Lost: Understanding and Coping With Abandonment
by Mike Obsatz
We hear a lot about abandonment. Infants are abandoned in front of churches. Victims of bullies are often abandoned when they come forward and tell their truth. Some of the elderly are abandoned by their families and spend their last years alone. Some marginalized kids are abandoned and left to cope on their own.
So what does abandonment mean, and what forms of abandonment exist? Abandonment is about being left, deserted, and without support. Abandonment is being cast out, being an outcast. This can take many forms, and have many consequences.
Why does abandonment exist?
Some people have been so emotionally and physically damaged themselves that they lack skills. It does not occur to them to care for others because they don't believe that they are responsible for them.
Other people lack empathy and compassion. They are self-absorbed, and do not think about the consequences of their behavior on other people. It takes a level of maturity to see the big picture-- and begin caring for those in need, those who have little or nothing.
Still others, out of laziness, don't want to handle the responsibilities of caring for others.
How does abandonment relate to trust?
Psychologist and author Erik Erikson said that trust is the cornerstone of emotional development. In the first years of life, a child is dependent upon the consistency and care of adults around them. When a child is abandoned, it is difficult for the child to trust anyone.
How do some people feel about being abandoned?
They suffer in pain, and sorrow, missing what they have lost. Many numb themselves. Some close up, and become martyrs, not trusting anyone. This grieving can take many forms, and go on forever.
How do some people respond to abandonment?
Some are very hurt, and some bitter and hostile. They go on to do violence to others and themselves. Some engage in self-sabotaging behaviors. Others may be suicidal or depressed. Some mask their hurt feelings with addictive behaviors that temporarily numb them and give them a high, such as drugs, busyness, gambling, food, shopping, or codependency.
How can we help abandoned people?
We must first notice them, and see who they are. We have to listen, pay attention, care about them. This is difficult to do for some abandoned people are not pleasant to be around. Abandoned people almost always need therapy, skills training, support groups, and opportunities to realize that their abandonment was not their fault. Spiritual practices which validate the value and worth of every person can also help.