A list of common responses/reactions after losing a child in a family court proceeding

Mothers who loose their children in family court proceedings often experience (and report):

* Character assination and/or emotional abuse of the mother (who may be labelled as having “Parental Alienation Syndrome” or “Malicious Mom Syndrome”)

* Minimizing past abuse and its affects/Minimizing the current danger

* Legal proceedings that deny a mother of her legal rights

* Feeling threatened or coerced by court personnel

*Expensive legal or court costs, often resulting in severe financial hardship (I have heard of mothers losing their home and being forced to work several jobs, in which their contact with their children becomes even more limited)

* Re-traumatization

* Inability to protect children combined with valid concerns the children may still be in danger

* Children forcibly removed from the home (a majority of these mothers were primary caregivers)

* Mothers denied contact with children–these children are oftn abruptly, and without warning removed from their homes, their community, their friends and any connection to the mother

* Mothers being compelled into supervised visitation to see children, and may be exposed to other abusers (I have actually heard of a woman who took the bus to supervised visitation, and was stalked by an alleged abuser when leaving the premisis)

* Inability to get help or support for herself. Mothers may have their medical and psychological records subpoened by the court and/or their abuser, in which she degraded or labelled based on the findings and then forced to “prove” she is a fit mother. Mothers may also become isolated because they feel others do not understand their situation. It is common for people to feel overwhelmed hearing these stories and then to be unable to provide support. The financial depletion caused by family court may also limit a woman’s ability to seek help. Not to mention the woman may be so overwhelmed that she does not have the energy to get the help she may need.

* The abuser manipulating the children, or using them in ways to hurt, intimidate or harass the mother (Ie using children to send messages to the mother, telling the children false information about the mother, threatening to harm the children, threatening to take the children, etc..)

Mothers who loose their children in this way often experience:

* Physical Illness (including but not limited to headaches, ulcers, vomiting, fatigue and exhaustion)

* Anxiety/Panic Attacks

* Depression

* Guilt/Shame/ Self-Blame, particularly around issues that they failed or could not protect their children

* Flashbacks (The court proceedings may trigger memories of abuse, or legitimate fears)

* Binge Eating and/or Lack of Appetite, Nausea

* Insomnia

* Shock (A combination of all these factors, feeling numb, unable to perform daily tasks, feeling as if she is living in a fog, lack of memory/concentration, tremors/trembling, hot flashes etc)

* A surge of emotion/adrenaline

* Hyperventilating

* Post Traumatic Stress

* Avoidance (Especially around areas that remind them of their children. It would be common to even avoid social places and friends)

* Withdrawl

* Anger

* Fear

* Fits of Crying — There are often triggers. When I lost my child, I remember avoiding the grocery store because I would pass my child’s favorite treats, think of my child, and start to cry. It got to the point where I could not even remember what I wanted in the grocery store because I was so upset.

* Memory Loss/Concentration Difficulties

THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE MOTHER IS MENTALLY ILL OR UNSTABLE, these are typical responses to the loss of a child in combination with the extreme stress of being involved in family court proceedings that are perceived as unjust, and which a mother has no control over. It takes time to work through the grief and emotions of losing your child, and being involved in family court proceedings–these response may emerge and change as the mother processes what has happened.

I found it helpful to be part of a domestic violence group, hosted by a battered women’s shelter. The group is confidential and does not keep records. I was able to talk with other women and learn tools on how to cope, and rebuild my life. There is hope–Stay stong.

Blessings ~ EJ

If you have anything to add to this list, please add a comment. Please keep remain respectful. Any derogatory language will be deleted.

Quotes:

“Unfortunately, courts may apply psychological pressures that keep women tied to their abusers. “Friendly parent” statutes ask courts to assess each parent’s willingness to co-parent when making custody decisions (Zorza, 1992). Despite their reasonable reluctance to co-parent, battered women may end up being labeled “uncooperative,” with an increased risk of losing their children.” –Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings, and Recommendations. By Daniel G. Saunders (October 1998). http://new.vawnet.org/category/Main_Doc.php?docid=371

“Abusers are smooth talkers who are good at manipulating situations to their liking, she said, even with law enforcement. When officers first respond to a domestic call, the victim is often hysterical while the abuser is calm and cool, and so he sometimes makes a better impression on officers.” –Statistics on domestic violence tell a sobering tale, Crookstone Daily Times.  By Natalie J. Ostgaard, City Editor (10/31/08). http://www.crookstontimes.com/articles/2008/10/31/news/24news4.txt

LINKS:

Mothers of Lost Children: http://www.mothers-of-lost-children.com/MOLC_welcome.htm

“Child Custody in Cases Involving Domestic Violence: Is It Really in the “Best Interests” of Children to Have Unrestricted Contact With Their Mother’s Abusers” by Molly A. Brown: http://www.mobar.org/journal/2001/novdec/brown.htm

Lundy Bancroft (Find Freedom and Healing from Trauma, Abuse and Childhood Wounds. Also addresses custody issues): http://www.lundybancroft.com/index.html

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