Being a targeted parent is a terrible terrible experience. The loss, grief, shame, and frustration, can be overwhelming at times. Many parents dealing with alienation consider giving up (whatever that means to them) because they feel so helpless and hopeless. The twin demons of depression and anger can become all consuming. Added to the mix is the fact that many targeted parents are advised to back off from the rejecting child and wait for the child to come around on his or her own. It is easy to see why some parents decide to take a break from the trauma and drama of parental alienation.
Unfortunately, this is often not the most effective strategy. Rather than being encouraged to “let nature takes its course” and to “wait for your kids to come around their own” targeted parents need encouragement to stick it out, to continue to reach out, no matter what. Many targeted parents understand intellectually that it is better to hang in there, to keep trying. They understand that if they back off then the other parent can tell the kids that the parent did not really love them, look at how easily they gave up on them. But sometimes understanding something in your head is not enough. Sometimes people need metaphors and symbols to connect with, to be inspired by, so that they can understand something in their heart.
So I have been thinking lately about the importance of symbols and role models to inspire and motivate targeted parents to persist in their efforts to maintain a connection with their alienated children. Many of the targeted parents I coach with or serve as an expert witness for are heroic in their efforts, but I cannot share their stories with each other. That was one reason I wrote “Surviving parental alienation: A journey of hope and healing” as a forum for targeted parents to share their experiences with each other.
But lately I have been searching for a more universal symbol of parental love and acceptance. And then I remembered a childhood story called “The Runaway Bunny.” In that story a little bunny declares to his mother, “I am running away.” Instead of becoming hurt or angry the mother responds lovingly, “If you run away I will run after you for you are my little bunny.” What follows is a series of ways the bunny might run away (join the circus, become a flower in the garden, and so forth) and the mother’s response to the bunny’s declaration (“I will be a gardener and I will find you”). In the end the bunny concludes, “Shucks, I might just as well stay where I am and be your little bunny.” Through her calm and loving responses, the mother demonstrated her unconditional love for her bunny. Paradoxically, her ability to tolerate his need to separate allowed him to stay connected. In the end, this is what every targeted parent wants for their child. In this way, the runaway bunny’s mother can serve as an inspirational role model in her unwavering expression of unconditional love.