Abandonment and the Inner Child

Everyone experiences abandonment at one time or another. But abused and neglected children get hit with it far too early. If you were physically or sexually or emotionally abused as a child, you were abandoned emotionally. The people who were supposed to protect you and love you were not there when it mattered, so you were essentially alone.

I was abandoned at age two, when my sister Suzie was sent away to a special school for kids with Down syndrome. Not only was she gone, but my grief was ignored—worse, I was expected to be cheerful and fix up my parents’ feelings. The grief-stricken two-year-old was all on her own. I feel it afresh now that my sister Suzie has died. But now I’m able to listen to this Little Girl and console her and tell her it’s OK to grieve. Grieving feels scary; it means going to painful, lonely places, but I need to do it. I sit with this little girl every morning, and she cries often these days.

I was abandoned again by abuse. My father, whom I loved, used me sexually, and so this adored person turned into someone else, an alien stranger at times. I was only 3 years old, and suddenly my world was exploded, no safe core of protection. When my mother refused to listen, she betrayed and abandoned me yet again.

It’s through years of therapy and creative-arts healing that I have found a strong Inner Adult to hold, love, and cherish my abandoned Inner Child. I describe this transformative process in my ("inspiring," "unforgettable") book, The River of Forgetting: A Memoir of Healing from Sexual Abuse.

Abandonment calls up the most basic human fears. We are social animals. We need to be raised socially and be shown how to have our emotions and live a full human life. Early abandonment means that there’s always a howling child inside, wondering where love and connection have gone. We need to reconnect and heal that wounded inner child.


Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and ordered your book River of Forgetting. Looking forward to reading it, though am a little afraid. Am uncovering things at 53 years of age. Have lived a life of isolation and people phobia because of it and other abuse. Am in psychotherapy and working on healing. Your drawings are so full of color which is surprising. Thank you for reaching out to others.

Jane Rowan said...

Thanks for your comment. My memories only returned when I was 53, after my father died. I am glad to hear you are in T, it is such a lifeline.

Indeed my book may be triggering, so take care. Not to self-promote, but the Inner Child booklet may be helpful in seeing how to soothe your scared little girl(boy).

Color, yes indeed--the process opened up color and art to me. Some drawings very dark and angry, too. Take care,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kindness. Must say, just reading about your book and "How did it happen that a 52-year-old woman suddenly woke up to the possibility of long-ago abuse?" has been triggering. Have booked an earlier T session. And have decided to use color instead of just grey line drawings.

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading your book. Beautifully done. Have long been struggling to respond in a loving and caring way to the hurt little girl. Realise it needs a loving and caring therapist and the capacity to have the little girl's needs met. Have to receive from the outside to make it work on the inside, like being shown by example. But don't know how to receive without panicking.

Jane Rowan said...

Thank you for your comments. Yes, I agree that receiving from the outside, from a therapist, makes a tremendous difference in learning to care for your inner child.

You're right that receiving can be scary. It made me feel so vulnerable and young, dependent. But as my therapist said, the stage is temporary--although you know from my memoir that it feels like it lasts a long time. One step at a time. A good therapist will understand that you are very vulnerable when learning to receive care. The more you can articulate that and speak about it to your therapist, the better it works, I think.

Best wishes in your journey

Anonymous said...

"The more you can articulate that and speak about it to your therapist, the better it works" Yes, that it exactly. Thanks, that gives me focus.