Ghost Mama


Here we go again. Wide awake. Still trying to sort out the nightmare, literal and metaphorical, and having the same luck as always.  No resolution. No sleep.


Shuffling from my bedroom, down the dark hallway to the study, my faithful dog, Lucy, pitter-pattering after me, I sit down at my desk to record crazy dream #366.  Why?  Writing has become my antidote to the poison, of which I seem to be full.  Bubbling over some days.  During the last decade, I have tried many useful tools to accommodate and move through my sorrow, but the one thing that compels me, over and over again, is writing.

Writing my way up from the bottom.  Toward the light.


I am walking through a bustling town with my daughter Clare.  The place has the feel of either the whole town heading to a carnival, or maybe all of them fleeing a natural disaster.  Can’t gauge the mood, other than some generalized anxiety.  With all the commotion, I lose Clare’s hand and suddenly I realize, she is no longer at my side.  I look around me.  Lots of other kids and families, but no sign of Clare.  I race ahead, frantically searching the crowd for her, with no luck.  Perhaps I didn’t see her because I am panicky and blinding myself, so I return to the beginning, where I lost her and try again, more calmly this time.  There is a fountain in the middle of the path and I am relieved to see she is there with her backpack, talking to some other children with no sign of distress.  She is probably only ten years old here.   I hurry up to her and give her a hug, “There you are, Sweetpea! Where did you go?  I was so worried!”  She allows me the hug, but doesn’t really hug back and gives me a half smile, nervously.  “Ok, well we better get going,” I say as I take her hand and we begin walking, continuing our strange journey to who knows where.


We come to a forest at the edge of the town and have to make our way through the trees.  It is densely packed in here and we have to clear our own path.  Emerging from the dim light of the woods, we find a chain link fence that has a small hole in it, which we enlarge and scramble through, getting deposited into someone’s suburban backyard.  We trespass through the yard and end up walking right past the owner as he pulls his truck into the driveway.  I am worried we will be in some kind of trouble, but the man completely ignores us.  It’s as if he can’t see us at all.  In fact, I feel like he has looked through me as if I am a ghost, not really there as I carefully walk past him.


Relieved to get past the man, Clare and I move on to a nearby house that looks unoccupied. She is hungry so we go in to look for some food.  We find some snacks in the kitchen and I am just stopping Clare from eating some grubs that she thinks are shrimp when some teens come in.  The boys flop down on the couch and chat with us like it’s no big deal that we broke into their house.  The third boy is not as friendly as the other two and says, “Hey, what are you doing in our kitchen?”  He is a bit confrontational and at that moment, their mother walks in with a plate of snacks for her children.   I answer the boy, “Well, I’m not surprised someone asked.  I am dreaming, and my daughter and I are on a long journey and she was getting hungry, so…”  I see Clare shaking her head no, and looking at me strangely.  “C’mon Clare…” I implore her, thinking about the time at the border crossing when she pretended she didn’t belong to us.  She had thought that pretty funny at the time.  “Clare, I’m your mum…” the strangers were looking at us.  I was horrified and thought, they will think I am abducting her.  Clare leans over to me and sort of scary whispers, like the boy in the Sixth Sense that announces, “I see dead people!” and she says, “I’m dreaming too…”  And it all dawns on me.  I see her but I can’t see me—can’t see what she sees when she looks at me.  In her dream, she does not recognize me as her mother…she is not seeing ‘me’.  I look down at my hands—I’m sure I am me, but I have no idea what she is seeing when she looks at me.


My initial thought that it was pretty cool that we were both having this dream together, was quickly replaced with horror when I realized that the whole time I was searching for her and walking with her, she was scared because to her, I was a stranger, abducting her perhaps.  I thought back about how she had looked at me nervously when I found her at the fountain, and even how I lost her in the first place.  Maybe she had run away from this crazy lady that kept grabbing her hand.


When I turned, she was gone.  I realized then that I would have to keep an eye on her from far enough away so that I didn’t make her nervous.  I was sad to not be able to interact with her, as I made my way back to the town where she seemed to be living, but I couldn’t walk away either.  I had to mother my child.  I needed to be sure she was ok, even if I had to do it as a ghost.  Just before I wake, I see myself standing at the back of a crowd in the middle of that weird town, watching quietly as Clare receives an award.





“What’s the worst that could happen?” she said as she hit the update button.

“Learn the alchemy true human beings know.  The moment you accept the troubles you’ve been given, the door will open.” ~Rumi


Parental alienation is a tricky experience to navigate.  The pain can swallow you whole, render you unable to live any kind of normal life.  The circus you find yourself trying to function in, can turn you into the unstable, crazy person you have been accused of being for years.  You can’t fight, you can’t not fight.  It is a no-win situation.  In the long term, your child will always get the worst of it, of course.  That is the only thing that has kept me going.  I will not give up on my daughter or my responsibility as a mother.


And part of what makes parental alienation tricky, is that we remain invisible to protect our children, and to protect our chances of mending relationships, so we stay isolated.  It is not really helping anyone.  Neither is going stark-raving mad.


Out of love for my own child and empathy for all the children dealing with the crazy, emotional prison that is parental alienation, or family bond obstruction, and in case this helps one other alienated parent struggling to remain sane, or even just alive, while they cope with this nightmare, I am going to begin telling my story.  Maybe open the door, just a crack.

Probably safest to start with the relentless recurring dreams…