A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Restoring Relationships With Estranged Children

This article is really asking for our readers to write it.

Abusers alienate people from their victim, including her own children.  Many of you know exactly what we are speaking of and others are even at this moment suffering from this very painful effect of abuse.  Others have enjoyed restoration, but it may have taken even years for that restoration to come about.

So, here is a question and I hope that many of you will respond to it.  I will try to keep up and paste your responses directly into the article so they are more visible:

“What is an abuse survivor to do in regard to pursuing reconciliation with her estranged children?  What cautions might she need to heed in doing so, particularly remembering that abusers so often use the children as a weapon to manipulate and punish the victim?”

Let us know your thoughts and experiences on this please.

From Barbara Roberts –

I found it helped to be honest where possible but without being too emotional. So if my daughter asked “Why did you leave daddy?” in a complaining / blaming way (having heard him rant about how wicked I was to leave him) I would answer in a firm but matter of fact tone “I left your dad because I didn’t feel safe being with him any more. I felt that I was in danger from being with him.” This was telling the truth, without saying *He* did this and *He* did that. So I tried not to run him down or denigrate him, but by using “I” statements I clearly put the facts on the table. I might have said “I felt hurt and disrespected by him. I felt afraid of him. I found it was not possible to talk things over with him and come to any reasonable conclusions or decisions that would work. I found I couldn’t trust what he said.” And I tried to keep the emotion out of my voice when making these explanations. But in case you think I’m some saint, rest assured I wasn’t perfect. I’m sure I was emotional and over the top sometimes, when I was overflowing with pain and anger at his post-sep abuse. In some ways I was lucky, because my daughter would usually tell me when something was really bothering her, rather than keep it all bottled up. Once, her father told her all about my ‘dark past’ (things I’d done before she was even born). She came back from visitation with a mass of accusatory questions. “Dad said you did this! Dad said you did that!” It was information I would have imparted to her eventually, but not when she was 9 years old! But there it was, all on the table, so I just admitted the truth of it, and then talked over with her how she felt about knowing all that. I think this degree of honesty is vital. But probably many women who are estranged from their children are not even in the position where a transparent and honest discussion can take place between mother and children, because the children have been so brainwashed by the abuser that they won’t even talk to their mother or be in the same room as her. I feel for such survivors, and I wish I had more useful things to say to them. But I can only send them my hugs.

From Anon –

Mine is a work-in-progress but just this week my counselor marveled at how much my relationship with the children had improved. Not long ago, there were problems of suicide, abusive behavior, calling the police on them, conflict, brokenness, anxiety disorders and mostly, grief over lost relationships. I cried more over “losing” my kids than losing the marriage. Slowly but surely, through God’s divine grace, the relationships are being restored. We talk, we love each other’s company, we can be honest without hurting one another, we can be ourselves and respect each other; we have found our true selves, our boundaries and our hopes for the future.

I think the turning point was when I worked on myself. When I didn’t need them to be a certain way for my life to be fulfilled or accepted. When I could peacefully reconcile the fact that I let them down with the truth that I could do no other, given the circumstances. When I could see them for who they were and not get triggered by anything that resembled abuse. When I could find the similarities in our journeys as victims of the same oppressor. When I could be there for them, not out of guilt for the past, but because they are worth it. When I could let them go, determined that I will no longer carry responsibility for others’ behavior that is not mine to carry.

This is From Ida Mae –

I can only speak about older children here (teen and up). The key to having any kind of relationship with my children *at all* was honesty. During all those years, I did not walk in truth. I ignored my husband’s sin and the effect it had on my kids and walked in agreement with him (at least outwardly) even when I knew deep down that he was wrong, wrong, wrong. When all the crap hit the wall, my kids came to me and I got a lot of ‘you said this’ and dad did such-and-so and you were standing right there and you said blah-blah-blah.’ The truth is, I don’t remember what I said but I do remember covering for man and supporting him when his actions were un-supportable. So now I tell the truth. When my kids say, you seemed so checked out my whole childhood, I tell them, you’re right, I was. And then I explain the reason. I seemed checked out because my emotions shut down so I could deal with the same verbal and emotional abuse and the exact same bullying they received and I am so, so sorry I wasn’t there for them the way they needed me to be. Or another biggie– Dad always said you neglected us to do your own thing. I point out the truth– I was there with them physically, 24/7. They got three home cooked meals a day, the house was spotless, the laundry baskets empty, the clean clothes folded immediately and put away into drawers and closets. I had few friends and fewer hobbies. So when exactly was I neglecting them? That’s when they realize his complaints came when I was off buying groceries or taking them clothes shopping. I had to stop *reacting* to my kids and their truth. I had to stop and think– really think. If they said I kept them isolated, did I? Yes… indeed I did. Because having anyone over caused a huge explosion that lasted weeks. I have to own my own crap and that is a fact.

Here is a response from Anon-

I don’t know a lot of other abuse victims. This is a new place for me, but one of the things I discussed with God from the beginning of my separation and purposed to do was not get involved in another relationship. Did I have plans to? No, of course not, but I also know that satan is subtle and we are all just one decision away from doing something we never thought we would do. I have been separated 7 months and I purposefully don’t tell people I’m getting a divorce, particularly men, and I always wear a ring on my left hand. People see a ring and they assume, and I let them. A side bar: I find it interesting that I’m the one who has prayerfully taken these precautions – I, the one who is disobeying God by divorcing my spouse, I, the one who has “snapped”, I, the one who has fallen off the deep end, but recently find out that my abuser is seeing someone. And that as recent as two months into our separation he was texting various women, at various times of the day/night, at the tune of 1000+ texts a month. Actions speak for themselves. Maybe, I should post this under the “Restoring Relationship with Estranged Children” – to victims: keep in the Word and on your knee and keep all actions and conversations spotless. Let your abuser sink his own ship. Because he will. It may take time, but he will.

12 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Mine is a work-in-progress but just this week my counselor marveled at how much my relationship with the children had improved. Not long ago, there were problems of suicide, abusive behavior, calling the police on them, conflict, brokenness, anxiety disorders and mostly, grief over lost relationships. I cried more over “losing” my kids than losing the marriage. Slowly but surely, through God’s divine grace, the relationships are being restored. We talk, we love each other’s company, we can be honest without hurting one another, we can be ourselves and respect each other; we have found our true selves, our boundaries and our hopes for the future.

    I think the turning point was when I worked on myself. When I didn’t need them to be a certain way for my life to be fulfilled or accepted. When I could peacefully reconcile the fact that I let them down with the truth that I could do no other, given the circumstances. When I could see them for who they were and not get triggered by anything that resembled abuse. When I could find the similarities in our journeys as victims of the same oppressor. When I could be there for them, not out of guilt for the past, but because they are worth it. When I could let them go, determined that I will no longer carry responsibility for others’ behavior that is not mine to carry.

  2. I found it helped to be honest where possible but without being too emotional. So if my daughter asked “Why did you leave daddy?” in a complaining / blaming way (having heard him rant about how wicked I was to leave him) I would answer in a firm but matter of fact tone “I left your dad because I didn’t feel safe being with him any more. I felt that I was in danger from being with him.” This was telling the truth, without saying *He* did this and *He* did that. So I tried not to run him down or denigrate him, but by using “I” statements I clearly put the facts on the table. I might have said “I felt hurt and disrespected by him. I felt afraid of him. I found it was not possible to talk things over with him and come to any reasonable conclusions or decisions that would work. I found I couldn’t trust what he said.”
    And I tried to keep the emotion out of my voice when making these explanations.

    But in case you think I’m some saint, rest assured I wasn’t perfect. I’m sure I was emotional and over the top sometimes, when I was overflowing with pain and anger at his post-sep abuse.

    In some ways I was lucky, because my daughter would usually tell me when something was really bothering her, rather than keep it all bottled up. Once, her father told her all about my ‘dark past’ (things I’d done before she was even born). She came back from visitation with a mass of accusatory questions. “Dad said you did this! Dad said you did that!” It was information I would have imparted to her eventually, but not when she was 9 years old! But there it was, all on the table, so I just admitted the truth of it, and then talked over with her how she felt about knowing all that. I think this degree of honesty is vital.
    But probably many women who are estranged from their children are not even in the position where a transparent and honest discussion can take place between mother and children, because the children have been so brainwashed by the abuser that they won’t even talk to their mother or be in the same room as her. I feel for such survivors, and I wish I had more useful things to say to them. But I can only send them my hugs.

  3. joepote01

    Anon – While going thru divorce, this was my daily prayer, “Lord, please help me to finish strong. Please guard my heart during this time of vulnerability.” There were several months where I simply avoided ever being alone with a woman, and would not touch alcohol, simply because I was so aware of my own vulnerability.

    God is faithful!

  4. joepote01

    Jeff, my best advice is simply not to be too defensive. Don’t feel compelled to defend yourself against every accusation, but also don’t be afraid to tell the truth, in love.

    Also, sometimes the best defense is to simply ask sincere questions, “Help me to understand. Can you be more specific as to exactly what it was I did that ruined your life?” Sometimes answering leading questions helps kids realize just how ridiculous the emotionally charged accusations are, without the parent having to directly address them.

    I made a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, God heals realtionships, and in time, the kids learn to discern the truth. Sometimes not until they are adults…but that’s okay, too.

  5. Liz

    This is exactly what happened to me a several years ago, and was truly the last straw. It came during a time that was already filled with such confusion and helplessness. My spouse had lost his job because of his own doing. The marriage had already suffered 25 years of emotional and verbal abuse, and now he wasn’t working and didn’t want to work. I was struggling to continue homeschooling and could not focus knowing we needed money, and also he was very argumentative which caused severe distractions. This went on for nearly 2 years and needless to say the homeschooling became futile because she could not focus either and she lost all respect for me. She was only about 10 years old.

    Meanwhile I picked up some parttime work at the ice rink where she was skating. The first part of it was great because she could skate for free all she wanted, but then she lost all interest in that and she was very talented in it. It was due to the stress. He would take her places with him for hours because he needed a someone who could hear his woes. It was the most helpless and lonely feeling when he even took her for hours over to a relative’s house on Christmas day. So during this period I did everything I could to stretch a dollar even more than I already knew how, and worked my job and anything else I could do. I was proud of my accomplishments in how I managed without us going into debt, but all I got was grief from him, which was to be expected.

    The thing that I didn’t expect was her developing rage toward me. How could this be I thought. I’m trying to homeschool, work, manage money and I got up every morning, unlike him. If anything, I would have thought that she would see strength in me, so this intense anger she was displaying was unexplainable and hit me like a curve ball. It was the most immensely hurtful time, so he finally took a job that someone he knew gave him and all was lost with my daughter then, so she went to school, and I took some classes too.

    I’ve worked on improving myself and kept a careful relationship with her, trying to consistently show her I cared in ways that she could accept, but mostly allowing her to approach me. She is 16 and things are much better now though not the way they once were, but that’s ok because I almost thought I lost her.

    I am so glad I found ways I could cope, and part of it was detaching just so I could keep my chin up and not be dragged down by what she thought of me. Yeah, he had started slowing down on his abuse and let her pick up the slack for a few years.

    The thing is now she counts on me more for stability, at least I think so. He is still important to her, but she really doesn’t like hanging around with him for any length of time because he is so moody. Her respect having picked up considerably, I do not think it will be an issue for her when we make the final split…after all we have been apart in the same house for years. I have trained and have worked seasonally preparing taxes, but pursuing year round work in addition, so soon I should be more established income wise. In every other way I’ve been so ready for this to be over with.

    • Dear Liz, thank you for sharing. Your story conveys so much. It’s incredibly painful to find that curved ball coming at you. Bless you for being on this blog.

      • Liz

        Thank you Barbara, you have been an encouragement to me.

  6. Hesed

    This is an older post, yet very real in what I am presently facing. I realized the death of my marriage at a time when most of my kids were out of the house or close to going. Since I had homeschooled and had close relationships with my children, I didn’t expect them to alienate me or to not realize why I was leaving and eventually divorcing. So I was naive.

    Now they continue to resist me and think I am the crazy one, which fits the pattern.
    My defense is twofold.

    1. I know Who holds the future, and will judge this accurately someday. I also know He is Trustworthy. This one experience has taught this over and over.

    2. I need to work on me, to be the best me I can be. Then whatever the future brings, I will be in a healthy place to receive and give what God has for me to do.
    To walk this out, I [think of my] life in 7 categories: Social, Physical, Spiritual, Mental, Career, Family and Financial. As I rate how I am doing in each category, it helps give me purpose and goals to work on. But before that, it helps me dream and become alive again.
    Socially I was alone. Now I’m in a life group and church and teach a class. Also I have met someone and we are making plans together. (Amazing!)
    Physically – I have lost 40 pounds this year. (I have failed for years!)
    Spiritually – I walk in forgiveness and pray for my family and all the confusion, trusting God with this… allowing me peace beyond understanding
    Mental – am learning another language! Just because I want to!
    Family – I am reaching out to them. Isn’t a measure of how they treat me, just me toward them.
    Career and financial? I’m [doing things there too].

    These victories help me to grow as I feel I can and celebrate wins! God is so good, and I can’t help but believe that eventually the children will see. I also pray for them from Eph 1_:17-end.

    I hope this can help someone else experience some wins. Thank you for this opportunity.

    • Renewed Spirit

      Excellent!!

      Thanks to everyone for sharing and giving answers to questions I didn’t realize I had.

  7. Raped By Evil

    I’m always so grateful that these original posts are still here and that people still read and comment on them. Thank you!

    For me I’ve had to accept the fact that some relationships will never be. In my case it’s because some of my children don’t have a conscience and I am no longer willing to place myself in relationships with people like that.

    But I’d like to say something that I have learned. It is this: you may need to have to perpetually say good things about yourself to your children. Because being silent or long-suffering — or even simply being a person (like I used to be) who never thought anything good about myself so I certainly never SAID anything good about myself — lets your children think that the abuser is right after all. Your spouse has painted a negative picture of you; paint a truthful one of your own.

    One of the many lies I used to believe was that when children grew up and had children and families of their own they’d understand. That was certainly true in my case [in adulthood I came to understand that my parents were both abusers, which I had not realised as a child]. But that kind of realisation will not happen for humans like my children who will never gain wisdom — and in the past I didn’t know that some people were incapable of this. I now see that these kinds of people sometimes only know what they are told and they believe it as truth cuz they are incapable of discerning. And then other children are too burdened down or too young to understand that people like the abuser parent in their life may be completely without love for others and as a result, this abuser feels that it’s their right to bad-mouth their spouse and they don’t care / can’t understand that long-term harm is being done.

    My husband has no idea that the harm he’s caused by bad-mouthing me has actually kept these children from being around him because I was the one who thought of everyone and made sure we all were together.

    So [I encourage you to] speak up, toot your own horn, over and over!

  8. Finding Answers

    Perhaps out of context with the original post and the context generated, but very relevant to me.

    I am in the process of restoring my relationship to God as He truly is, rather than the image based on all the abusers in my life. While I am No Contact with my family of origin, I want Full Contact with God – no lies, no false accusations, no broken promises, no withholding.

    The process is slower than I would like…many years of false beliefs to overcome, many years of brainwashing, many years of trying too hard on my own.

    Restoring of the relationship is a painful process, especially when the Parent is Truth. I can face the truth about me, though swallowing the positive about me is the hardest. Facing the truth about God – unvarnished, untwisted – is complex, disconnecting Him from the abusers.

    I am wary. Years of misunderstanding doesn’t vanish overnight.

Leave a comment. It's ok to use a made up name (e.g Anon37). For safety tips read 'New Users Info' (top menu). Tick the box if you want to be notified of new comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: