Book: A Family’s Heartbreak

“August 5:  I passed Adam in the hall on my way to bed.  “Good night Adam, I love you,” the father said.  “Fuck you,” the son responded.” -Michael Jeffries, A Family’s Heartbreak

I recently finished reading A Family’s Heartbreak:  A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation by Michael Jeffries and Dr. Joel Davies.  To date, I think this is my favorite book about this very important topic.  (do I say that about every book I read on this topic?)

The book tells the story of Mr. Jeffries’ journey in becoming severely alienated from his youngest son.  Much of the book tells the story through journal entries made during the divorce process.  This allows the reader to step into Dad’s shoes and experience the unfolding of events through his eyes.  It is truly a heart-wrenching experience.  My favorite thing about the book is that, at the end of each chapter, the contents of that chapter are decoded through a conversation with a professional- mostly Dr. Davies.  Through this dialogue, the reader gains understanding about the psychology behind the actions of the alienator and the child.  Dr. Davies describes the often-missed red flags that could indicate a parental tendency to alienate.  He also explains how alienated children are able to say what they say and do what they do.  For a targeted parent, this knowledge can aid in dealing with his/her individual situation.

Coincidentally, Michael Jeffries was a guest on the Co-Parenting Matters BlogTalkRadio Show last night.  Due to a combination of football games and the “empty” status of my kitchen cabinets, I missed the show and I’m catching up with the podcast as I type.  If you too missed the show, you can listen here.


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Posted in children of divorce, divorce, media, parental alienation and tagged , , , , , .


  1. It is difficult to even read the exchange you quote in your opening paragraph.

    I read it yesterday morning, and it stayed with me all day and all night.

    How could it ever get to that point, I wonder? And I also wonder if part of how it gets that way is caused by physical distance, and not being coached (by one parent or the other) to call and stay in touch so the walls do not begin to be built.

    Again, the opening paragraph is as frightening a thought as anything I’ve ever read on any subject.

    • That quote was actually taken from a very early time in the book- and at that point, the Mr. Jeffries was still living in the marital home with his children. His son was 11 years old at the time, I probably should have noted that somewhere in the post.

      It’s quite scaryto think about this topic- not only does it break the heart of the targeted parent/family but this practice dies a great disservice to the child. Children who live through this learn all the wrong lessons about love, relationships and attachment. As adults, victims of PA will be ill-equipped to deal with the most important facets of their lives.

  2. If you have any advice on how a targeted mother can deal with post separation resistance of her 13 year old son, this would help. After nearly 5 years of alienation, the childs’ father dictates to him all the ways to reject and resist his mother, including running and hiding . I’ve heard that simple talk is ineffective in ‘getting through’ with this level of brainwashing. My dilemma is whether or not, on the initial reunion, the more “emotional, and powerful” approach recommended for this degree of brainwashing is a good idea. A more loving and gentle approach, initially, may help to build trust in the mother which was lost, or it may cause the child to turn-away uninterested.
    Thank you

    • That’s such a tough and unfortunate situation. I’m not an expert when it comes to Parental Alienation, but I know Dr. Richard Warshak has done a lot of work in pioneering reunification therapy. There are also a growing number of therapists across the country who are learning more and offering family assistance in this arena. If possible, I’d recommend the assistance of a trained professional to help oversee the process of rebuilding the lost relationship. Good luck to you.

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