My husband and I had created an environment that we thought was healthy, but it turned out that it was far from it. We made sure that our children did not experience or see us angry or arguing, so our arguments were done privately away from them. With that, we deprived them of experiencing normalcy in their home, we gave them a false impression that seeing us argue would mean we were bad, but they needed to see that side of us, they needed to see us as normal people. What they ended up with was an idea that their parents did not have problems and that we did not fight at all. So when our marriage fell apart they didn’t understand what could have gone wrong because to them, we were an epitome of love and perfection.
It is not healthy to be throwing things and screaming at each other in the presence of children, but it is equally unhealthy to protect them so much from reality that they end up blaming themselves when things turn sour. Showing your frustration or disagreements is a good way to show your children that you are normal, as long as things do not get out of control.
As a result of this poor image that we created, after our divorce, our children felt abandoned when the one parent was no longer around. The effects of these were disheartening and way too painful to ignore. Let me explain what abandonment is if it sounds a bit confusing. It is when a person pulls out their presence and support suddenly and without notice from someone who still needs their presence and support. When they are no longer accessible and no longer honour their responsibilities as expected. For this article, I want to concentrate on abandonment from an angle of family relationships. David wrote in Psalm 27v10 – “When my father and my mother forsake, desert, reject, disown me, then the Lord will take me up.
You might be wondering how a parent can disown their own child. My children experienced not just the emotional side of this but the physical side too. Usually it is when parents relinquish their role that children take matters into their own hands and in their quest to try to figure things out, they reveal things that are not attractive to us parents and so we now physically disown them, where you’ll hear a parent saying, you cannot be child behaving or doing what you are doing, or you are not my responsibility, I am only responsible for child A or B, you are your mother’s or father’s responsibility. To an innocent child, this hurts a whole lot.
When you have been abandoned, it is difficult to trust. You end up being insecure and fear rejection so much that you end up buying affection, this is a costly transaction which no one has sufficient funds for. You now seek attention, by all means necessary because you did not or are not getting it from the person who was or is supposed to give it, which is the parent who left. Some of these activities may seem small or irrelevant but they are a genuine cry for attention, for instance, have you seen someone whose social media status would say something like “I am so sad, please don’t ask me why” or “please not again”. When you see such messages, the aim is to get someone to say “what’s wrong” and they will usually tell you “nothing” or “it’s just a joke” – don’t judge or dismiss people who do that, there is a lot of pain behind those seemingly innocent messages.
Insecurity will mean that you try to get other people to like you, because when you are insecure, you really think less of yourself so much that it feels good to hear someone praise you or affirm you, because you want acceptance, because the feeling is that the parent who abandoned you does not accept you. It is hard to embrace your unique individuality when you have been abandoned, so you crave someone’s opinion instead of your own.
How to heal and move on from abandonment
Forgive – Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to live your life. This means that if they don’t acknowledge their wrongdoing you will not willingly forgive them and move on from the hurt. Forgive the parent who abandoned you. Understand that nobody in their right mind will abandon their own child and forget to look back unless they do not have capacity for the responsibility expected of them. Just because a person is a parent may not mean that they are capable and able to fulfil their role. So forgive them.
Acknowledge that it hurts – do not pretend to be okay. It hurts. It hurts a whole lot, so do not pretend that it doesn’t hurt. Acknowledge that it has happened or it is happening and that it is not your fault that things went wrong. Understand that you cannot carry the load of your parents' faults on your fragile shoulders, it is heavy. Talk about it with your parents if possible, ask them what happened, they should be able to say really or anyone who is available to talk, but don’t hold it in and carry it all by yourself alone. Talk to someone!
Allow yourself to heal – know that this will eventually be not as painful as it is now. You will heal from this, and there is only one healer, not your counsellor or therapist, not your pastor, not your life coach, not your family and not your friends. But Jehovah Rapha, He is the only balm in Gilead. He always brings perfect healing.
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