Originally published Stepparent Magazine October 3, 2019

They didn’t die, but there are days I think it might’ve been easier. 

At least we’d have closure, a definite ending, something

Instead, we’re grieving children that made a million memories here in this home, under that tree in our front yard who now live down the street and have new names.   

We’re grieving birthdays that have passed, graduations missed, future weddings we’ll never be invited to and grandchildren we’ll never meet. 

We’re grieving the identity we once had as a parent, stepparent, friend, coach and mentor.

We’re grieving the loss of a community that once embraced us but now shuns us and assumes the worst. 

We’re grieving the loss of close relationships we thought we had but have since found out better. 

We’re grieving a loss that nobody talks about or understands yet everyone assigns a stigma.

To the core of our souls, we’re grieving the unfathomable treatment we received by our court systems that assigned us titles like abuser and unfit parent.

We’re grieving the loss of ourselves, the person we once recognized staring back at us in the mirror before the war turned us into a stranger.

We’re grieving the loss of our children’s childhood that we can’t fix or ever replace.  Time that we’ll never get back.  Memories we’ll never have. 

We’re grieving the realization that justice may never be served, and the truth may never be found. 

We’re grieving the loss of the memories that have already been rewritten and those that have yet to be erased.

We’re grieving the loss of a child that still exists but has been reprogrammed.

We’re grieving the reality that we might see our very own children at the grocery store and be unacknowledged.

We’re grieving the reality that our very own children most likely believe we’re bad people who have committed unspeakable acts.

We’re grieving the reality that our children may never return.  Or if they do, the children we once knew and loved no longer exists.

We’re grieving the reality that there isn’t a single thing we can do about any of it.

It’s called disenfranchised grief.

Ambiguous loss.

It’s the fallout from a destructive form of psychological abuse that tears away at the core of the relationships with our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews that now make us completely invisible to them. 

To the world it’s called parental alienation. 

But to those of us who live it, it’s called hell on earth. 

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