The two truths of torn up letters

Eef van Creij is a friend and colleague, a family mediator in Tilburg, Holland. She has a great name for her teamed-up service: Samen Scheiden or Together Apart. Discussing mediation and alienation she mentioned a well-known journalist (in Holland), Frenk van der Linden. He created a TV programme about his own and his family’s moving story ending up (after 40 years) with reunification as a result of the TV programme.

One simple scene especially encapsulates the tragedy of alienated children. In Verloren Band, Frenk tells how he and his sister got letters regularly from their rejected mother. Their aligned father would ceremonially expect them to tear the letters up as a demonstration of their loyalty to him and a rejection of her. But, years later, in the video, they can say how these continuing letters were secretly of such importance to them.

If you understand Dutch, watch the whole one-hour TV programme Verloren Band (or Lost Connection). We’ve suggested that the video should also be done with English subtitles so it can be shown across the world. Here is the clip where they are telling the story of the letter and below that, with many thanks to her, is Eef’s summary of the story with the script of the letters section detailed:


A Documentary (NCRV Dokument)

By Frenk van der Linden

Frenk’s parents divorced 40 years ago in a bitter way. He was 12 years old; his sister, a few years younger. They stayed with their father. Alienated, they had no direct contact with their mother for ten years. When his mum is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease Frenk realizes that this is the moment for a last attempt to reconcile his parents.  They haven’t talked to each other in all those years! The video records Frenk’s do-it-yourself family mediation.

Frenk’s family background

Frenk’s father was very much in love with Frenk’s mother when they got married. Frenk’s father started working for his dad (Frenk’s grandfather) who had a transport business. The grandfather paid his son 10 guilders a week instead of 80 which he was used too. They called him “the dictator”. He was very strict and harsh with his son. Frenk’s father wanted to quit but knew he would not see his mum any more if he did that. He adored her. Frenk’s father was working long hours. Frenk’s mother said that Frenk’s father was married to his work. In the video Frenk talks separately to his father and to his mother.

Video clips about the letters

35:07 / (Clip: start) His father tells Frenk he was thinking of committing suicide at the time after their divorce. Frenk is shocked. 37:25 / (Clip: 02:22) His mother tells Frenk she wanted to commit suicide. She was hospitalized twice. She went to the railway track but someone saw her and took her away to safety. 38:50 / (Clip: 03.47) She cried all night when she married her second husband, crying for her first two children. 40:20 / (Clip: 05:17) Frenk tells his father he and his sister had to rip up mum’s letters: “We tried to do this so you could see it, so you could see how loyal we were to you”. His father says:”It gave me great pleasure”! Frenk reads his mom’s letters again. Not one had a bad word in it about their father, not one complaint, accusation or blame. After ten years, Frenk felt sorry at being angry with his mother, Frenk and his sister looked for their mom and visited her. Their mom kept writing. 41:40 / (Clip: 06:36) Frenk tells his mother: “Secretly we were very glad you kept writing us letters”!  His mom kisses him and says: “Oh, I’m so pleased to hear that. We can say things now that were never said before”. At the end of the filming Frenk’s dad explains to him he can’t meet his mother because it would hurt him too much. But a final message appears to tell us that 5 months later, Frenk’s dad did agree to a meeting with his first wife, Frenk’s mom. His dad explains that he realized that his children will live longer then him and whenever they see this film again, they can say: This was my father and this was my mother and that is what happened … and it NEVER should have.

Frenk’s parents did meet and embraced each other after 40 years.

About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.


  1. Pingback: Rewind: Make more of this wonderful film | the alienation experience

  2. Pingback: Rewind’s torn-up letters (with subtitles) | the alienation experience

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