- Abandonment issues can leave you feeling completely hopeless and alone in this world—but you can take action and pull out of this low level of despair.
- First, you must take a good, long look at what happened. You can’t ignore or avoid what happened or those difficult feelings that resulted from it; you have to look it all straight in the face so you can mourn the relationship you lost.
- Then, you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself—this’ll only keep you tether to the despair; instead of wallowing in self-pity, you need to accept that something really bad has happened, but that you can move forward.
- Finally, take necessary steps to ground yourself whenever you feel overwhelmed or upset because of the experience.
- Effective grounding techniques include talking honestly with friends and family as well as engaging in some of your favorite activities.
When I was younger, I always wondered what it was like to have divorced parents. I caught small glimpses as I watched my friends go through it. “That’s just so unfortunate,” my parents would say each time I told them about the latest split. It never occurred to me that one day my parents would no longer view divorce as a sad “misfortune” but a hopeful possibility. An option to consider. A solution.
My mom initiated the split when I was a sophomore in college. My school was three hours away from home, so I felt very detached from the ordeal. You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. I didn’t have to watch my mom stuff all of her fancy clothes into a too-small suitcase. I wasn’t there to witness her wheel away crates full of scrapbooks filled with family photos. I didn’t see her walk in and out of our front door for the very last time. One might say that my absence was a blessing. That I was better off away at school… sitting in class… hanging out with friends… I was better off being anywhere else doing anything else. But I would have to disagree.
I know that watching it all unfold—or crumble, rather—would’ve been absolutely gut-wrenching in the moment. But I’d rather suffer then, than still be suffering now. The thing is that because I wasn’t there to see and understand and process it all, it hit me like an oncoming train that didn’t even bother to brake. My once loving, too-involved mom was gone without a trace. And the ever strong mother-daughter relationship, the safety blanket that was her, her place in my future all vanished at once. But I’m not saying I was left completely emptyhanded. I had the pain of abandonment to keep me company.
Don’t worry, this sob story doesn’t end a sob story. Despite the hopelessness and the dejection you likely sensed from me thus far, I’m okay. I still struggle with abandonment issues and loneliness as a result of those abandonment issues, but each day I improve. And my mom and I are slowly putting the pieces of our relationship back together. I know: I skipped a part. How exactly did I get from this low point to safety? Well, I had to start where it all began. I had to revisit what happened and mourn the loss of that relationship as I knew it. Then, I had to stop feeling sorry for myself—self-pity didn’t do me any good, I had to accept that this crappy thing happened to me and understand it as best I could. Finally, I had to find refuge. In whatever made me feel good: painting, playing in the sand, strumming my guitar, talking with friends. In fact, I still turn to these outlets when I feel myself sinking to that low place again.
Now, here to take the reins, is Rhonda Milrad. Milrad is a licensed clinical social worker, relationship therapist, and founder of online relationship community Relationup, who understands the pain of abandonment as well as the lonely path it leads you down. She delves into tips for moving forward from here, of which mirror the very steps I took to rise again:
“Situations where an abandonment occurred when you were a child (e.g., a parent left you when you were young) has the potential to have a greater effect on you than a situation where you are faced with an abandonment as an adult (e.g., a partner leaves). The former can impact your attachment style and lay the groundwork for anticipating that relationships are not safe and people leave you. The latter can be temporarily painful and overwhelming and cause you to distrust in future relationships. The two intersect when someone has a childhood history of abandonment and then faces an abandonment in their adult life. This latter abandonment becomes even harder to deal with since it brings up the deeper feelings of the earlier abandonment. In order to move forward…
1) You need to mourn the loss of the relationship.
You need to move through the stages of grief and loss, as outlined by Elizabeth Kuper-Ross, to move to acceptance. It is unrealistic to expect that you would get over a relationship (where you are attached) so quickly.
2) You have to move out of your victimization.
It is easy to get stuck in the pain of being left, especially when you are blindsided and your whole world is upended. You have to try and rework your thinking, focusing on the ways that relationship was not right for you and the ways in which you abandoned yourself or tolerated your needs not being met.
3) You need to ground yourself.
You need to utilize a variety of grounding tools to settle and take care of yourself when you are struggling with feelings. Tools include online support groups, friends, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, exercise, motivational readings, and a spiritual practice. When you feel overwhelmed by feelings or unable to cope, it is important to ground yourself until these feelings pass or reduce in intensity.”