For financial reasons, Esther Adler and her husband lived separately under the same roof for eighteen months before Esther was able to move out. After that she found herself moving cross-country to California taking her far away from her children. It wasn’t a situation she ever imagined but she did it because of the parental alienation: as her children became increasingly committed to a more orthodox faith they were more and more hostile towards her. Here’s Esther:
Moving cross-country was huge, it was something I never expected, nothing I was planning or anything like that. After a few months of me being a mom away from my kids, I was in so much grief, I actually became suicidal for a while. I just did not want to live anymore. I wasn’t making money either, I literally thought my life was over.
I was with a man at the time and he got a job in California. He really wanted me to move out with him, and I was like, “I can’t, I’m going to be so far from my kids. ” He encouraged me and said, “You know what, they don’t want to live with you. This is what it is right now, and I want to be with you, and you have the chance to heal. If it doesn’t work out, you can always move back, it’s not like it’s ever a permanent situation.”
At first I said no, and I did help and support his move to California. When I visited him, I thought about it and I was just sitting by the ocean. At home I was working very hard in my career as a performer, as a dancer. It was producing too much pain, it was producing more pain than good at that moment, and I started thinking that maybe it would be the best thing for me, to separate myself from the actual situation and literally start from scratch, give myself a chance to renew, and if it didn’t work out, I could always come back.” So I flew back there, took like a suitcase of stuff, and spent a month. Then I went back, got my car, and drove across the country with whatever I was able to fit, and the rest I just sold. And that was it.
One of the reasons that motivated me to temporarily live in California was because I was living about a mile, maybe a half a mile away from them, and it was just too painful for me to be so close, but yet so far, not having anything to do with my kids. I speak to them only once a week because they don’t really want to talk to me more, even though every conversation I’m like, “I love you and you’re the most important thing to me, I want you more in my life.” At the same time, I want to give them space, where I’m not suffocating them, and let it be, on some level, their choice to want to have something to do with me. Every conversation we do have is loving, specifically with my two younger ones. My oldest one doesn’t talk to me at all. I email her and let her know constantly that I love her and that I understand she wants space from me, but she doesn’t respond.
It still is very painful. I’m not going to lie to you. Some of the work I’m doing is I’m traveling the country and visiting different women’s shelters, giving inspirational talks. I’m not getting paid for this, I’m doing this just because I feel I need to. I went to a shelter in New Jersey a few months ago and shared with them my story. I didn’t talk about the parental alienation, but I talked about the abuse I endured because I’ve recovered from that.
At the end, one of the women said, “Well, what’s your relationship with the kids now?” I didn’t want to talk about the parental alienation, I didn’t want to scare them. I didn’t want to say, “I know you’re leaving an abusive man, but guess what? There’s a good chance that this guy, because he’s abusive, might want to do what happened with me.” It’s happening more and more. More and more women are losing their kids due to alienation. It used to be the other way around because women “had more rights” in a divorce. Now, a lot of women are losing their kids for no reason at all. So I told them what was happening, but I also said that when I do talk to my kids, it’s always with love.
I’m still with the same man. He’s very, very supportive. He’s helped me with my business. He’s my web designer and my webmaster. He’s like a rock for me. That’s one of the things that I share with people—just stay open to the people who are around you in your toughest situations because there’s nothing worse than feeling alone. That’s what I felt back East because I was so close to my kids, but I had no access to them. It’s like walking around Times Square at Christmas time when there’s pedestrian traffic like you’ve never seen, but you feel so lonely and completely secluded in the world. Just the grief and the loss that I felt, being around all the familiarity was just too much for me.
I definitely needed to heal, and California has done that for me. I’ve met angel after angel after angel who’ve helped me learn how to thrive again. It wasn’t overnight. Do I still have moments that I’m really sad? Absolutely. I teach children the same ages as my own kids, and I’m so close to all of them, and I just love teaching kids, but sometimes when I leave and I see how they run to their moms, I’m like “oh…” It doesn’t last for days, I’m not lying in bed for days like I was. It’s a moment, and then I go back and I say, “My kids are happy, and the relationship I have with them is loving.”
I would love to talk to my oldest daughter. I think she was the most affected by all the craziness. She’s graduating this year and my hope is that when she’s separate from the control, she’ll start to allow herself to come up with her own conclusions, and hopefully that can help our relationship. I just keep saying the only constant in life is change. That’s the only truth.
The Divorce Coach Says
I am grateful to Esther for sharing this—before I started my interviews I couldn’t comprehend how any mother could leave her children. Through Esther’s story and others, like Grace I have a much better understanding and I know there’s always more to the story.
I don’t know if there’s a typical profile for someone who’s likely to try to alienate your children but I think Esther’s right: if he tried to control you, he could try to control your children so be prepared. Go into this with your eyes wide open and don’t discount the red flags. As Esther shares in the next segment, the ways of alienation can be very subtle.
Have you experienced parental alienation? What were the ways your ex used? Have you found an effective way to neutralize your ex’s attempts? How do you cope emotionally?
You can read more about Esther Adler’s book, Breaking the Chains to Freedom and her work at Esther Adler. Her Twitter name is @EstherWarrior. Esther Adler, author, speaker, trainer helps you turn the most devastating events in your life into your biggest opportunities. She focuses on letting go of grief, trauma and pain, through unique movement processes, helping you gain true freedom and ultimate peace.
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