In October of 2012, I began harboring a deep, dark secret for over 6 months that put me in a downward spiral for the majority of 2013. My ex-husband and his wife cut me out of my son's life and him out of my (and my family's) life after a disagreement over co-parenting styles and financial decisions.
I initially kept publicly quiet about this matter for several reasons:
- I thought I was protecting my son from any ridicule or criticism he may receive for siding with his dad.
- I was afraid that coming out would perpetuate the situation and dig deeper wounds that I might not be able to emotionally recover from.
- I was feeling a lot of guilt, shame, and regret that maybe I wasn't as good of a mother as I thought I have been.
- I was worried that I might get in trouble for publicizing such a private matter.
What helped me through that dark period was choosing to do something constructive with all that pain and self-doubt...I started writing.
Believe me, there were many days and months before this revelation when I wanted to retaliate against my ex. Instead, I chose to show love the best way I know how (and it's not through force, power, or control).
There were many moments I'd think to myself I deserved to "not be loved" because of what my ex said and did. Instead, I chose to keep forgiving (him and myself) in order for me to move on with my life and believe I was still lovable.
I wrote every single week (if not every day). I also chose to help causes that were much greater than what I was going through, which ultimately helped me to heal and grieve. The culmination of the internal and external work I did in 2013 organically evolved into what would become my first book, The Year of the Brave Bear: Speak Up. Stand Out. Change Your World.
I wrote about believing in yourself even when you feel helpless and hopeless.
I wrote about contributing to the world to make it a better place even when you feel you have little to give.
I wrote about staying true to yourself and not letting others dictate how you behave even when you feel full of self-doubt and diminished.
My philanthropic work led me to a charity called Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO). I had no idea, at the time, there was a name for "the thing" I was going through.
What I learned was parental alienation is a form of emotional and mental abuse inflicted by the person doing the alienating on those who are being alienated from each other.
Sadly, I also learned there were many people in my community--such as grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, and many children who are now adults--who were still recovering from the trauma of being alienated from their loved ones. Many of these people I would have never expected had experienced the wrath of parental alienation because this kind of abuse leaves no visible scars or bruises.
As much as I was personally hurting, I knew this dark secret was much bigger than mine alone to bear. I knew there were so many people out there wanting to speak up but afraid of being chastised for taking a stand. I wanted to do everything in my power to help others understand they were not alone so I started a blog to create a platform for brave writers who wanted to give voices to the silenced.
I knew I had to create a healthy outlet for my son, for me, and for the countless others who needed love and support until we could reunited with our loved ones again. I created a mantra, which I quoted in the book, that would remind me and readers every day to keep our chins up and hearts open despite the somber circumstances:
"What I can control and what I do believe: Unconditional love and unrelenting faith will prevail in the end."
This month, it did prevail.
A couple of weeks ago, my son showed his Brave Bear armor. I couldn't be more proud of him. After his 22nd birthday, he drove 6 hours to visit me and my entire side of the family (against his father's wishes) after being alienated from each other for nearly 4 years. To respect our privacy, I won't divulge too much about our reunion other than...he was enveloped in love and acceptance from me and my family, which is what he dreamed of receiving for his birthday wish.
No matter how tough things got...no matter how close I was to giving up...I promised myself to never compromise on sending unconditional love and unrelenting faith to my son all of those years we were alienated from each other.
As I wrote in my "coming out" post in 2013, I didn't know when...I didn't even know how...but what I knew, at my deepest core, was that love and faith wins every time.
Since April of 2013, I've dedicated every April 25th to help spread awareness and support for "Parental Alienation Awareness Day" to share the very important message. So, in observation and support of Parental Alienation Awareness this week, I'm giving away free copies of my book all week as my gesture of love to anyone who may be dealing with something similar in their lives.
There is no catch. There is nothing to sign up for. I believe the ramifications of turning a blind eye to parental alienation are just too damaging to ignore.
By sharing this post to spread the word, you'll help me remove any barriers that could keep this message from getting in the hands of the people who really need this kind of inspiration and support right now.
"As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course." ― Martin Luther King Jr.