Emotional injury to self and individual grief are of a personal nature, the very thing that makes abandonment grief different from all others and provides you with a powerful incentive to begin the healing process.
You will be motivated to find a greater life and love than before, not in spite of the rejection you incurred but because of it.
What follows is an inventory of “I” words associated with abandonment’s inner process to help you recognise its characteristics and alert you to it’s pitfalls.
The inner process for all of us will range from self-blame, criticism, hopelessness to a critical inner voice. Similarly, the external aspects of self-injury can result in behaviours that are detrimental to a full recovery These behaviours can manifest in over use of alcohol, partaking of illicit drugs, risk taking behaviours, either sexually or physically, i.e. dangerous driving.
Positive and nurturing self-behaviours can be having a massage, exercise, listening to music, meditation, yoga , reading and being in the company of positive and supportive family and friends,
As you become more conscious of the ways in which abandonment can damage your sense of self, you will actively intercept and refute its negative messages and avoid internalising them.
A break-up often prompts an identity crisis and many feel “being dumped” has branded them as a failure. You may begin to worry about how others see you.
Do they think there’s something wrong with you, that you carry a defective gene that makes you unlovable? Some start to worry that these imagined deficiencies show on the outside for the entire world to see.
A crisis may precipitate feelings of detachment, wondering where and to whom we belong, what is our role and place in the world , feelings of being “out of step” and perhaps holding a perception of others organised and smooth sailing lives. This can be particularly so for adopted persons who may have a life long struggle of becoming comfortable in the world and knowing “their place”.
If/when an adoptee has a reunion with their birth family members; they then face an adjustment of managing the complex dynamics inherent in their relationships with birth family and adoptive family members.
Indictment is one of shame’s chief reinforces. The question most people can’t help but ask during this stage, no matter how strong their self-esteem, is: What did I do to deserve this? Self-doubt and recriminations are usually potent enough to override affirmations you may be using to keep your self-esteem afloat.
We naturally question our beliefs about life and ourselves when we grapple with loss. It is a normal part of grieving process. When abandonment is involved, this introspection can develop into a scathing internal dialogue.
Why do we indict ourselves? As painful and potentially destructive as these thoughts are, they serve a temporary purpose. They provide a sense of control over what has happened. By holding ourselves culpable, we feel we have the power to change the things that brought the relationship to an end. We reason that all we have to do , is correct our faults and we can get our lost partners back.
Even if they don’t come back, at least we can learn what to do (or not to do ) for the next time. Accepting all of the responsibility for the failure of your relationship can lead to further self-injury.
As you look inside for deficiencies to correct, you may come to believe that there is something inherently unacceptable about you. Be aware of this noxious idea, which is erroneous and temporary by-product of your loss.
Many feelings described above belong to the child within, not to your adult self. It is important to reassure your child self that being alone is temporary. If you choose to be in another relationship, you shall be.
Your isolation does not mean that you are unworthy, only that you are in a period of transition and profound personal growth.
Impotent rage results in its own type of anger in abandonment. Your anger at this stage is victim rage: that useless flailing into space; those ineffective assaults upon pillows, dishes, figurines.
These behaviours indicate that you have become the object of your own rage which is a form of frustration. Abandonment survivors often have trouble controlling their aggression during this stage. It is as if the child within has taken over. Sometimes it comes out in tears. Other times you simply explode- usually when you least expect it, and often at people who aren’t at all to blame.
Perhaps you may also find yourself making unrealistic emotional demands upon others. There may be an expectation that others in your life compensate for the nurturing and love you so sorely miss. There may be the need to endlessly talk and discuss with those close to us, the journey from intact relationship to the explosion that has taken place in our lives.
This may also include the implosion which takes place in our heart, psyche and impacts our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Isolation and shame are at the centre of the emotional wound created when abandonment is experienced or a loved one leaves resulting in the terrible shame of being thrown away. Shame is what drives you to keep silent about your feelings.
Loss can be worked through, it can be mitigated, it can be displaced, it can be projected, channelled, medicated, and lessened. But the shame of abandonment evades almost all remedies. Almost all of us have felt the tidal wave of shame that washes over us when we have been left – the condemning silence and crushing isolation and shame.
Don’t let this feeling overwhelm you. Instead name what you’re feeling, lift it out of isolation. This helps to dissolve the shame.
At first, when your world seemed to shatter, being alone was a shock, devastating. During withdrawal, being alone was an unwelcome condition that intensified your grief. During the internalising stage, you see being alone as evidence that you are unworthy of love.
It is at this point that being alone is transformed into self-deprecation. In isolation, your shame can incubate, continuing and creating the invisible wound of abandonment.
At the very heart of the shame is the belief that you are undeserving of love, a crucial and potentially dangerous belief. Remember this is a feeling, one commonly experienced by abandonment survivors. As potent as it is, it is only a feeling, not a fact. You are deserving of love, as we all are.