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.