LAST month I got speaking to two very brave brothers who decided to share their desperately sad story of how their father brainwashed them against their own mother.
JP and Brendan Byrne, both from Dublin, are the only authors in Ireland (that I am aware of) who have tackled parental alienation in this way. Their story tells how as young boys they were cruelly manipulated by their father into believing their mother didn’t love them and that for 18 years she had abandoned them.
By the time they realised that wasn’t the case they were grown men, and their mother had missed out on the most precious years of their lives.
A small piece of the below article was published in the Irish Daily Star today, but even reading my more indepth, original version won’t do JP and Brendan’s story justice. You have to read their fantastic book, Don’t Hug Your Mother, which include’s older brother JP’s diary entries from when he was a child. The story is heart rendering and shows just what damage can be done by this form of abuse which is illegal in Brazil. It’s also widely recognised in the US.
By Patricia Devlin
TWO Dublin brothers have told how they were “brainwashed” into believing their mother had abandoned them as children.
JP and Brendan Byrne, who are originally from Tallaght, said they only uncovered their father’s “web of lies” 18 years after their parent’s split up.
They’ve revealed their shocking story in a new book called Don’t Hug Your Mother, which shines a spotlight on parental alienation in Ireland.
Speaking following its release Brendan said: “We were led to believe our mother didn’t want anything to do with us, that she didn’t love us and just upped and left.
“The truth was we were being manipulated and used as weapons, and it cost us our relationship with our mother.”
The emotional book, which is compiled with the help of JP’s childhood diary entries, recounts how the brothers’ relationship with their mum was wiped out in the space of a year.
“After our parent’s split up, we only saw our mother for a few hours every other weekend, and when we did our father would give us a list of instructions before we’d go.
“One of those was, ‘if she goes to hug you, duck out of the hugs’. Obviously that was very hard for me.
“I was only nine or ten and I was particularly close to her and felt I needed her at that time, a hug was something I would have wanted.
“We were told not to accept presents or money from here, and if she said anything nice to us not to reply.
“As time went on we were dressed in clothes that our mother wouldn’t have put us in, our hair was done in a different way, and we were told to tell her that this was the way my dad’s new wife Natalie dressed us.”
Contact eventually ceased between the mother and her sons.
It was only 18 years later when both men were in their 20s that they realised the extent of manipulation they were under as children.
JP and Brendan confronted their father but instead of receiving an apology he cut all of contact with them.
“He sent me a text message saying, ‘I just said goodbye to your brother, it’s time to say goodbye to you as well,” said Brendan.
“To be honest I was kind of delighted. He was such a manipulator that I would have felt guilty if I was the one ending contact. I just thought, ‘I’m free’.”
With the help of their older brother Seamus, JP and Brendan tracked down their mother in 2008.
They had an emotional reunion on the platform of a Co Wexford train station.
“She was there with my aunt and we went over like two boys going for inspection,” recalled Brendan.
“She actually mixed us both up because she hadn’t seen us in so long. It was just great to see her.”
He added: “She missed our childhood, she’s missed how I got to this age and it wasn’t a great ride either to get to that stage because of our father. It shouldn’t have happened.”
Parental alienation involves the unwarranted rejection of one, previously loved, parent by a child following a separation or divorce.
Last year the Parental Alienation Awareness Association of Ireland said there was a lack of understanding of how serious this form of abuse can be and how much damage can be caused to children as a result. The group have called on the government to make alienation a criminal offence.
Brendan added: “It’s taken us a long time to untangle the web of lies by our father. Hopefully our story can help others.”
Don’t Hug Your Mother is available now to buy on Amazon.