Originally published in Steppparent Magazine 2/18/2019 http://stepparentmagazine.com/grieving-for-my-parentally-alienated-husband/ Revised September 16, 2023
In a life-altering moment, the phone rang on April 5th, 2004, as I drove down Highway 1, en route to a simple errand. Little did I know that this call would forever change the course of my life. As the voice on the other end broke into tears, my mother delivered the heart-wrenching news that the end was near for someone we both held dear.
The ensuing hours were a blur as I embarked on a journey from Santa Cruz to Springfield, Missouri, propelled by a sense of urgency and inevitability. In that hospital room, I found myself facing my worst fears. He lay there, unable to speak, drifting in and out of consciousness.
As I held him, I poured out my heart, expressing the deep gratitude for being his daughter and the profound love I felt for him. I told him I had no idea how I would go on without him, and in that moment, I gave him the permission he needed to let go.
One hour later, he passed away.
My immediate return to California was prompted by the need to be with my grieving mother. Together, we navigated the uncharted waters of loss, finding solace in each other’s presence. For 38 years, they had been a united front, and now, with his passing, we were left to redefine our lives.
I oscillated between my own personal grief and the agony of witnessing my mother’s pain. She was a wounded soul, and I often felt helpless in the face of her suffering. I questioned why this burden had fallen upon her, but there were no answers.
In those months that followed, I watched from the sidelines, holding my breath, praying for her healing. Life would never be the same without him. The weight of grief was palpable, and there were days when it threatened to overwhelm me.
But this, I realized, was the price of love.
My mother, a resilient and determined spirit, eventually found her way through the darkness. She refused to be defined by circumstances, choosing instead to see the glass as half full and turning lemons into lemonade.
Ironically, these were the same qualities I had fallen in love with in Jack. Yet here I was again, caught between the pain of loss and the struggles of watching someone I loved grapple with the heartache of parental alienation. Once more, I found myself asking why this had to happen.
But just as I had been there for my mother, I remained in the wings, holding my breath, and waiting anxiously. Because, in the end, that is the price of love.