‘We thought we had reached an agreement. My daughter would live with her dad. But I had no idea how hard they would make it. It was insane.’

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“Two years ago we made the decision to let my daughter live with her biological dad. We fought an intense custody battle and struggled with ongoing parental alienation. Even though it was incredibly hard to let her go, we felt it was the best decision for everyone. But that doesn’t make losing her any easier.

After years of fighting an intense custody battle over long-distance visitation, we thought we had reached an agreement. Our daughter would live with me in Utah full time and visit her dad in South Carolina one weekend a month. It was the best compromise for everyone, even though I knew it would require sacrifice.

But I had no idea how hard they would make it.

Every month I got a text message from her stepmom telling me what dates we needed to fly her to them for visitation. Each time we would fight and argue. They wouldn’t let her fly as an unaccompanied minor because even though our court documents didn’t specify anything, they said they had equal rights in decision making.

So every month, I had to fly with her. I had to book 2 plane tickets, arrange for my other children to have a babysitter while I was gone, make plans for where I would stay when I got there… it was insane. Not to mention the cost of it all.

@ashleymachele

I was completely drained. I was missing out on holidays with my family because they fell on their weekend.

It was the most difficult situation. They wanted her by 6 p.m. on Friday, but they didn’t want her to miss any school. The flight alone is 4 hours and there’s a 2-hour time difference which would make that physically impossible.

On top of that, my daughter began to show signs of parental alienation. After each visitation she would come home a completely different person. While she was with them, she would tell them lies about us. I couldn’t trust her alone with my other children because she had started to become physically violent with them.

After years of struggling with this situation I couldn’t take it anymore. I called our attorney and prepared to fight for a better visitation schedule. After I hung up the phone, I couldn’t shake the feeling that this wasn’t the right thing to do. And all of a sudden, I felt strongly prompted to let her live with her dad.

At first I ignored it. That was the worst thing I could ever imagine and I would never let it happen. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that’s where she needed to be. So I let her. But – that doesn’t make losing her any easier.

So as I’m sitting with my sweet girl before she boards the plane and leaves for the school year – my heart breaks again. And once she walks through the gate, I have to watch and wait as she sits right there – still so close – before the plane takes off.

And then she’s gone.

@ashleymachele

I walk back to the car alone, her radio station is still playing. Her water bottle from breakfast is still in my cup holder. The little traces of her linger and I don’t want to wash her clothes and put them away until next time.

I pick my other kids up and I feel like something is missing, because it is. It’s the feeling like you’ve gotten in the car but you’ve forgotten something. She is always in the back of my mind.

My other kids still ask about her, my son slips up and calls me her name on accident. They don’t understand the concept of time and how long it will be until they will see her again. They don’t understand why she’s gone.

I take the kids to lunch and they choose pizza. I don’t even bother ordering something healthy and choose to eat my feelings instead. I’m an emotional eater so I can’t stop myself. Do I feel better now?

No.

So we go shopping to distract. We spend hours wandering the stores and I only end up buying books (tons of books) for the kids and a few to mail my daughter. Retail Therapy. I’m thinking of her as I pick out things she would like and it helps me connect with her. It also makes me cry again and I miss her even more.

It’s bedtime now and I’ve tucked my babies in and kissed them good night, all but one. That void is so real right now, and I just lay on her bed. She was here just a few hours ago. And I don’t know when I’ll see her again.

It gets easier. Some days are better than others, not every day is like today. I still get to call and FaceTime her. But most of the time, they don’t answer. Then I realize she’s truly gone again. We go without talking for weeks so I mail her packages to let her know I’m thinking of her. I send them videos of the kids saying hi and hope she sees them.

She lives a life without us. The distance is so real sometimes. 3,000 miles, and I can’t do anything about it. But as long as she’s happy and healthy, I have to be ok with that. This is our reality, and I choose to make the best of it because this is our Splendid life.”

@ashleymachele

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashley Machele. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blogDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Ashley’s powerful backstory about her daughter here:

‘He had filed for divorce without my knowledge, and was granted full custody. Everything was chaos. It was my worst nightmare. I had to drop my 18-month-old daughter off with strangers.’

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