Recently I have begun interviewing children who were once alienated but who have recovered. This is for our book, to offer alienated parents a sense of what is important to their alienated child. All of the children I have thus far spoken to have told me that letters and cards were a vital lifeline to their parent, that even though they did not read them or dismissed them out of hand, somewhere inside they knew that the arrival of those missives meant that they were still loved and that their parent was still out there somewhere. Some children speak of the anxiety that letters caused them and the cognitive dissonance of hearing that they were loved even though they were being told they were not. Other children have told me that they wish the parent they had rejected had written more about the lives they were leading and the world outside the alienation that they felt. None of the children said that they wished their parent hadn’t bothered. None of them said that letters, cards and emails were not important.
And so in the spirit of new beginnings, in the coldest and darkest time of the year. Why not pick up your pen or sit yourself down at your keyboard and write. Write to begin with because you have a story to tell. Write so that your thoughts and feelings begin to flow. Write about the world around you, about the light in the sky and the stark fingers of the trees against the January twighlight. Write about the wind that has been howling around us over the past few nights or the Sunshine that has been beating down upon you in that land down under. Write about the feelings and the fears and the things that make you smile on the darkest of days. If writing feels strange to begin with, try reading something new, try poetry or prose and let that flow through you and unwind the neural pathways so that your mind gets used to the rythmn of writing. When you find yourself in full flow, turn your thoughts to your child and let them know, from the heart of you, how you are feeling about them now.
Letter writing to alienated children is not easy but it can be made easier if you enjoy the act of writing and if you find yourself able to converse around the corners of the pain and the rejection that you feel. Reach out over the top of the pain and the anger and the loss and the hurt and write to that child who is still there. Here is one such letter, written by a parent I worked with some years ago. It has stayed with me ever since I read it and it stayed with her child too.