I have had an idea for a while now that I keep trying to push away, and it keeps coming back. So, I’ve decided to roll it out and see where it leads. Maybe somewhere, maybe nowhere.
I want to create a resource from the stories of grief and loss borne by so many targeted parents, your stories of love for your children, your stories about the failure of the mental health system, and your stories of the failed court system. Your stories of pain.
I know these stories far too well, because I’ve heard these stories far too often. While each story is unique, each story is also the same, over-and-over they replay in families, the loss of children to the pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
I want to send your stories to the APA, to child custody evaluators, to media representatives, and to state legislators, so they can hear what I hear; the grief and loss, and the enduring family tragedy of “parental alienation” that occurs surrounding divorce.
To do this, I want to compile your stories into a book that can be sent to the APA, and to custody evaluators, and to state legislators. I want to say,
“Look. Look at this, hear these stories. Look at the lost love, the grief, and the nightmare of the failed mental health system and the failed legal system response to the malignancy of the parental personality pathology surrounding divorce; a child’s love that becomes twisted by the pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent into unrecognizable anger, hostility, and rejection.”
Targeted parents are experiencing a form of complex trauma called “traumatic grief.”
A therapeutic approach to processing trauma is through journaling about the experience. Being able to form the trauma experience into the structure of an organized coherent narrative – forming and telling the story – helps to heal the trauma, it helps integrate the incomprehensibility of the trauma experience. Putting the chaotic emotions of trauma into words helps bring psychological organization to the experience, which then assists in the processing of the complex trauma experience.
But no sooner do I have these thoughts for compiling a book of stories, than sanity grabs ahold of me and says,
“What are you doing? Are you nuts? You already have way too much on your plate. You can’t take on editing a collection of stories from targeted parents regarding their grief and loss, and about the failures of the mental health system and legal system.”
“They’ll send you 10, 20, 30 pages of detailed stories. You’ll never have time to read them. The mere attempt to compile these stories would be overwhelming.”
But, in spite of this immensely sage wisdom from my sanity, I’ve come to the conclusion that your stories need to exist, your loss needs to be recognized, your love and heartbreak needs to be heard.
So, I’ve decided to start a book project of compiling stories from targeted parents. I have absolutely no doubt that each parent can write a full book, each of you on your own, regarding the wild roller coaster ride of tragedy created from your experiences, and many have. My goal, however, is different. It is to bring these stories together into a single powerful voice, each story unique, and yet all of them the same. I want to say with these stories, “Look. See these people. Listen to their heartbreak.”
And I also want to give each of you a chance to begin processing your complex trauma – the traumatic grieving created by the failed responses from the mental health system and legal system to the personality pathology of your ex-spouse that has emerged through your child following the divorce.
So, I have decided to request your stories – in a very structured format. I don’t have time to read pages and pages of each story. There are too many of you and it is too much.
Bringing organization and structure to your story is part of your brain’s way of making sense of it. If your experience simply spews forth, it remains disorganized and unprocessed. I am asking that you structure your stories in a very specific way, and then to send your story to me at an email address I’m going to provide.
The STRUCTURE is to tell your story in 11 paragraphs.
That’s all you get: 11 paragraphs total. Your entire story in 11 paragraphs.
And here’s how these paragraphs are to be formed:
Paragraphs 1 & 2: Love and Light
In these opening two paragraphs (of 4 sentences each; that’s all you get, four sentences for each paragraph), I want you to describe the love and bonding with your children before the pathology emerged.
I want you to tell me how wonderful your children are, how much you love them, and the deep love, joy, and bonding that you shared with your children before the tragedy. Help me to see your beautiful and wonderful children. Tell me how your son loves peanut butter and bananas and how your daughter was so proud when she scored her soccer goal. Let me love your children with you.
These are the paragraphs of light and love that will then devolve through paragraphs 3 through 9 into the dark night of the alienation and loss. There is a flow. Each story is unique, and each is the same.
Two paragraphs of 4 sentences each for love and light, that’s all you get.
This two-paragraph limitation is important, both for the processing of trauma and because that’s what the book needs, it’s not simply your story – it’s all of your stories together, each unique and yet each the same. By each story remaining focused and structured, the love becomes accessible to the reader, the nightmare becomes accessible to the reader, and the tragedy of profound loss and grief becomes accessible to the reader.
Paragraphs 3 – 4 – 5: The Pathology’s Emergence
In three paragraphs of 4 sentences each, tell me about the pathology, how it emerged, how your beautiful children changed, how the pathology of your ex-spouse twisted your children into their anger, hostility, judgement, fearfulness, and rejection.
Tell me what happened to your children. Tell me of their destruction.
Three paragraphs of 4 sentences each. All of the pathology in only three paragraphs of 4 sentences each.
Paragraphs 6 & 7: The Failed Mental Health System
Next, I want to learn about the failure of the mental health system, the failure by therapists and custody evaluators to identify the pathology and stop the pathology, and the collusion by mental health persons with enacting the pathology.
In two paragraphs of 4 sentences each, tell me about how the mental health system failed you, how no one listened, how no one saw, how no one made it stop.
Paragraphs 8 & 9: The Failed Legal System
In two paragraphs of 4 sentences each, tell me about the nightmare of the failed family courts, the financial bankruptcy created by the legal system, the endless delays, and the manipulation of the injustice system by your ex-spouse. Tell me about the false allegations and imposed separation from your children, tell me about the unwarranted supervised visitation orders, tell me about the injustice system of the family courts.
Two paragraphs of 4 sentences each. Hard, I know. But two paragraphs of 4 sentences each is all you get.
You can switch the order of Failed Mental Health and Failed Legal System if this order of presentation seems more appropriate to your family, but these two sections always follow the three paragraphs on the Emergence of Pathology. You can also write less, but just not more than the structure I provide.
Paragraphs 10 & 11: The Dark Night
In these final two paragraphs of 4 sentences each, share the dark night of your grief and loss. Your love, your tears, your helplessness, and your grief.
Working with Structure
I understand that the limitations will be hard. There is so much information, so much to understand in each of your stories. How can you possibly describe the emergence of pathology in your children in only three paragraphs? How can you possibly explain the injustice of false allegations and the nightmare of the legal system in only two paragraphs?
But that is the task. Eleven paragraphs of 4 sentences each.
Here’s my suggestion. Write six paragraphs on the Emergence of the Pathology. Don’t send them. Let them sit for a week. Then go back and edit the six paragraphs down to four paragraphs. Let it sit for a week, and then edit them down to three paragraphs. This will help you in processing the trauma experience. It will help bring psychological organization to the chaos of the trauma.
Each of your stories will be unique, and each story will be the same. Your specific individual story may not find its way into the final product. The universe will weave itself. Yet your story is in all stories.
Over-and-over this pathology takes its own course in each family, and yet the stories all have the same core, the same pathology, the same failure of the mental health system and legal system. The power is from bringing your stories together into a single voice that says, “Look. See this. We need to stop this.”
When you have your own unique story ready in 11 paragraphs of 4 sentences each, send your story to me at a special Gmail address just for this purpose:
I will read your stories. If I receive enough stories, I will edit and compile them into a book of stories – all unique – yet all variants of the same story – told over-and-over again with new characters in new families. Stories of your voice, your trauma, your helplessness, your grief and loss; abandoned by the mental health system, abandoned by the legal system. Your stories. In eleven paragraphs of 4 sentences each.
If this forms into a book of stories, then in my weaving of the presentation of your stories I will provide commentary on the pathology and the suffering it creates, bringing my professional voice to yours, amplifying and emphasizing your experience.
A book of stories may emerge, or it may not emerge. This is all to the source of that which leads. If a book of your stories emerges, what I then want to do is send this book to every Committee of the APA, to every licensing board, and to every state legislator’s office. I want to say,
“Look. Hear these parents. See the sorrow, the tragedy, the pathology; over-and-over again and no one makes it stop.”
Your voices, your stories, together – all unique, and all the same.
That’s my idea that just won’t go away, a book of stories, your stories. I have the email address to receive your stories (firstname.lastname@example.org). Eleven paragraphs of 4 sentences each:
Paragraphs 1-2: Light and Love
Paragraphs 3-5: The Pathology Emerges
Paragraphs 6-7: The Failure of Mental Health
Paragraphs 8-9: The Failure of the Courts
Paragraphs 10-11: The Dark Night
If nothing emerges, then the universe did not want to bring a book of stories into existence. Still, in writing your story, in struggling to fit your story into the structure I laid out, you will be journaling about your complex trauma, bringing “cognitive mediation” to an overwhelming emotional experience. This alone will be a good thing.
If you send me a STRUCTURED story of 11 paragraphs, I will read it. If you send me an unstructured story or a story longer than 11 paragraphs, I will not read it. I don’t have time. I wish I had time, but I don’t have time. There is too much work still to be done. With your stories, if you choose to tell me your story, you need to help me. Structured – 11 paragraphs.
Once you complete your 11 paragraphs and send your story to me, if you then want to write your book, that becomes a “you thing.” Turn each section into a chapter. Write your story to full measure. Just don’t send it to me. I don’t have time. I wish I had time. I don’t. There’s still too much work to be done.
Eleven paragraphs. That’s all I have time to read from each of you. There are so many of you, each story unique, and each story a variant of the same story told over-and-over again because no one is making this stop.
We will make it stop. We can’t stop what happened to you, but we can stop it from happening to other families, other parents, other children. Your stories can help make it stop.
But 11 paragraphs of 4 sentences each is all you get to tell your story.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857