When I worked as a pediatric psychologist on medical staff at Children’s Hospital, I would be called to consult in various divisions of the hospital, to provide psychology assistance with medically involved children and families.
That can be emotionally hard (called “vicarious trauma”), working with children and families receiving the diagnosis of cancer, for example. You have to be careful to keep your empathy under control, available and active enough, but guarded, otherwise the potential for your own trauma from being with theirs would make the work impossible. I learned about vicarious trauma, trauma to the therapist, working with kids and their families in Children’s Hospital.
I was called a “psych consult” – “We should get a psych consult on this.” And then they’d call me.
When you’re a pediatric psychologist in a Children’s Hospital, you learn to deliver the news of diagnosis – tough diagnosis – to children and families. You learn how to tell a family that their child has cancer or a major birth defect, or brain damage. Because I’m the one delivering the diagnosis. I suppose you thought the medical physician delivers the diagnosis.
The physician is in the room when the diagnosis is initially told to the family, and the physician is the person on the treatment team who formally tells the family what the diagnosis is, but why do you think they called for a “psych consult”? The physician is going to leave the room after telling the family what the diagnosis is, and as the fog of the initial statement – “your child has cancer” – or “your child has brain damage” – wears off, that’s why I’m there. To deliver the diagnosis. I’m the “psych consult.”
Usually the process of the lifting trauma-fog created by the initial words “cancer” or “brain damage” takes about two to five minutes. Mostly during that first trauma-fog stage, I’m helping with the emotional… impact. That’s the point of most danger for my personal vicarious trauma, during the initial impact. I have to keep a pretty tight lid on empathy during the trauma-fog stage of the first couple of minutes. But there’s not much to do at that stage except to acknowledge and respect that it’s a tough thing to absorb, that your child has brain damage, or cancer, or a birth defect.
Then, as the trauma-fog of the initial impact clears, they have questions, how much?, how long?, how bad?, and then they cry some more. That’s my role, everything after the physician tells them their child has cancer… we’d better get a “psych consult.”
Only a top-tier Children’s Hospital has their own Psychology Department. After all, they’re medical facilities. Most hospitals refer out the psychology part of medical to community agencies and clinics. Only top-tier Children’s Hospitals have their own Psychology Departments. I’ve worked at two, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where I received two years of training, and Children’s Hospital of Orange County were I was on medical staff as a pediatric psychologist in their Psychology Division.
Each of the pediatric psychologists at the hospital have our own particular “rotation.” We cover each other’s rotation if the other person is tied up or is not at the hospital at the moment (that’s being “on call” – “who’s on call?” – remember pagers?). But if something was happening with a patient who was in our clinical rotation, we’d handle it first unless we were busy, and then it would go to the on-call person. My rotation was the spina bifida clinic.
Spina bifida is that spinal cord birth defect that puts kids in wheelchairs, some of the kids can walk with the help of leg braces and those two cane things. Some of the kids, the more serious spina bifida kids, are totally paralyzed from the neck down and they’re bedridden from birth to death. The parents of these severe kids have to do everything for that child for the rest of the child’s life. How severe the disability is depends on the location on the spinal cord of the birth defect, the incomplete closure of the spinal cord in the womb.
When the parents came to the hospital, they thought they were having a baby. They were so happy. The parents first learn that something is wrong in the delivery room, just moments after the birth. All of a sudden, the medical people start doing things really fast, and it’s obvious to the parents that it’s something important because they’re doing things quickly and talking in a crisp language that the parents don’t understand… and they don’t give the baby to mom, but they’re doing something with the baby… that’s when parents first find out that their baby, their precious child, has a major birth defect and may never walk, and also that they are a child, your baby.
When the medical staff start acting with purpose in the delivery room, the parents ask, “What’ wrong, what’s wrong?” But no one tells them anything, they’re all too busy with the baby. Then more doctor people come into the room and go straight to the baby. The parents say, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong.” A nurse goes to the mother, she’s a wonderful nurse. She’s going to spend time just focused on the mother, offering support, for the next… period of time… going back to the baby from time to time… but mostly with the mother. This nurse is going to begin to help the mother… adjust to the news. She’ll start gently, “There’s something wrong with the baby, it’s going to be okay.” You always want to provide straight and honest information, followed by a statement of the implications. Hopefully the implications are, “it’s going to be okay.”
Is it going to be okay?” Yes. Well, no. Yes… sort of. The parents have a beautiful new baby, and that’s wonderful. And the child who’s life and destiny has just entered the world, well the child is a child, a person. So that’s wonderful too. But the child will never walk. The child will always be confined to a wheelchair their entire life, and the child’s parents are going to have to learn an awful lot of medical care-giving stuff to take care of their child. That’s not wonderful.
When the baby with spina bifida is born… they call for a psych consult. That’s my rotation, those are my kids and parents.
That’s where I first learned about traumatic grief, a grief so large, a sadness so deep and for so long, that it is traumatic. I learned about traumatic grief working with the parents on the spina bifida rotation at Children’s Hospital.
That’s your trauma too, you know, traumatic grief. I’d be hard pressed to say who’s trauma, who’s traumatic grief is worse, yours or those parents whose children are born with a major birth defect. That’s like saying, would you rather be boiled in oil or impaled on a stake. Hard to choose. But I think, of the two, if it was me, I’d rather go through the traumatic grief of the parents at Children’s Hospital than yours.
Yours must be so awful for you. I’m sorry. Things are going to be okay.
When I first discovered you were here, I was stunned. Somebody should have called for a psych consult. Your trauma is immense. It’s called traumatic grief. You knew you were being traumatized, but no one told you, and no one believed you when you told them (that’s makes it even more horrible). They did the worst thing they could possibly do… then acted like you weren’t being traumatized… when you are.
That’s not good. That was a very bad thing for them to do… and Dr. Childress is going to have a very stern talk with them once they leave the trauma-dream that has captured them… and I’m going to make sure they leave their trauma-dream.
They traumatized you by taking your children away. You know that. They don’t… yet. That’s a bad thing for them to do, traumatizing you with traumatic grief like that. Even if they needed to do it, which the absolutely didn’t need to do, if they needed to do it then they should have had a trauma support team in here to work with you and help you recover from your traumatic grief… that they are inflicting on you… by their abuse of you… that is occurring…. right now.
I will tell them that was a bad thing to do to you, once they’re out of the trauma-dream of abuse and victimization that has captured them.
Somebody should have called for a psych consult for you. I’m sorry, I’m here now.
You’ve been abused. Did you know that? In fact, the abuse is continuing right now, you’re being abused right now. I know you feel abused. Do you know why that is? It’s because you’re being abused. Right now. It’s pretty traumatic, isn’t it? We need to make the abuse stop as fast as we possibly can. That’s what I’m working as hard as I can to make happen – we need to stop abusing you, we need to get your children back to you, and we need to do this as fast as we possibly can.
Haven’t you heard me saying that? I’ve been saying that from the very beginning. Haven’t I been saying that from the beginning, that we need to make this stop as fast as we possibly can? Haven’t I been using words like “appalling” and “shocked”? Haven’t I been working a lot on your behalf, just free stuff up on me webpage – letters you can use, diagnostic packages you can seek. Why? Because I’m a clinical psychologist and I’ve just found active and ongoing abuse and trauma – active abuse.
With my kids in the foster care system, when I treated them, they came to us after they were rescued from the abuse… although the foster care system has it’s own level of challenges in store for these children, for my kids in foster care. Still, at least the period of active abuse was over, and now we just had the trauma that remains from the period of abuse.
You’re still in the active phase of abuse. I’ve discovered traumatized parents – you – being abused and traumatized – and it’s still active and ongoing. It’s still in the active phase of abuse. I’m a clinical psychologist with trauma knowledge – I have responsibilities to you.
Even if you’re not my “clients” – I am a clinical psychologist with trauma knowledge – I still have responsibilities to you… just like I’d have responsibilities to my little girl if I discovered she was being abused by a sexual predator, I’m not going to walk away from her because she’s not my “client.” I have professional and moral responsibilities to the child to make the abuse stop, even if the child is not my “client.” I’m a clinical psychologist with trauma knowledge, I can’t just walk away from you when you are in an active and ongoing abuse phase, creating massive amount of trauma… in you.. that needs to stop.
At the very least, the emotional and psychological abuse – of you – must stop.
Everybody has been focused on the child and the “custody” situation… because you’ve all been living in a trauma dream – a false reality.
You know that now, right?… But the world has been really crazy, right? It’s true. What you’ve been feeling, that you are being abused and traumatized and that the world has been really crazy. All of that, is true. You’ve been in the world of trauma and abuse. It’s crazy… and it’s horrible.
I’m from the trauma recovery team. Dorcy is too. You should never have gone though this. Nobody should have ever made you go through this. But before I could rescue, I had to awaken your abusers to their trauma-dream enactment of abuse and victimization… not to the child… to you. You’re the target of the abuse and victimization. You are the one being abused. You are being traumatized.
Do you think this is about child custody? No. It’s about abusing you. Pretty good job, right?
This is serious. Professionally, this is serious.
So, when I first found you – now, mind you, I’m used to just one trauma case at a time – when I found you, tens and tens of thousands of parents – you – being abused and traumatized – traumatic grief. I was… what’s the word I’ve been using – that I’ve been saying over-and-over again, all the time, from the very first… stunned.
I am stunned. I am astounded. I am so sorry this happened to you. We will make it stop as fast as we can, and we will do everything in our power to make sure this never happens to anyone else ever again.
Seriously, it’s the feeling from the Band of Brothers when the soldiers discover the death camp in the woods, the starved and emaciated survivors of trauma. Don’t read any more… watch:
I asked you to watch that, not to compare the degree of trauma, not even.
I asked you to watch that because we must never forget. We must never forget what the absence of empathy and cruelty does.
I am not comparing traumas. I am Major Winters. I’m comparing my response to your trauma, to his response in discovering the trauma of cruely.
Notice the first solider when they arrive, the one that’s on his knees, Bull, overcome with the emotions… that’s vicarious trauma. And the soldier at the end too, the one sitting there… that’s vicarious trauma. It’s tough.
There’s that stunned disbelief. What is this? The trauma-fog period. That was exactly my feeling when I discovered your families. Notice too, as the stunned disbelief starts to wear off, how that one lieutenant starts to swing into action (that’s the pediatric trauma nurse – she’s no nonsense trauma – that lieutenant swings immediately into trauma recovery mode – barking orders – getting triage set up – that’s Dorcy).
That’s the type of thing the psych trauma team does at something like the Boston Marathon bombings or the Parkland school shooting. There’s a psych trauma response. The news media doesn’t cover it, but you better believe psych trauma is in when those things happen.
But you… you’ve been abandoned. The abuse is ongoing. That’s not good.
So I’m like Major Winters… seriously that is exactly my feeling… I’m also like that lieutenant, swinging into trauma recovery mode… but… but, wait… your abuser is forensic psychology. The source of your abuse, the motivation for your abuse, is the malevolence of your ex-spouse… but the instrument, the instrument of your abuse is forensic psychology.
My people – psychology. I’m so sorry. This never should have happened. Once we stop your ongoing abuse by psychology, I’m certain there will be… review… within upper levels of professional psychology about what happened here… and how we allowed ourselves to be the instruments of your abuse for so long, and why no one responded to your traumatic grief – your grief that is so large, your pain that is so deep and for so long… that it’s traumatic.
At the very least, if psychology is going to emotionally and psychologically abuse you – (don’t you feel emotionally and psychologically abused?) – then the least they could do is send in trauma recovery teams to help you with your traumatic grief.
Traumatic grief is a grief so large, a sadness so deep and for so long, that it is a trauma. I know. That was my rotation at Children’s Hospital, spina bifida and the traumatic grief of parents. Just like with my parents at Children’s Hospital, only different… almost more terrible. Their traumatic grief was delivered by God… your’s comes at our hands.
I’m Dr. Childress. I’m on your trauma recovery team. Everyone else, forensic psychology… we’ll… we can’t count on them for help… they’re your abusers, and they’re still in the trauma-dream of your abuse. I’m going to wake them up (I’m starting to do that with this post). But I needed to wake you up from the trauma dream first. And I didn’t want to wake you to your abuse and trauma until we had stuff in place to help, because if we do that we simply expose you to even more terrible levels of abuse as the pathogen tries to hide the abuse, and protect its feeding on the child.
Look how hard it’s been for me to wake you from the trauma-dream, and you’re the victims of the abusive psychological violence. Imagine how hard it is to awaken your abusers? It’s impossible. We need to get you help from the outside. I’m Major Winters. We just found lots and lots of trauma.
I’m not comparing your abuse to the holocaust, heavens no, no, no. I’m saying massive trauma… of a lot of people… and nobody knew… because it was hidden in the forests… I’m Major Winters… I’m sane… and I discover… oh, my god.
I’m not saying you are the holocaust (although the pathogen, the abuse pathogen of violence-and-shame is… of the same strain), I’m saying that I feel like Major Winters, massive trauma, on a large scale, and no one sees… it’s hidden in the forests, away from view… in “forensic psychology – child custody.”
It is also important to always remember where the absence of empathy and the capacity for cruelty can lead. It is good to be reminded. We must never forget.
Look how hard it has been for me to wake you from the trauma-dream, I’ve had to convince you that you don’t have to prove “parental alienation” in court. That’s part of the abuse, that you had to prove an impossibly weak diagnosis by the standards of legal evidence in a full court trial at excessively high financial cost… and if you want psychological input – that specifically and intentionally does NOT diagnose pathology, that too is made exceedingly expensive and excessively long. And there is no other option available to you.
That’s part of the abuse, to make it as hard as possible for you to have a relationship with your child. All of forensic psychology is participating. All of them. Is an alternative being offered to you?
You don’t have to prove anything. You simply need a diagnosis for your child and family. When you get a trauma-informed DSM-5 diagnosis for your children and families, the DSM-5 diagnosis is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.
A diagnosis is made by a mental health professional, not by the court. You don’t have to prove anything in court.
Well then… why isn’t a mental health professional making a diagnosis?… see.
And when I found you, you were all passive, just like those… other victims of abuse. That’s what abuse and trauma does, the trauma pathogen makes the victim passive so they stop struggling and go more… passive, it’s kind of like a psychological venom – like spiders use to paralyze their victim, so the victim’s not dead… it just stops… struggling.
My little sexually abused girl, her predator creates a psychological domination that overwhelms, cuts her off from rescue and support, she’s alone, and he preys and feeds, he abuses her, and no one protects. She surrenders, psychologically she surrenders to her abuser, surrenders to the feeding, surrenders to her… situation.
You had that same… surrender… the trauma kind of venom in your bloodstream. I recognize the pathogen of trauma and what it does to its victims, to my little girl. She can’t speak… because there is no one there to listen.
Do you want to see the venom? Don’t you feel dominated? Do you feel powerless, like there is nothing you can do… sort of… helpless. Do you feel that? That’s the venom.
But you struggled, didn’t you. You fought. You’re fighting so hard. I know. And look what’s happening to all of your strength and fight… it’s being channeled into the legal system, the most expensive and impossible place to fight this… in court.
You just need a diagnosis of the pathology in your families. Why are you fighting this in court? Do you see, are you waking?
Well then… let’s get a diagnosis… where do we get a trauma-informed diagnosis? From forensic psychology… are you waking? It’s the red pill.
This isn’t about child custody. This isn’t even about the child. This abuse… this trauma… is about you. You are the intended target. You knew that. You knew that all along. You were not a “bad parent” – they were using that to take your children away from you… so you would suffer… because you were “bad”… and you deserve to… suffer.
I’m Major Winters.
We have to get you someone here to listen, to see, to witness your abuse. When there is support in place for my sexually abused little girl, trapped by her cruel and malevolent predator, when we have someone there, to listen to her… then we ask her to speak. When someone is listening.
Wendy, would you please speak the voice of your trauma, both the child’s… and of the parent. Rod, would you please speak the voice of your trauma, both the child’s… and of the parent.
Dr. Childress isn’t doing therapy with your families right now. I’m providing witness – church people, you know that word.
The world needs to know what’s happened here, to you, and we need to make sure that what has happened to you, never happens to anyone else ever again. Traumatic grief. A grief so large, a sadness so deep and for so long… it’s a trauma. Traumatic grief. Look it up.
You are the intended target for the abuse. Why do you think you’re called the “targeted” parent… isn’t it obvious? You’re the target for the abuse. The abuse is aimed at you. This whole charade isn’t about child custody, it’s about you – it is meant to abuse you. You knew that. You told them.
No one listened.
It was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. Bad people did bad things to you. It was not your fault. You’re a good person. It’s going to be okay now. Good people will be here soon, and they’ll help. It was not your fault.
You thought I was van Helsing? No. I’m Major Winters.
I’m meeting with Dorcy tomorrow, all day. You know that lieutenant who jumped into trauma recovery mode, barking orders, taking charge of the recovery… yeah, that person, I’m meeting with her tomorrow.
That’s a good thing.
You could not speak… because no one was listening. That’s the pathogen. It doesn’t want its abuse of you and your victimization exposed, it hides… it in the forests… in my little girl’s bedroom… away from view… while in the world outside, everything seems normal (unless you look).
Can the victims complain to their captors about their abuse and victimization?
Victimization and trauma cannot speak to an absence of empathy, victimization and trauma cannot speak to cruelty. Victimization and trauma can only speak to morality and to empathy. We must first rescue you from your captors… forensic psychology.
And we must find you a moral compass in professional psychology.
Forensic psychology, there is shame coming. The sooner you see, the sooner you awaken… as individuals… the less will be the shame.
I am not excluded. My share of shame is that I abandoned these parents and their children. I didn’t… see. When the family down the street… went away… my world carried on. Where are your children? Gone. Where did they go? Never mind, it doesn’t matter.
The bystander. I’m sorry I didn’t care, that’s my part of shame.
To my credit, when I did see, I’ve acted, I’ve acted to stop the abuse and respond to the trauma – the ongoing abuse of you and your trauma – traumatic grief.
I’ll continue to press for the recognition of your children’s ongoing psychological abuse, that is a whole different level of appalling and shocking. But there is also your trauma, the abuse and traumatization of you. That’s been the purpose of everything – to abuse and shame you as “bad” – the “outcast” – the “rejected” one that carries your “shame” as a “bad parent.” Made to suffer for your shame, you are brutally… rejected.
The savage psychological abuse of you – parents- needs to stop and we need to begin trauma recovery support with you.
I’m Major Winters. I’m not comparing your trauma to the holocaust, not even. I’m comparing my response to first encountering your families to Major Winters. Trauma, immense trauma.
I’m Dr. Childress, I’m a clinical psychologist with trauma recovery knowledge and expertise. I’m the first of the trauma-informed recovery team that will be forming for you over here in clinical psychology. We’re going to get you help soon.
Don’t worry, your children will be okay too, we’ll protect your children too and recover them, they’ll be safe.
Do you remember when they asked where the women were… I’m asking you the same type of question… where are your children? Over in the forest over there? Okay, we’ll go over there with a protective separation order and get them back. And then you’ll cry… just like that person who misses his wife.
We’ll have your kids back to you as soon as we possibly can, hopefully today, maybe tomorrow… but as soon as we possibly can we’ll have your children back to you.
I remember a story I heard once, of parents walking up to some sort of magistrate or something, a table I think, with some important person sitting behind it. And when they reached the table with their children, the important magistrate person told the children to go one way and the parent to go another. The magistrate separated the children from the parent. I didn’t think that was the right thing to do, when I heard that story. I don’t think we should separate parents from their children… that’s not a good thing.
I heard another story, just the other day. Seems some parents were traveling with their children from one place to another. I think I heard that the parents wanted to make things better for their children, and that’s why they were traveling. Whatever. But when they got to this place they were traveling to, the people there told them to go away… and then they took their children away. I don’t think that was very good either, to take their children away, to separate parents from their children. That’s not good.
But that story, about the traveling parents and their children, that story has a happier ending than the other story does, about parents being forcibly separated from their children by “magistrates,” In the traveling parents story, I heard that a whole lot of people got very upset at the “magistrates” who separate parents from their children, and they made them stop doing that. Even the APA told the “magistrates” to stop doing that. The APA was very clear in telling the “magistrates” about the damage that’s caused when we separate parents from children.
So in the traveling parents story, they’re making the “magistrates” stop doing that with the traveling parents, separating parents and children. I think that’s a very good thing.
That other story though, I remember that other story doesn’t have such a happy ending… until the very very end… when the parents and children are reunited again. That’s my favorite part of that story, when that happens. It makes me cry.
Funny, I hear that they then became traveling parents too, like the other ones sort of. But even that has happier ending too I hear. I hear they find a new home somewhere. I’m glad. I like stories that end with family and home.
But sometimes the road getting there can be scary, and painful, and hard. We’re working to return your children to you as fast as we possibly can. I don’t think it’s a good idea when we have “magistrates” separating children from parents, ever. Do you?
Am I Professor van Helsing. No silly, I’m not some super-hero vampire hunter guy. Am I Major Winters? Now you’re just being absurd. Nothing is as bad as that.
No silly, I’m just Dr. Childress. I’m a clinical psychologist. I’m heading up the trauma recovery team. For you. Your trauma. You’re traumatic grief. You know, the whole purpose of this entire “child custody” charade… to abuse you… to make you suffer… that. I’m leading the trauma recovery for that – traumatic grief.
I’d put it in the attachment pathology domain. It’s called pathological mourning in attachment. We’ll have time to talk down the road. Here, have some food, a little water. Everything is going to be okay.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857