away from deaths door by the time I got to the emergency room. 

It took almost a year before the scars on my face faded and I could bear to look in the mirror again.

Photo taken of me in the hospital while my son was in foster care

I never was the same again. You can see it in the after picture below, I was dead inside.

I became someone new.

I became a mother, murdered.
I became “she”.

A photo after I lost all hope of a reunification with my son

Broken heart syndrome

The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can alter the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome,” a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.


Stress: What is it, exactly?

Stress links the emotional and physical aspects of grief.

The systems in the body that process physical and emotional stress overlap, and emotional stress can activate the nervous system as easily as physical threats can.

When stress becomes chronic, increased adrenaline and blood pressure can contribute to chronic medical conditions.

Research shows that emotional pain activates the same regions of the brain as physical pain. This may be why painkilling drugs ranging from opioids to  Tylenol have been shown to ease emotional pain.


Depression is a mood disorder, not a normal part of grief

Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive  disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.

Depression is not a normal part of grief, but a complication of grief.

Depression also raises the risk of health complications and often, requires treatment to resolve. Therefore, it is important to know how to recognize its symptoms.

Sidney Zisook, MD, a grief researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, says people can distinguish normal grief from depression by looking for specific emotional patterns.

“In normal grief, the sad thoughts and feelings typically occur in waves or bursts followed by periods of respite, as opposed to the more persistent low mood and agony of major depressive disorder,” Zisook says.

He says people usually retain “self-esteem, a sense of humor, and the capacity to be consoled or distracted from the pain” in normal grief, while people who are depressed struggle with feelings of guilt and feeling worthless.

They also feel a limited ability “to experience or anticipate any pleasure or joy.”

Complicated grief differs from  both depression and normal grief. M. Katherine Shear, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and director of its Center for Complicated Grief, defines complicated grief as
a form of persistent, pervasive grief” that does not get better naturally.

It happens when “some of the natural thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that occur during acute grief gain a foothold and interfere with the ability to accept the reality of the loss.”


What are the Symptoms of Complicated Grief?

Symptoms of complicated grief include persistent efforts to ignore the grief and deny or “rewrite” what happened.

Complicated grief increases the risk of physical and mental health problems like depression, anxietysleep issues, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and physical illness.


Rumination

Margaret Stroebe, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, says that recent research has shed light on many of “the cognitive and emotional processes underlying complications in grieving, particularly rumination.”

Research shows that rumination, or a repetitive, negative, self-focused thought, is actually a way to avoid problems.

People who ruminate shift attention away from painful truths by focusing on negative material that is less threatening than the truths they want to avoid.

This pattern of thinking is strongly associated with depression.

Rumination and other forms of avoidance demand energy and block the natural abilities of the body and mind to integrate new realities and heal. 

Enduring the experience of parental alienation is also a profound psychological trauma experienced by the targeted parents. It is both acute and chronic, and externally inflicted. It is thus a type of domestic violence directed at the target parent. The fact that children witness such abuse of a parent also makes alienation a form of child abuse. The events that plunge a parent into the role of an alienated, targeted parent is especially damaging to those who are closely attached to their children and were actively involved in their lives.

Research by Stroebe, and others  show that avoidance behavior makes depression, complicated grief, and the physical health problems that go with them more likely. Efforts to avoid the reality of loss can cause fatigue, weaken your immune system, increase inflammation, and prolong other ailments.


A Vicious Cycle of Passing on Childhood Traumas

Parental alienation is also a form of complex trauma. It is no coincidence that the pathology of the parent who engages in alienation is often born in complex trauma from the childhood of that parent, and that the current processes of attachment-based parental alienation are transferring onto the targeted parent a form of complex trauma. From a psychodynamic perspective, the processes of parental alienation represent a reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the alienating parent into the current family relationships.

When my mother was, herself, a child, she endured the loss of both parents. As an infant, her father passed away from a plane crash which decapitated him at the young age of 30.

My grandfather was the pilot of the plane that went down, killing him and leaving three young children without a father. The time period was the early 1930’s. It was a difficult time with WWI ending and with third Reich and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Regime rising power in Germany.

The youngest of three children, my mother didn’t remember losing her father, but was only told about his death by her paternal grandmother. She had taken the three children following her son’s death, and kept them hidden away from their widowed mother who eventually died of cancer at age 39. In effect, my mother never knew either one of her parents, and developed psychiatric malformaties from the attachment traumas resulting from the loss of both parents in her own childhood.  

Understanding that, I can understand where her own twisted justifications came from for taking my child. My mother is an extremely damaged woman as the direct result of being orphaned as a child.  Still, knowing doesn’t make it less painful, heal it or make it any easier to come to terms with.

In fact, it’s the opposite. It is exactly her sad history of own traumatic childhood experiences that make it obvious to anyone looking in who knows her (such as my three older brothers and my older adopted sister) . They all know that what she’s done to me is wrong and she should have been forced to get help for her own issues rather than to be allowed to transfer them onto me via alienating my son from me. They know her family history. There is no excuse that any of them did nothing to stop her.

in my opinion, they are even more guilty of the P.A.S. abuse, as she is obviously sick and so sick, as a matter of fact, that she doesn’t even see it. A true indication it’s mental illness.  My siblings, though, can all see it. They all know all too well how broken and mentally disturbed she is.

My father took care of her until his death, even though they were divorced, because, as he’d say, “I take care of her because I can remember her before she was so crazy”.

If any of them had stopped her, I might still have a relationship with my son. If any one of them had stopped her my son might have been able to grow up without being abused and traumatized by her. 

I have heard from people who knew our family say that ‘if it weren’t for your mother, you might have actually had a good life.” and “She ruined your life, and you had such potential.” and “How sad it is what she did to you and your children”

I can’t count the times I’ve heard people say things like that.

People THAT KNEW HER.

Truth is, she murdered me with the full assistance of my brothers and sister.

Particularly me oldest brother, who actively funded and facilitated her murdering me. I may still be breathing but what she did, with my brother’s help, absolutely killed me.

If I could, I wouldd have them charged with the crime of murder.

It is vital for targeted parents to find ways of coping with the attachment-based complex trauma of parental alienation

They must strive to achieve the triumph of light over the darkness of trauma, and find their way out of the trauma experience being inflicted upon them. They must free themselves from the imposed trauma experience, restoring their psychological health within the immense emotional trauma of their grief and loss.

As much as targeted parents desperately want to save their children, they cannot rescue their children from the quicksand by jumping into the quicksand with them. If they do, they will both perish. 

Before I lost my son
After I lost my son

Who Am I now?

When i first lost my son, I was obsessively dedicated to fighting the system that allowed for him to be taken.

I spent thousands of dollars and worked tirelessly to file pleadings, write letters, join causes and support groups. You name it, I tried it.

In my obsession, I would say, “my son, [his name], repeatedly emphasising that he was MY SON, MY son. MY SON.

After some time, when the realizations began that said he wouldn’t be coming home .. he became my son (less his name), to my boy, the boy, the child.

I began to de-sensitive myself from being a mother of a child would never be coming home.

When [you lose] someone close to you – or someone close to you dies, your social role changes, too. This can affect your sense of meaning and sense of self.

Caregivers face especially complicated role adjustments. The physical and emotional demands of caregiving can leave them feeling depleted even before a loved one dies, and losing the person they took care of can leave them with a lost sense of purpose.

“Research shows that during intense caregiving periods, caregivers not only experience high levels of stress, they also cannot find the time and energy to look after their own health,” says Kathrin Boerner, PhD, a bereavement researcher and professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.

This can result in the emergence of new or the reemergence of existing ‘dormant’ health problems after the death of the care recipient. These health issues may or may not be directly related to the caregiver’s grief experience, but they are likely related to the life situation that was created through the demands of caregiving,” Boerner says.

It can be hard to make life work again after a close family member dies. Losing a partner can mean having to move out of a shared home or having to reach out to other loved ones for help, which can further increase emotional stress and worry.

Strobe says the stress of adjusting to changes in life and health during and after a loss can “increase vulnerability and reduce adaptive reserves for coping with bereavement.”

Emotional and physical self-care are essential ways to ease complications of grief and boost recovery. 

Exercisingspending time in nature, getting enough sleep, and talking to loved ones can help with physical and mental health.

“Most often, normal grief does not require professional intervention,” says Zisook.

“Grief is a natural, instinctive response to loss, adaptation occurs naturally, and healing is the natural outcome,” especially with “time and the support of loved ones and friends.”

Grief researchers emphasize that social support, self-acceptance, and good self-care usually help people get through normal grief. Shear encourages people to “plan small rewarding activities and try to enjoy them as much as possible.”

But the researchers say people need professional help to heal from complicated grief and depression.

“The thing about grief and depression and sorrow and being suicidal is that you can’t reach out.

For many people going through a hard time, reaching out is impossible. If your friend is in grief, reach out to them. Do the legwork. They’re too exhausted!”

cps, parental alienation syndrome
Parental Alienation Taints Relationships and is Abuse

When Ties to a Parent Are Cut by the Other

Amy J. L. Baker, left, at the Englewood Public Library. She chronicled the stories of 40 adults who as children were turned against a parent.

Credit…Sylwia Kapuscinski for The New York Times
By Michael Winerip
Sept. 23, 2007

THIS is a nice moment in Joe Rabiega’s life. At 31, he has a good job as a research coordinator for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is happily married and feels blessed that his wife of five years, Tiffany, is pregnant with their first child.

His hope is to give that child a happier upbringing than the one he had. Mr. Rabiega’s parents divorced when he was 8, and though they were supposed to share custody, he said, his father, a truck driver with a drinking problem, did everything possible to turn him against his mother and eventually kept him from seeing her.

“He bullied my mother into giving up custody,” Mr. Rabiega said. When he was still allowed to visit his mother, he’d have to stay by the phone to take a call from his father at 4 every afternoon and 8 each evening. He said his father trained him to spy on his mother’s socializing and spending habits.

“His ability to manipulate her was so lopsided, it never got to the point where a court heard it,” he said in a phone interview. “His threats of violence made it clear she’d never get me.”

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For several years, he said, until his late teens, he didn’t see his mother and believed everything his father said about her.

“He took me to the police station and told them my mother abandoned me, even though it was completely not true,”

Mr. Rabiega said. “He had the entire neighborhood convinced that my mother no longer wanted me.

“He had me convinced without him, I had nobody,” Mr. Rabiega said. “When he’d been drinking, he’d get out his gun and threaten to kill himself if I left him.”

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It wasn’t until Mr. Rabiega was an adult that he began to see his mother in a different light, he said. “She was a seamstress in a garment factory who didn’t graduate from high school. She was weak, no one to guide her, no money, no education, no resources to fight for me.” At one point, he said, she attempted suicide.


Mr. Rabiega is one of 40 research subjects in a new book by Amy J. L. Baker, about parents who turn a child against the other parent, “Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome.” Dr. Baker, the research director of the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection at the New York Foundling, does not identify the subjects by their real names, but Mr. Rabiega (called Jonah in the book) agreed to let his name be used for this column. “If this can help people, it’s worth it,” he said. “I really compare what I went through to people who are kidnapped and brainwashed.”

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Most people would agree that one parent has the power to turn a child against the other parent; however, classifying the behavior as a mental health syndrome, as Dr. Baker does, has met with considerable criticism in the past.

“It’s been a very controversial area,” said Dr. Baker, 48, who lives in Teaneck, N.J., and has a doctorate in psychology from Teachers College at Columbia.

Dr. Baker’s book is written in an academic style and sticks closely to the stories of the 40 adult subjects, ages 19 to 67, who describe being wrongfully manipulated by a parent.

It is an attempt to take the sensationalism out of the subject. Accusations of such manipulation have been an issue during high-profile celebrity custody battles, like the ones involving Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

There is none of that in Dr. Baker’s book, which includes a seven-page bibliography of scholarly research. Instead, she tells the stories of ordinary people like Mr. Rabiega, struggling into their adult years with the damage they describe from having been manipulated into hating a parent.

While most research has focused on children, Dr. Baker looks at these children once they’ve become adults. A key question she set out to answer: Do any of these kids grow up and figure it out? “That I can answer yes,” she said. “I can’t say how prevalent it is, but I have found lots of people.”

Some of what she found undercut earlier research. When therapists first described the behavior in the 1980s, they talked about it as manipulation by mothers to punish fathers. This drew criticism from some women’s groups, who dismissed the syndrome as something concocted by lawyers for abusive fathers trying to improve their custody chances.

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Dr. Baker said her research — both for the book and with several hundred subjects over the last five years — indicates a mother or father is equally likely to do the manipulating. It is “truly 50-50,” she said.

Other patterns emerged from her 40 subjects: 75 percent were the products of divorce, and 58 percent were divorced themselves;

70 percent suffered depression; 35 percent developed problems with drugs or alcohol.

And perhaps the saddest: Half of the 28 who had children said they were estranged from their own children.

Dr. Baker believes the behavior is prevalent enough to qualify as a syndrome in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of the American Psychiatric Association. While that’s not going to happen soon — the manual won’t be revised again until 2012 — she hopes her research might cause social workers and therapists who investigate custody cases to be more aware.

“If you believe it’s possible for a child to be brainwashed by one parent, the job of a custody evaluator is a lot harder,” she said.

The challenges in such cases can be daunting. How do you know if the scorned parent is being unfairly victimized or if that parent is abusive and deserves to be scorned? “It’s a lot of investigating, and there’s no one definitive tool,” Dr. Baker said.


Some of that investigative muscle is missing from her own research. Dr. Baker did not interview parents for their version of events, nor did she cite independent sources like court records that could corroborate the stories.

“I did what I could,” she said. “This is just one study. It’s a very new field and there’s little research. The point is to give voice to these people who have not been heard.”

It is also hard to get people to talk publicly about family dysfunction. Mr. Rabiega was willing to speak partly because both his parents are dead.

He said that when he was in his 20s, he again developed a relationship with his mother, but that his father’s “brainwashing” had been so strong, he couldn’t entirely overcome it.

“It was hard for me to fully love my mom,” he said. “If she needed me to do something or needed money, I didn’t want to and I’d get angry. My father implanted a disgust and disdain in me for my mother that wouldn’t go away and tainted our relationship.”

Ten years of therapy helped, he said, as did his wife and finding religion. “It helped when I reconnected with my mom, she held nothing against me,” he said. “She reiterated it was my father’s fault, and I had no choice.”

“Unfortunately,” he said, “I realized a lot after my mother died.”