By Anna McKenzie
The holidays often bring families together. While the emphasis on close relationships results in joy for many, it can mean sadness and fear for others. If you have experienced abandonment, estrangement, or the traumatic loss of a parent or guardian, the holidays may dredge up painful memories. Even adoptees from happy homes can experience trauma and identity issues around being given up for adoption or not knowing who their birth parents are. You might obsessively worry about experiencing another loss in the future, impeding your ability to celebrate with those you love. You might even self-isolate or push away your loved ones to prevent experiencing more rejection or loss.
Abandonment issues can keep you from connecting with people and having a more satisfying relational life. The good news is, when the holidays trigger those emotions, you can find new ways to cope that allow you to resolve the trauma of your past.
What Is Abandonment Trauma?
According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, abandonment is a form of emotional trauma. It happens when a dependent person, most often a child, loses the support of a caregiver — emotionally, physically, or financially. Insecurity and instability can render the child more vulnerable to mental health conditions and behavioral issues as they grow.
Symptoms of Abandonment Trauma in Adults
Abandonment issues can keep you from connecting with people and having a more satisfying relational life.
Fear, depression, anxiety, and anger stemming from abandonment trauma can carry over into adulthood, impairing your ability to form healthy attachments to others. According to Medical News Today, here are some symptoms of abandonment trauma in adults:
- You are a chronic people pleaser
- You give too much in relationships
- You are unable to trust others
- You constantly feel insecure in romantic partnerships and friendships
- You are codependent
- You have a need for continual reassurance that others love you
- You sabotage relationships or push others away to avoid rejection
- You move quickly from relationship to relationship
- You have a fear of emotional intimacy
Unresolved trauma can manifest in many different ways, with symptoms that worsen over time. But individuals who experience abandonment trauma can find a path to healing through intentional self-care and healthy relationships.
How to Move Toward Healing and Trust
The holidays may remind you of the person in your life that you lost, triggering deep-seated grief or fear that others may leave you, too. You can see that others are happy in their relationships (or seem to be) and you feel left out. It can be hard to relate to others when they don’t carry the sadness that you do.
This is why support groups can be so important, especially during the holiday season. Believe it or not, others have experienced abandonment trauma. They share your pain, even though everyone’s experience is different. You may be able to join a group through a counseling center or outpatient treatment center to find grief support. If you don’t have access to a group, finding a counselor to talk to can help you take critical steps toward healing. You don’t have to bear your sadness or sense of loss alone.
It’s also important to recognize that the urge to isolate and reject others comes from your trauma. If you’re afraid to connect with people, invest in learning what healthy relationships look like. Seek out a book, an online course, or a workshop. With more knowledge, you will better understand how to identify what’s healthy — and what’s not — so you can feel safer connecting with others.
Using Self-Care to Rebalance Your Sense of Need
We feel abandoned when someone who should have taken care of us was not able to or chose not to. This leaves us with a long-term sense that someone else should fulfill our needs, even when we become capable of caring for ourselves. So we seek out others and become desperate for them to meet our needs.
Instead of focusing on caring for others so that they will care for you, care for yourself so that you can freely enjoy balanced, healthy relationships.
However, the ability to care for ourselves means that we don’t have to feel desperate anymore. Intentional self-care is an excellent way to remind ourselves that we can meet our own needs in many ways. You can practice self-care by eating healthy meals to nourish your body, resting, keeping up with your hygiene, exercising, meditating, and participating in recreational activities that you enjoy.
Instead of focusing on caring for others so that they will care for you, care for yourself so that you can freely enjoy balanced, healthy relationships. Also, self-care may include developing new coping skills, like coming up with positive affirmations to review when you feel triggered, speaking regularly with a counselor, or practicing mindfulness.
Treatment for Emotional Trauma at the Claudia Black Young Adult Center
Your sense of abandonment may continue to be triggered until you heal the trauma you’ve experienced. If you find that your depression, anxiety, or symptoms related to your abandonment issues have become debilitating, it may be time to seek treatment.
At the Claudia Black Young Adult Center, we utilize a number of proven treatments and therapies to help young adults recover from emotional trauma and associated substance use or mental health conditions. If you or a loved one is interested in addressing abandonment issues, please get in touch with our team today. We can tell you more about our program and help you get started on the journey to recovery.