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MOVING ON by Allen Feld, FMSF Newsletter, 1999, Vol. 9, No. 1


At a recent small informal gathering of FMS families, I had the opportunity to speak individually with many parents. I don’t believe that any of the families at this gathering had a specific retraction, but I am aware that some of these families had their accuser "return" to the family, while others have had recent contact with the accusing offspring.

Regardless of the fact that the ranks of reunited families continue to grow, reunification has yet to take place for most families. Newsletter readers recognize that reunited families represent the minority of families in contact with the Foundation. The majority of families that I’ve spoken with are not reunited, although they express hope (or, at least a wish) for a retraction. Failing that, some have expressed willingness to have some contact with their estranged offspring, at the very least. However, there are also a small number of families who have adamantly stressed to me that contact without a retraction is unthinkable and totally unacceptable.

Families deal with the uncertainty and confusion that result from false memories and accusations in a variety of ways. While reliable research is lacking, anecdotal accounts offer a glimpse into how families who are not reunited contend with their situations.

In those families who say they still have hope, many mention their relationship with their spouse as the key pillar of their support. Others report that their other children are a source of love, support, and strength and, they believe (or hope), a possible link or path to reunification. A significant number of parents who maintain hope tell how happy they are that they have each other and/or other family members.

Some tell me prayer is an important avenue for them in their hope to reunite the family. Some talk about friends that they rely on. Meeting with other families is identified as an important source of support. A few mention being involved briefly in therapy. A number describe their use of cards, letters, email, etc. in an attempt to reestablish communication and express their continuing love. For many, the hope or wish for reunification is ever present and the situation is often on their minds.

A small number of families at the gathering, however, told me that they have decided on a course that must have been difficult to reach. In a culture that places such a heavy emphasis on family unity, it is a position that does not readily lend itself to public discussion. The term "moving on," or something quite similar, was often mentioned. What I mean by that phrase is that the shock and family upheaval caused by being falsely accused and the false memories of an adult offspring seem to play far less of a role in their lives.

As I thought about these brief exchanges, I felt that this group represented a variety of avenues to "moving on." Although coming to terms with a crisis is a usual occurrence, I believe moving on differed from what one might anticipate. Some clearly indicated that a conscious decision was made to move on. These parents seemed to believe it offered a path to increased happiness and emotional health and demonstrated that they accepted the reality that they also could not control (or influence) a retraction any more than they had been able to control the false accusations. Moreover, I believe that this type of decision also served to affirm their strength.

Oversimplifying these families’ journeys and collapsing variations into a single sample scenario, one essential common characteristic becomes evident: this group made the decision to get on with their lives. They believe a retraction is unlikely, and importantly, they arrived at the conclusion that a retraction and their accuser rejoining the family, while desirable, are unnecessary for their lives to be fulfilled. These parents know that the accusations against them are false and accept their inability either to control or change the situation. At the gathering one mother mentioned, for example, that her family has decided to accept the reality and move on. She believes that other families like hers would not readily disclose this kind of decision. I told her that I thought this might be so. My hunch is that this may be a more difficult course to make public.

The perseverance of fragmented families is remarkable. These people show their ability to find avenues to display their care and love for their other children, family and friends. Many have helped and continue to help other families deal with the consequences of false accusations without imposing their path on others. Their efforts and contribution have made it more likely that this particular sad debacle will destroy fewer families in the future. Moving on is one more example of the strength of FMS families.

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