How To Overcome Abandonment Issues From Childhood

Few things have the power to hold you back in your adult life as much as abandonment. Legions of people are wondering how to overcome abandonment issues from childhood.

Sadly, there are many different ways that parents can fail their children. Thanks to research and awareness, there are many resources available to people who grew up with any form of abuse from their parents. But there are two other types of parental failure that are far less noticed or discussed: parental abandonment and Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN).

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

Children are born literally “pre-wired” with some very specific emotional needs. Thanks to loads of scientific research, we now know, without a doubt, that in order to grow and thrive as an adult, children must feel loved and emotionally attached to their parents.

Childrens’ emotional needs are, in fact, so crucial that even well-meaning, physically present parents can inadvertently harm their children by not responding enough to their children’s emotions. This subtle parental failure happens far and wide, and I have given it the name Childhood Emotional Neglect, or CEN. 

Though CEN happens under the radar in most emotionally neglectful homes, it nevertheless leaves lasting effects upon the child: disconnection, lack of fulfillment, and feelings of being empty and alone, among others.

If physically present, well-meaning parents can fail their children in such a subtle way that harms them, you can imagine the powerful impact of parental abandonment.

Parental Abandonment

Parents leave their children in many different ways, and for many different reasons. Whether your parent left you because of divorce, death, or choice, the reason matters far less than the fact that he or she left you.

It is very difficult for a child’s brain to absorb the enormity of abandonment. Children often suffer problems with anger or grief after the loss of a parent. Most children have difficulty believing that it is permanent, even if their parent has passed away. But if your parent walked away by choice, you will also likely struggle with your very natural question of, “Why?”

The 3 Main Issues Of The Abandoned Child

  1. Trusting others: When your parent abandons you, he or she is violating your most basic human need, which is to have parents who value and enjoy you. If the one who is meant to love and care for you the most in this world leaves you, it becomes very difficult to believe that anyone and everyone who becomes important to you will not do the same. You may end up living your life constantly on-guard for the possibility of being abandoned again. It’s hard to trust that your partner, friend or loved one has your best interests in mind. This holds you back from forming rich, deep, trusting relationships.
  2. Guilt and shame: All abandoned children are deeply mystified about why their parents left them. Many struggle with the fact that there is no good explanation because, let’s face it, apart from death there is no good reason for a parent to leave a child. In the absence of a logical explanation, the child naturally tends to blame herself. This sets up a pattern of feeling deeply responsible for her parent’s choice to leave her. The abandoned child often grows up to struggle with guilt and shame.
  3. Self-worth: “How could my own parent leave me?” the abandoned child wonders. Being left by the one who brought you into this world naturally makes you wonder what is wrong with you. The abandoned child is set up to never feel good enough. Deeply, painfully, he feels unworthy of true love and commitment.

Many thousands of children grow up with parents who are physically present, yet emotionally absent — Childhood Emotional Neglect. These children grow up to feel less important than others, and deeply alone.

Many thousands more children experience the deep trauma of a parent physically abandoning them. If you had this experience as a child, you have probably grown up to struggle with trust, shame, and low self-worth.

Even if you are physically abandoned, if you have one parent who remains present and is emotionally attuned to you, this can greatly soften the impact of the other parent’s abandonment.

Emotional attunement from a parent is the balm that soothes all childhood hurts, and the antidote that prevents depression, anxiety, and low self-worth. If you grew up in a family that offered a shortage of this balm, you may be struggling to this day.

How To Overcome Abandonment Issues From Childhood

Whether you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect, abandonment, or a combination of the two, it’s not too late for you to repair those childhood hurts. Now, as an adult, you can make up for what you didn’t get in childhood.

By beginning to tune in to yourself to pay attention to your feelings, by making a concerted effort to take care of your own needs, and by learning emotion management skills, you can begin the process of accepting your own true value as a human being.

If your parents failed you emotionally or abandoned you, you can become your own present, loving and attuned parent now.

It’s never too late to begin to accept that you matter.

To learn much more about the emotional needs of children, the effects of having emotionally or physically absent parents and how you can heal yourself, see Running On Empty or Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships.

To find out if you grew up with Childhood Emotional Neglect Take the Emotional Neglect Test. It’s free!


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Melody - September 10, 2021 Reply

I recently had my prayers answered, my mother came back into my life after dropping me off at school 13 years ago and not showing back up in my life until just last year. People think that finding their parents after they abandon you suddenly erases all of that pain…it doesn’t. I still wonder what I did wrong, I still cry in utter heartbreak.

It doesn’t help that when she left me (and my siblings) were then raised by my emotionally abusive and neglectful grandma, and my abusive on all fronts father

    Jonice - September 13, 2021 Reply

    Dear Melody, you did nothing wrong. Parents make the choices they do because of themselves, not their children. I encourage you to talk this over with a therapist and begin working on giving yourself the emotional validation and care that you did not get as a child.

Julia Held - August 31, 2021 Reply

My mother abandoned my siblings and me when I was 10 years old. I’m 30 and still reeling from the effects of it. I feel like I will never be whole. I feel like the pain will never go away.

Melody - August 22, 2021 Reply

My father abused (both mentally and physically) myself and my 2 siblings, and then abandoned us when we were in our early teens. I can’t get over that, why would you stay in our lives that long and cause all that trauma just to leave one day and never come back? That’s why I don’t trust any romantic partners. Why would anyone else love and care for me when my own father couldn’t? It’s too risky. The first half of my life was hell, I don’t want the second half to be that way too.

Yvonne - August 11, 2021 Reply

Dear Jonice, two months ago I had to take in two of my grandchildren, girl aged 11 and boy aged 4. The 4-year old is now settling into a routine and seems to welcome the stability and discipline which was sorely missing in his life. Although he on odd occasions says he misses his parents he is happy and content. I am now struggling with the 11-year old with abandonment issues. She is moody, depressed, angry and at times spiteful to her brother. She says her parents and older sister do not care for her. I think the contact she has with them is not personal enough in nature and to infrequent, although she is prone to depression after contact with them. She does say that she prefers being with me but clearly she is very unhappy. How do I help her overcome this? I feel quite helpless.

    Jonice - August 11, 2021 Reply

    Dear Yvonne, 11 is a very vulnerable age to have an abandonment happen. It’s wonderful what you are doing for your grandchildren. I encourage you to find a therapist near you who works with girls her age and try to get her talking to a trained professional about this.

Anna - August 5, 2021 Reply

Hi Jonice!
Today when walking outside, a little bit less warm summer day, a mother and little son walked past. The child said “it’s cold here”. The mother replied, “no it doesn’t, it’s warm”. When I have been following your work and advice, hearing this kind of things breaks my heart. The child felt cold, maybe the adult didn’t felt cold. But why did she had to deny his experience, the validity of it? How annoying!

Some years ago I felt intense sadness because of a loss that I don’t want to talk about here, but my friend said, “let’s go do some fun, to cheer you up”. I didn’t ask to become “cheered up”, I did not want to! Being sad was an appropriate feeling in that situation! But of course she meant well.
I’m not trying to be arrogant or superior, but I’ve just noticed how even seemingly mature, smart, intelligent adults can have very low level of understanding and managing emotions. No wonder if this cen issue is common!

Recently I studied NLP method and the teacher said we can always choose our emotions. I became confused. I think it is the exact opposite of what you Jonice teach! The teacher said as an example, that “even is funeral, we can choose to be happy”. What a weird statement. Why would anyone do that?? I’m sometimes tired with this happiness-obsession, this sort of fake/forced positivity, that many life coaches “sell”. Life has ups and downs and corresponding feelings, normal right? Even if we could technically always choose our emotions…sounds incredibly laborious to me.

I think I unconsciously learned in childhood that my feelings are burden to other people. That I should somehow “protect” other people from them, and do not share them and have a smiling facade. As an adult, I’ve often felt lonely and somehow disconnected, like an island.
I notice it is a huge trigger (source of irritation) to me now as an adult, if anyone tells me what/how I “should” feel.
Usually it is something else than what I actually feel. I’m done pleasing people! I cannot act in whatever way, but I think I can feel whatever way. I’m strong enough to carry and feel my own emotions and if I’m not, I ask for professional help.
But if my feelings are a perceived burden to other people, if they are uncomfortable with them and therefore quick to “should” me re. my feelings, can we just conclude that it is then THEIR problem? 🙂

James - July 18, 2021 Reply

My father left shortly after I turned three in 1965 and my mother dumped us on her parents before I turned six. Unfortunately, my grandparents were clearly unable to care for four children, as my grandmother was losing her eyesight and my grandfather greatly resented being made responsible for his grandchildren, so we were placed in a children’s home (though we did spend time with them during holidays and school breaks. ) By 1971 we were moved to a small and very nice group home. We had all our physical needs met and more; it was in fact, almost an upper middle class situation for us. However, one of the psychiatrists the children’s home used decided that I wasn’t adapting to the group home environment, so I ended up being separated from three siblings and placed in foster homes. To compound problems, this psychiatrist also decided that I suffered from a condition known as MBD (Minimal Brain Dysfunction) and she prescribed a hefty dosage of Thorazine as part of my treatment, which I was kept on until I turned 15. Between 1973 and 1980 I bounced through five foster homes. In fairness, I received thousands of dollars worth of psychotherapy by an exceptionally good psychologist. Nonetheless, I grew up to be an adult who, despite being very bright (I had tested IQ of 145,) failed to accomplish much in his life I do not associate with people outside work and had no contact with my siblings for some twenty five years after finishing high school (for no reason other than a certain inertia.) I currently communicate with my sister on a weekly basis, but I have little contact with my younger brother or oldest sister. I’m not especially unhappy with my life, after all there’s little point when you consider that life has no meaning or purpose. All we are doing in life is trying to keep ourselves occupied while we wait to learn how we are going to die.

    Jonice - July 18, 2021 Reply

    Dear James, please do not give up on finding the meaning and purpose of your life. It is so very important and valuable. We must all seek it for ourselves and that process is what makes our lives worthwhile. I do understand it’s hard. Please know many others are struggling alongside you, whether you feel it or not.

Greg - June 13, 2021 Reply

Im a father who has abandoned his kids,i got over the constant fighting and battling to see them because their mother does not stick to the court orders.what am i meant to say to my children? Call their mother all the names under the sun? Of course not,i Just have to let it go,i will have to let their mother corrupt their minds About me. Ive Just drifted away slowly and stopped calling,they dont Need me in their sure they will be fine.
maybe one day When theyre older they will call and i will answer but i will still not talk bad About their mother. Unfortunately their mother has put her own needs before theirs and still cant let stuff go, needs to get back at me through witholding them.
Have i abandoned my kids by giving up….yes i think so,i will have to live with that choice now until i die.

    Jonice - June 13, 2021 Reply

    Dear Greg, I’m sorry for your very, very difficult situation. I encourage you to talk this over with a trained therapist who can advise you on how to handle this. Making the decision to walk away will leave its mark on your children forever. And, as you say, you will have to live with it as well. Please get some help and support on this.

    Monica - July 20, 2021 Reply

    Please don’t give up on them.
    They need you.
    Whatever you do, they do not deserve to be abandoned.
    Trust me, they need you and love you.

MarieC - June 8, 2021 Reply

This article wasn’t easy to read, as I am a parent said to have abandoned my daughter and son. This is how my daughter describes what happened. She is an adult, and no matter how many years I have tried to connect, my daughter still remains passive aggressive toward me. I have cried, explained, apologized, given money when needed, more than anything, I have said how much I love her, and what happened, and why I chose to ask people in her family to help, has made little difference. My daughter was told by her family that I was at fault for the abuse she experienced by her birth father. No matter that I did what I could to flee the situation, as I was beaten and abused. Leaving that kind of situation, is never easy. And when you make the break, and then be told you are to blame and are a liar, really hurt me. However, for children to hear this, was very destructive and confusing. Though, my daughter remembers, and saw what happened to me, she still has no empathy. My daughter was abused by her father. I did not know. However, she said I knew and did nothing, and that I just didn’t want to be a mother anymore. This story she believes, breaks my heart. And no matter how I have tried to talk about where I was mentally and how the abuse I went through affected my life, my sense as a mother, and that I believed I was a bad mother and could not control the outburst behavior of my two children.

After I fled, moving to another state, my children’s behavior was more than I could handle in my state of emotional break. Their school threaten expulsion, due to aggressive behavior by my nine-year son, and verbal abuse of my 11 year-old daughter toward her teacher, of whom she gave the finger, glued his jacked to his chair, etc. I was verbally called names by both children. My son was completely out of control, and I know, he was only nine at the time, but it was what it was. My family tried to help, I took them to counseling, I tried coping. Then, my children’s fathers family told our abuser where we moved to, and one day he arrived at our door, as my son opened to the knock while I was in the bathroom. I withstood, his presence where he would not leave, rape in the night, and I didn’t fight back, as I knew I could be killed that time. Early the next morning I woke, closed my bedroom door, gathered my children, and left my apartment. I called my apartment over and over until he answered. I threatened to call the police if he was not out immediately. He left, but returned one more time a few months later. A lot happened in between and I wasn’t making any difference in my children’s lives. Depression and thoughts of being a failure, and feelings that if my children were going to have a chance in this life, we needed a break. So, I called family and one best friend for help. So my son went for what was to be a short stay with friends, and my daughter was sent to live with friends of family in another state, of whom I communicated with in depth. They wanted to help.

Those people, turned on me as well. My daughter told that I knew of her abuse, and that was it for her caretakers, said I would never get her back. My friends who took my son, never were able to have their own children, so my son was manipulated away from me. I gave up. I just stopped and fell into depression even deeper and planned to die. However, I had a four-year old of which, there wasn’t a place for her to go. So, I picked myself up off the floor, re-connected with a friend, a man, who was employed by the State Department, and married him. Perhaps, fleeing the country, was my way of fleeing what I could not change. My heart was broken in so many ways. I was a child of great abuse, a spouse of great abuse, and then, married to a man of great mental abuse.

Over the years, I stayed in contact, visited my children, and began behaving as if the story wasn’t really mine, as if it belonged to someone else. However, I am to blame, I am the mother and no matter how broken I was, I should have been able to fix the problems and saved my children from going down the wrong path. I am to blame, and have carried this weight for 35 years. I have never stopped trying, never. But, my daughter wears her story and has told everyone, so that when I am around her friends, family, etc, the elephant is always in the room, and that elephant is me. My son, he is okay, though his childhood affect his life. He went through a lot of bad choices, and was placed in juvenile hall. So, the friends could not fix his problems either. He is good now, and is a dedicated employee and father. My daughter is an amazing nurse and mother. How, do I continue to live with my daughter’s opinion that I just abandoned her as well as coupling me as part of what her father did to her. I know, what you all think. How could I have placed my kids with other people. The elementary schools reported my children’s behavior, and I was called in. Officials came to my apartment to talk to me. They concluded, that if I couldn’t control my children’s behavior, that they would be placed in foster care. As you can see, I felt, truly hopeless. I was not a neglectful parent. I showed love, affection, routine, barrowed money for my daughters violin, etc.

Nonetheless, I failed them, I failed them in every way. So perhaps, I deserve the treatment from my daughter. She is my best friend when she needs money or something. After, slowly she slides back into being too busy. I helped my son for years, but have stopped now. He is able to take care of his life. My daughter is a register nurse and is doing well.

Please, feel free to share your thoughts. Please be kind. I have been beaten enough, but still hold this weight of loss, and failure. I often want to kill myself, and just leave this life, then I feel my daughter would be free of where I failed her. But, I have three other children, and they would be crushed. But the temptation at times overshadows that.

Thank you for listening.

    Jonice - June 13, 2021 Reply

    Dear Marie, the idea that if you died, your abandoned daughter would be free is just wrong on so many levels. That is not how human psychology works! It’s so very important that you talk with a therapist about your situation and experience. Please tell your therapist you have thoughts of suicide. Believe me, such an act would harm all of your children in painful, damaging ways. Please, please seek help with this!

Ron - May 27, 2021 Reply

Wow I parodically google abandoned children stories hoping to find one that matches mine… NONE. I’m one of three siblings one year apart born to two wounded parents. Mother who’s mother only kissed her once at 13 the day she died. Father, only child had it really good to age 8 when his mother allowed herself to get pregnant, she had violated grandpa’s requirement they only would have ONE child. (he was the oldest of 13)

That pregnancy destroyed his childhood. They stayed together barely speaking for 8 more years, ate separate tables, separate bedrooms. Father grew very willful.They met in high school as sweethearts and established a mutually co dependent relationship They married at 18 to live out their marriage as high school sweethearts. That would have fine, BUT they wanted and had 3 children.

So confusing for us kids. We often heard your parents are so in love always walking hand in hand we behind them. We certainly believed we were not wanted, not to talk not even, never affirmed absolutely no unconditional love expressed

Ages 4-5-6 Daddy sat us down at the picnic table and instructed us that we would no longer call them mommy and daddy but Bob and Maryanne. Try processing that one Being the middle one I found my place as the defiant one. Still seeking there love and being told “you always want to much attention” rejection. There was none to be had

I found self pleasure by age 6 and that fit in with my fantasizing what my life would be like when I was released from that house. My home, wife, loving children, profession hobbies boats, cars and even my best imaginary friend “Keith” who understood my situation. The problem with surviving on fantasying is that it lacks human connections but it was safe.

settling into my real life marriage executing my childhood fantasy life and how emotionally immature I was a disaster at 20 years one son I sought help with a therapist because my age 6 pleasure coping tool was out of control with the changes of life. I saw him for three years and he tried everything hypnosis sending mommy dearest away in a black car. his conclusions at the end “You did not pick this coping tool. Your ego did. our ego exists to step in and protect us when we are threatened to our core. Unfortunately our ego is not good at long term planning and since you situation only worsened you drew on it more and more as you only coping tools”

Our father “Bob” died at 42 of acute alcoholism. Sad. I can recall one emotional connection with him after my defiance led to his taking to the park one night and beating me damaging my nose and came to me sequester in my bedroom truly in remorse apologizing. Shit I thought that was love.
my mother “maryanne” lived on and one day thinking If forgave her things would be better. Her reply, “If you must” and “I may have made some mistakes” Last time I will ever forgive someone who has not asked for forgiveness.

No one wants to talk about this childhood stuff after high school and yet most adult changes started in our first 4 years. I read a professional publication. “Every child by the age of 4 will answer one big question “What type of place have I been born into?” Is this a safe place where I can trust my caretakers to have my best interests at heart? is additional love available? Fortunately most children can will answer YES, However, for me’s the answer would be, “I have been born into a dangerous place and I am on my own to provide for all of my emotional needs” That is a very sad place for any child to be in at age 4. But that core decision will under or over ride all future relationships.

I am most blessed having married a Sunday School teacher who grew up receiving her human gifts of unconditional to re-gift to our son.

Finally, a few years back mowing the lawn and thinking about my growing up, In my head i asked “God why didn’t you help me, “They never asked for my help”

Chet - May 11, 2021 Reply

I am struggling so bad right now. My father won full custody of my brother and I in 1980 due to abuse and neglect from my mother. I did not meet my mother until I was 14, then didn’t see her again until I was 17. At 17 I moved in with her, but she was always trying to fix me and at 17 I didn’t want to be fixed so I left after approximately 3 months. I should note that my mother denies any wrongdoing and says my father only won because he had the better attorney. My mother believes herself to be the victim having her children taken away. She does admit that she never tried to get us back, never tried to see us, never sent mail or packages, despite k owing our phone number and exactly where we lived. My father never asked for a dime of child support from her either. She was able to land a very well paying job that required her to travel all over the World and be gone 3-6 months at a time. My father was a truck driver and we were very poor (my mother judges my father because he was not able to make a descent living). We stayed with my grandparents most of the time.
When I was 25 and pregnant with my daughter, I began to wonder again how/why she could walk away so I attempted a relationship with her again. She had remarried to a man who had his 8 yr old daughter every other weekend and my mom and her seemed very close. I was the outsider and she continually told me everything I was doing wrong from the way I dressed to money management. My husband and I received food stamps at the time and she looked down on that severely. Her and her husband hated my husband and sat me down and offered to move me across country, pay for a place for me to live, pay legal fees so I got full custody of my daughter and pay for me to go to school if I would agree to divorce my husband. My husband was an amazing father and husband. He worked every day sick or not to provide, but it just wasn’t quite enough. They said I would be much happier with a more successful man. This made me so mad because othing I did was ever good enough. I walked away and said I would never look back. When I was 35, I was pregnant with my second child, again I started a relationship with her. I was in my last year of college. I did not ever ask her for money as I didn’t want her to think that is why I came around.
She made sure to tell me we would never have a relationship like she did with her step child because she didn’t raise me. It hurt, but I knew she was right. They were paying big bucks to put my stepsister through a private college. We both graduated the same year. She was given a brand new car and I received a $200 gift card. I immediately landed and excellent job, doubled my salary in a little less than two years and continued to climb. My husband became a stay at home dad, we purchased a nice home, we managed our money well, but it was never enough. I tried to tell myself she only wants the best so I followed her advice (she had a way of completely tearing me apart when she felt I needed to improve or change something). I never fit the bill. I literally made myself sick trying to be and do everything she thought I should. My husband was ready to leave and by now she had started nitpicking my daughter to the point my daughter hated her and my daughter is a kind soul who has never hated anyone. Last week after she called me and yelled and screamed at me I calmly said “No, Mom. No, you do not get to talk to me like this. I am hanging up and you can call back when you have calmed down.” This infuriated her and she began to speak to with such hatred that it broke me. I sobbed for days. All of those old feelings of worthlessness came back and I suddenly viewed myself as unworthy to the point of almost suicidal and that is when I said to myself “No more!” I wrote a letter and walked away for the final time. She posted a gushy tribute to her stepdaughter on Facebook the day after saying how proud she was of her daughter.
This time I feel as if I am about to crumble inside. I feel like I can’t hardly get out of bed. It’s all I can think about. What can I do? Is there a book?
Thank you

F - May 8, 2021 Reply


Since I am born, my parents never showed any sign of love between them. they slept in a separate room.
I dont know why, but my mom hated my dads family. every year for christmas, my sister and I, had to choose in which family we wanted to spend the holidays. my mom always talked in the back of my dad. this create a fence between my dad and us. i wasnt close to him.
i think about it now, and at the time, i thought it was normal. its crazy how innocent we are when we are young.
at the age of 16, my parents divorced. my mom started seeing someone else. and she left, she never came back to visit us, she never messaged us, even when my sister got pregnant. when she left, i got angry inside me. i was also really sad to witness my friends family: they had a mom and a dad that care for them and their future. it was a hard time, i think even today i have not process the whole thing. i thought my mom loved us. i dont understand.

now, in every relationship i have, i always struggle. its the same issue. trust.

thank you for reading.

marissa m - May 5, 2021 Reply

Hi, my name is Marissa the first 6 years of my life my mom was in and out of my life. We would go to visitations where I would see her every other Sunday and it made me so happy to see her but after a while she would stop showing up and I’d be sad but I didn’t want to make my dad sad so I wouldn’t tell him that I’d act like I didn’t care since the age of 3 so I didn’t hurt him eventually she stopped seeing me and it broke my heart I felt like once I would get use to her she would leave me. I’ve always had problems opening up to people and trusting. It wasn’t until recently I realized it wasn’t normal to keep your feelings to myself being an only child it felt like all I had was myself I blamed myself and still do for her leaving but for some reason I can’t admit it wasn’t my fault.

Tim - April 7, 2021 Reply

I’m a 63 year old man who was abandoned by both parents when I was 2 or 3 years old and dumped on my grandparents.
My old man was married 4 times and I was never allowed to live in his home with his new family. My mother remarried and had three more kids but, I was never allowed to live with her either.
My grandparents were wonderful people but, when I was 9 my grandfather died at work and eventually, my grandmother would lose her home to the banks.
My old man, who was on wife # 3, reluctantly, came and dragged me away into some scruffy, hippy colony and later a small town where, about 20 minutes after I left high school, my old man, now on wife # 4, “suggested” that it was time for me to move on.
I joined the regular army at 17 and later, made a career in law enforcement, married a wonderful woman and tried to exorcise my past.
I wish that I could say something warm and fuzzy or inspirational but, the pain that my parents inflicted on me and the sad, compensatory behavior that I hid behind, tortures me every day.

    Steve - July 6, 2021 Reply

    Your story resonates with me Tim. I actually appreciate your brutal honesty as I’m dealing with similar issues myself. It is a comfort to me to know that in spite of it you made a success of your life. All the best

S - March 31, 2021 Reply

My life has been a mess since I was born, my whole family hated each other and they were always fighting, this was worsened after I was born. Both of my parents left me when I was two, they left me in the middle of winter without heat in the house and no clothes on and never came back, luckily a package was delivered to our house and the UPS guy stayed with me and called the authorities, I was then in the hands of the state. They put me with my grandma and it was ok until I was 6 or 7 and then the downhill fall began, we lived in an apartment complex and I came home from school one day, and people were screaming at my grandma and me and banging on our walls. The owner came and then kicked us out so we had to scramble and find somewhere to live. and the thing was my grandma couldn’t make an income so we didn’t quite have the means to get a new place, we moved in another family and they treated me weird and wouldn’t let me go in certain parts of their house and I could only stay in like two rooms, it was lonely. They got mad at us and kicked us out eventually. So we moved in with another family and they were nice until my grandma and the other lady had a disagreement and so we were kicked out and we had to live in a tent with barely any food. we finally found a place and we were happy for a few months until the neighbors across the street tried to take me and keep me. after my grandma wouldn’t let them have me they threw glass beer bottles at us and our house, I was terrified but I ended up staying up that night to make sure my grandma was ok, that she wasn’t scared. A week after that my grandma handed me over to a family at a local church and she went back to South Carolina and I have barely seen her since. Now I struggle with Anxiety, Depression, and trust issues, I struggle to talk to really anyone but especially my guardians but I’m trying to be better. And I go to therapy and I’m working through all that stuff. and I want anyone who is reading this to know that no matter how difficult it is you will get through it and you are so deeply loved. It is hard to remember that sometimes, I know that but just keep fighting.

    Jonice - April 4, 2021 Reply

    Dear S, I hope you have a good therapist helping you cope with the painful experiences you have had. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Coral - August 4, 2021 Reply

    Dear S ,
    Thank You for sharing and caring. I hope you always have people as good as you and your Grandma to support you. I know you and your Grandma are in a lot of pain. I wish you did not have to go through that. Again Thank You , you are a wonderful human being. I know your grandma is proud of you. warm regards , Coral

Kristen - March 21, 2021 Reply

Hi everyone, my name is Kristen. I’m taking this bold step to write about this for the first time in my life. I grew up not knowing my dad; he left when I was born cos he felt I wasn’t worth his time. My mom later got married I was 9 & started treating me badly cos she wasn’t happy in her marriage. She constantly reminded me dat I was a mistake, a terrible child, a child she wished she have aborted. One time she even said that I had bad luck cos my dad have not come back for me, leaving only her to cater for me. Once my mom look me in the eyes and told me she’ll cater to all my physical needs but she will never love me or show me love. True to her words, she kept her promise & I died inside everyday. The amount of shame & guilt I felt as a child even till now is unexplainable. I’m constantly suicidal cos the intense amounts of rejection I’ve experienced in my lifetime is even to go around. Now in my adulthood I find it hard to create attachment wit people cos I feel the always leave, trying to build my self esteem cos it was less than zero & trying to stop d people pleasing personae or should I say developing multiple personalities just so I could fit in cos I always feel I’m not good enough. I’m trying to brave my way through life but it’s not really been easy fixing the damage. My story is endless but I’ll stop here for now. I wrote this for someone dat might be going through similar experience, I want you to know dat U ARE NOT ALONE. sending you lots of love and light

    Jonice - March 21, 2021 Reply

    Dear Kristen, I very much encourage you to talk this over with a trained therapist. Your mother was not able to provide you with the love that you definitely deserve. It’s never too late to work on this and heal yourself.

    Coral - August 4, 2021 Reply

    Hi , Kristen,
    You are for sure right WE ARE NOT ALONE , and if we sometimes are we can get through it . But thanks to you I won’t ever have to be alone again. Kristen , Do not judge yourself by your mom’s illness. Anyone that would not treat you or any child as good as they can is very sick. We are lucky , we will never do that . You be proud you are here like S , writing to help others , YOU are terrific !! Take care , Coral

Jim - February 14, 2021 Reply

Parents divorced when I was 9 brother was 4. Both parents were out for themselves. We were with my mom at first and she meet someone new and had a kid. Shortly after my brother and I moved with my dad. Never lived with mom again. Spoke with her from time to time and got gifts at birthdays and holidays. 30 years later I still don’t know why it played out like that. Dad says my mom wanted a new family and left us, mom says that she fought for us and dad refuses to let us go with her. Both are liars in my opinion. I have moved on but I can’t help but think why? My half brother and sister had a great life and my brother and I got lies. We are both doing well financially and we both have been married years (me 23, him 10) and have kids. During slow times or movies that depict this really messes with my head though. Just wish I could get an honest answer, but neither one is honest enough to admit the truth. Both pin it on the other

Holly Cook - January 6, 2021 Reply


My mum is my dad’s 2nd wife. He had 2 other children with his 1st wife. When I was really small, I saw them all the time. They would come and stay every weekend. I loved them so much. When I was about 7 years old, their mother had become friends with a Jehovah’s witness. I didn’t know it at the time but they started seeing us less and then one day I saw them at my cousins birthday party. They seemed like they didn’t want to be there. That was the last time I saw them.

They just disappeared out of my life. This destroyed me. I loved them and they were gone. 19 years later my dad was contacted by his ex wife as she needed the divorce papers for something. My dad said the only way I’ll help you is if you give me my children’s phone numbers.

So we got back in touch. We saw them quite a bit at first. One day I received an email from my older brother saying that he liked the way his life is and doesn’t want me in it.

The first time was bad enough but this one has given me depression and anxiety. I’m normally fine on a day to day basis and then something reminds me of it and I’m a mess. I cry like the 7 year old child who lost them then.

Lee - January 1, 2021 Reply

Hello Dr. Webb.

I’m amazed at your mental prowess and stregnth and thank you for coining CEN. Great job !!!! History will remember you favourably and forever!

I’m 62 and have suffered from physical and parental/family abandonment at age 16 when I was sent to the united states then completely cut off by ny very cruel and narcississtic parents. I was literally abandoned to fend for myself in a foreign country and worked my way up from a gas station attendent to a computer egineer at IBM. I went to college while financing myself and had nobody to depend on emotionally and thought I was over all that until recently when it all FLOODED back into my psyche. I realized that I was emotionally, physically and completely abandoned and by parents who would never admit it. They constantly blamed ME for that abandonment since I decided to be a musician and not study engineering originally. After I graduated with a B.Sc. in computer science at age 30, I decided not to seek communication with them out of anger. They both died and we never ended up with closure. Has anyone else relayed a story like mine to you ? Your research is cultural specific to the united states and I’m very curious to hear about immigrant CEN in your experience.

Happy new year to you and your family and best wishes for a great 2021.

Thanks very much

    Jonice - January 3, 2021 Reply

    Dear Lee, I’m so sorry you experienced so much challenge to your spirit and such significant loss. I encourage you to contact a CEN therapist from my Find A CEN Therapist List. You deserve support and help resolving and getting perspective on all of this.

    Renae - January 27, 2021 Reply

    I have a very similar story. But I am in my 40s, haven’t spoken to my parents in 11 years – but I am glad.
    The narcissistic cycle of cruelty and abuse is best left way out of my life.
    The abandonment from the age of 16 which ended in a push-pull cycle is the last piece of the puzzle I am wrestling with to be free. I believe the only way you find closure is by sitting with yourself.

Erik - December 3, 2020 Reply

Hi Dr.Webb

I’ve recently found your articles on CEN. They are helping to explain why I’m feeling the way I’m am. Plus I’ve almost completed reading your book “Running on empty”.

I was also was abandoned as a child , but was raised by my grand parents. Who cared for me and probably loved me ,but did not show any outgoing love.

I’m 43 , recently diagnosed with major depression and PTS. I’ve had low self esteem all my life. But didn’t show it to friends and family( emotional negelect).

I’ve never had a close or intimate relationship with anyone ( that changed recently, thought I found someone to have relationship but like my some of my friendships I didnt receive the love and compassion that I thought I should have gotten.

Instead it feels like everthing goes one way – me giving and never receiving back.

I’m tired of feeling this way. I’ve tried talk therapy but it dosent seem to have a brak through of some kind. Ive taken my medication.

It all seems not to help.

I’ve been doing the exercises you recommended in your book. I’ve also got my father who’s been in and out of my life , who is very co – dependent on me, that is frustrating and confusing me.

It just isn’t changing.

What do you recommend Dr. Webb. I trust your opinion.

Best regards
E Hansen

Talia - November 30, 2020 Reply

My parents left for another country to start a new life for us when I was 3-5 years old. I was then raised by my siblings and my father’s mistress who also had a child the same age as me. I often felt so alone as a child. My step sister had her mother and I had no one. My « step mother » was very nice to me but I knew she wasn’t my mother so we didn’t have a close bond. But also, my “step sister” was possessive as any child she would be. I didn’t think I had any abondamment issues but I can’t help but feel sorry for my childhood self. I am a super independent person who doesn’t like to rely on anybody. I would like to but I just feel that I have to do things by myself. I also have a hard time getting over it a guy rejects me. It cuts me really deeply. I just have very vivid memories of being alone, crying having to soothe myself as a child. I still do that today. I cry in silence. Then I pick myself back up and try to move forward.

Josephine - November 28, 2020 Reply

My mom abandoned me virtually at birth left me with my grandmother and grandfather (I was happy) then when I was 7 or 8 she took me away from the only mother I knew only to leave me in boarding school for at least 5 of 12 years of schooling… and in 12 years of school I ended up going to over 25 different schools (my step father’s job took us to many places)
1. I never bonded with my mother – even less with my stepfather, when he left I hardly noticed.
2. My bond with my grandmother was broken
This resulted in me not loving either very much at the end of the day – they were just there and non consequential to me
To this day (my mother is over 70 now) I could not care less really if we don’t speak at all (she tries to force herself on me and I can’t wait for the call to end – I am polite, thanks to my grandmother – but that’s as far as it goes!)

Susan Dent - November 25, 2020 Reply

I am mentally disabled and was forced to have children by my husband. I tried my best to be a good parent, but I was constantly exhausted, and depressed. I was not able to talk and play the way my daughter needed, not always, but a bunch of the time. I was not consistent.

She’s now 13 and suicidal.

I do blame myself, but I also feel helpless. I did try. But I failed.

I almost want to join her. Obviously, I don’t express those thoughts to her. I’m trying to support her. But I’m one step from it myself.

    Jonice - November 26, 2020 Reply

    Dear Susan, please give yourself credit for trying! Parenting is difficult. In the meantime, your daughter and you need help. It is vital that you reach out for some support. Suicide is NEVER the answer. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Please do go to and/or call this number for help. 800-273-8255

cw - November 16, 2020 Reply

It is much more then you know.

Maverick - November 11, 2020 Reply

When I was ONE year old my real parents sent me 1000 kilometer away to live with unmarried relatives , where I was tossed around between them.
My parents and my siblings hates me to this day, their happiness lies in my tears.
They have saddened my eyes and my face forever. I don’t know how to smile.

My wife hid herself in the bathroom on my wedding night , as she changed her mind to marry me on my wedding day. Though she hid her feelings but revealed to me few years ago.

She has relationships outside marriage, and she has broken all relations with me since 6 years, though she is still living in my house. I did not sent her away because of my daughter.

I guide people towards Gods path, but for that I’m hated so much that my children and my friends hate me and almost abandoned me.

I never asked anyone even for a glass of water, always helped others, yet they love to hate me.

I never took any revenge from anyone, never expressed my grief to anyone, even knowingly kept my cheating wife in my house for the sake of my children.

The story is too long ,, so to cut it short , I always thought my life was a tragedy but in fact it was a comedy!!

I’m 55 years old,, counting every single day to leave this unkind planet.

Thanks for taking time to read this short note!

    Jonice - November 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Maverick, I’m glad you reached out and shared your story. Sadly, you are victimizing yourself and that invites others to victimize you as well. You have many years left to turn this around. I encourage you to contact a therapist near you and start to work on learning who you are, what you want, and learning to express that and protect yourself from harmful people.

Lia - November 1, 2020 Reply

I am a 16 year old child, my biological mom divorced my dad and left suddenly when i was 6 years old, she never came back, even the 6 years with her she was cold and uncaring, the tip of my finger got off cause she accidentally closed the door on it when i was 5 , she never loved me. Dad has never addressed the issue and never talks about the past, even her name was not what she told me , and i found out when i was 14 her real name through school paper, i spent 4 years with a single dad, before he remarried. She says that mom left because she did not want me and wanted to live a carefree life (my mom was 34 to 39 at that time) ,i feel so worthless and strive care and love, my dad is stricter than ever and my stepmom spoils my half brother and half sister and does not care about me, i wonder sometimes if i ever deserve to live, and i always get asked why does my parents not look like me (my mom was russian and my dad is arabian, and i look like her ) I wish i had a loving mom who could be my friend and help me. I always feel like there is something wrong with me, and fear that dad will too abandon me.

    Jonice - November 1, 2020 Reply

    Dear Lia, it is so very important for you to know that none of this is your fault or says anything at all about you. Sadly, your mom was motivated by her own pain and her own needs. I have no doubt that you are very loveable and deserve all the love in the world. It definitely hurts so deeply when your parents are not able to show you the love you deserve. I encourage you to talk with an adult about all of this. Could be a counselor at school or ask your parents if you can see a therapist. There is help and support for you.

      Coral - August 4, 2021 Reply

      Lia, and everyone here who has been abandoned. My Mom had a few kids before she had me. I was the first child she did not give away to be raised by relatives , some of the kids knew she was their mom and I know my older brother , one of them did not . Anyway to make a long story short , The older kids thought they were the unfortunate ones. No , I know my Mom was not well now that I am an adult , and wow some of the stories ive heard ….i am sure she thought she was going to abandone me as well . well I grew up ( my dad was great loving fun and hard working and smart but he died way to early ) my mom never liked me much until I moved far away LOL. but all through childhood , i heard how great my brother was (one closet to my age but i was 6 he was 10 when he came from the grandmas house to ours.) and how awful or lazy or whatever I was . Trust me you would not like it . One of my older sisters …asked me WHY? WHY YOU AND NOT ME ? I had to tell her I guess you got lucky !! I know I was able to settle something that had bothered her probably since she could remember . But I was always told great stuff by my dad and I used to think when she would say my bro was so much smarter than I , i rem thinking , wow if she thinks my bro is smarter than me , she is not smart at all because she is wrong. So I thought, i grew up well adjusted . But i am stuck in a horrible abusive dead end marrige and he doesnt love me and I think that is why i stay. More than once not thinking or talking about my Mom …i at times look right at him and call him Mom. My guess is , i am so messed up , that i married “my MOM” because this man is abusive like her and will never love me like her. So I am (i do not feel this at all but this is my self diagnoses ) in my comfort zone , even though i hate it and i am still trying to get the love from my mom that I never got , hand picked a guy I knew was like my mom. This kind of stuff goes on all the time. I really don’t believe it though ..this man is dangerous , Ive not left because I am afraid to. anyway , the moral of my story is Maybe you got lucky.!! Love to you all. Coral

Noone - November 1, 2020 Reply

when i was 5,my biological mom left me and never came back, she divorced my dad and simply left. i am a mixed child but unfortunately i look like her, my dad is arabian and she is russian,so a lot of people ask why i do not look like him, after two years dad remarried my step mother who obviously looks nothing like me, Dad has NEVER stated this issue directly to me and never talks to me about , he is very strict, and i do not go out except with him. I feel so worthless specially because my step mom favors my half brother and sister

Ben - October 11, 2020 Reply

Hi Jonice,
I am currently enrolled in the Fuel up for life program but have yet to spend any time with it since it started a few weeks ago.
Always making excuses.
When I was 3 I was hospitalised for perthes disease. I spent the next 16 months in a ward, with a weight tied to my left leg so I couldn’t leave the bed. My mum visited most days I think. My dad after work on Fridays.
I don’t really remember much at all.
My sister told me years later that I screamed for 3 months, was silent for months and then I was normal! Coming back out to very unemotional Parents didn’t help. The thing is, if anyone does try and help, I’m now doing the avoiding.
I’m 62 years old and worn out trying to run away from any emotion.
When I get a hint of the pain, it feels so overwhelming, it’s like I could destroy anything around me or be destroyed if anyone tries to love me.
I know your course will help. I’m just so aware that I don’t keep going when I should, and so can berate myself over and over. It’s poisonous!
What are some tangible things I can do to stop thus endless cycle.
Thank you.

    Jonice - October 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Ben, you are in the right place in the Fuel Up For Life program. I suggest you stop being so hard on yourself. Do it in bits if you want. Many people do and it’s fine. Take it at your own pace. Try to structure yourself, like set a timer and work on it 15 minutes per day or something like that. And call into a Q&A call if you can so we can talk. You can do this, and you deserve to feel better than you do.

Tarc - October 8, 2020 Reply

My granddaughter is almost 4 and really misses her mother. I have been there for her since she was born. Within her first 6 months, I assumed the role as primary caregiver. Her mother cannot accept her role. She was often leaving her to late in the day for proper care and started disappearing. Sometimes she would reappear for short times.
Now that she is almost four, her infrequency has been having an impact in my granddaughters feelings. She asks several times a day if mommy’s coming. I tell her I don’t know. I tell her grandma and grandpa are here. I tell her that other family members, whom she sees on weekends, are there for her, as they work full time. I tell her, we all love her. Often, when she does see mommy, mommy is critical of her. I can’t see forcing her mother to be more active because I simply don’t want her to be toxic. So far, she blows in like a whirlwind. Sometimes it’s a nice time for her, but mostly it’s an overtaxed time. Her mother is very un-filted when she speaks and is more concerned with her own well being and cannot connect as she should.
I am not one to talk about these things openly to others as there are no outlets available for myself.
My goal is to learn more on how to help my granddaughter get through this and not feel so abandoned.

    David - March 24, 2021 Reply

    I would say that it is time to cut your losses and tell your selfish and self-centered daughter she is not welcome. Her scarce appearances, where she derides & criticizes your granddaughter, are certainly doing more harm than good at this point. Sad to say, this is why they tell kids the family dog has gone to a nice farm with green grass and plenty of room to run around. While I am not advocating dishonesty, sometimes a narrative can shape and ease the pain when one is too young to process the truth. Pray your daughter gets the help she needs, and keep her & her absolute toxicity OUT OF YOUR HOME and away from your precious Granddaughter. You must be strong enough to make that decision. NO more allowances for her. She’s done.

    Coral - August 4, 2021 Reply

    Hi Tarc ,
    Good for you , you are doing a good thing. Keep your granddaughter busy. Take her to the park, make sure she doesn’t have a chance to get bored and wonder if that person called mommy is visiting. Never say a bad word , just save your energy to see your granddaughter is so happy and having fun she doesnt care if that person is coming over! You are an angel of a human being . Thank You , have fun , Coral PS. be sure and show her love , let her sit on your lap , read to her , hug her . Let her know you love her. : )

    Coral - August 4, 2021 Reply

    Hi Tarc , wrote you a nice note it was accidently put under David here that is now under me ..:) sorry it was misdirected. If they don’t fix it , I will try to rem ! I know I wrote it in the proper place ..hang in there ! Your doing great !

    Take Care, Coral

Steph K - September 16, 2020 Reply

When children are raised with chronic loss, without the psychological or physical protection they need

Monica - September 11, 2020 Reply

My brother and I were given to the state when I was 13he was 9. My mother regularly abused drugs and cared more for her children then me. I attended 15 schools. She emotionally physically abused me and abandoned us and everyone else in the family too like we were trash yet my older brother was saved. As a adult. I graduated college. Early child go is education. I’ve lived alone for 4 years. After I aged out of care my three closest family members passed. I’m a single mother now to two beautiful daughters. Sometimes I’m irrational and defensive when I feel I shouldn’t be and it’s getting some judgements lately on my parenting. I’ve been in therapy for a year almost what else can I do to work on this issue and does it stem from my abandonment do you think? I love my kids more than life itself super intuned and huggy. They’re my sunshine’s.

Becky - September 6, 2020 Reply

My daughter’s step mother and father quit seeing her when she was in Junior High and had been emotionally abusive to her on the weekends they did see her. I was glad they quit seeing her because I worried about her every time she went there. However, she felt abandoned by them and dismissed as anyone of consequence by them. I didn’t understand that she viewed this abandonment as her fault. She attempted to have them come to her graduation and her first wedding, but instead they sent an ugly letter to her on her HS graduation day blaming their not coming on her. I saw a lack of confidence in her, but it was not severe. She made good grades and had friends over to our house all the time and seemed happy. In high school, she started showing anger to me, but when I questioned her, I couldn’t get a straight answer as to why. This anger has increased as she has grown older. It’s so strange in that she has such animosity toward me, but then for a scholarship question, she said I was the person she most admired. I have tried to be the one to make up for her father’s lack, but I obviously have failed in that effort. She is now very successful and makes a lot of money. She is driven to excel at work. She has a wonderful relationship with her daughter, age nine, but has divorced two times. She had a good relationship with her step father who I divorced when she was a sophomore in college. Although she understands why I couldn’t live with him any more, she was angry that I left. When she needs me to help her, I have always done that and more. When I think our relationship has finally improved, she will turn on me for no apparent reason. I don’t know if this is displaced anger, or what to do about it. It gets worse and worse.
I would appreciate any advice you could give me. Thank you.

    Roc - October 25, 2020 Reply

    Hello Becky, I am a spaniard 19 years old. My relationship with my mother really ressembles the relationship you have with your daughter. Especially the anger “for no reason” and, for instance, the fact you are the person she most admires (I deeply admire my mom, even though we have a lot of problems) Please contact me at if you are interested, this is the first situation in which I can really mirror myself.

Jennifer - August 25, 2020 Reply

Sorry, this I want to add to my submission August 25, 2020:
I remember getting separated from mum at the Royal Show in Melbourne Australia when I was around 6 or 7 years old. I was SO devastated, frightened, alone, and unconsolable! I ended up in lost and found. Recently starting this Fuel Up for Life, which has been the best thing, however I have gone off the boil and back into abandoning myself and my growth/journey through this process of healing, I am now making an effort to bring myself back and continue…….. And today you come out with the question ‘Visualize your Wall’, which is asked in Module 2. I feel like I have a way to go still in module 1. How can I feel for your Module 2 question before I’ve done enough of module 1? Jennifer

    Jonice - August 26, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jennifer, I’m so glad you are in the fuel Up For Life program now. Take your time going through the modules, as you will have access to the program for as long as I continue to run it. No need to move to the next module until you feel completely ready.

Jennifer - August 25, 2020 Reply

Mum and dad left us children time after time to go and sing in their Opera’s, leaving us with a man who sexually abused me for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes, as we got older, we were taken along to the opera and told to stay quiet backstage. I never felt there was any understanding of what was happening, and there was already no emotional connection. I guess this is a kind of abandonment cause I felt passed from grandma to Lionel (abuser) or shifted elsewhere just for their convenience – their career took top priority. While there was never any understanding there was also never any soothing or physical touch when we felt lost and insecure, which I felt regularly. I have struggled with feelings of abandonment if my partner wanted to go and do something for themselves, I can feel excluded or threatened, insecure and not trusting. My self worth is very low and I feel loads of shame (but I don’t have an understanding why). Jennifer

    Jonice - August 26, 2020 Reply

    Dear Jennifer, please contact a therapist on the Find A CEN Therapist List. It’s very important that you talk with someone about the trauma and abuse you have experienced. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

Michael - August 21, 2020 Reply

My mum left me and and remarried when I was 8. Dad never remarried until I went to uni. He was a perfectionist and a workaholic. He mostly ignored me, and when we were together, didn’t talk anyway. My life turned out very difficuit, but I was able to fix a lot myself by about the age of 44 or 45. I’m 52 now. I still have a lot of work left. I wrote a short book during the coronavirus lockdown. I can talk forever and ever about life. I had to make a profound study of it for about a quarter century, in order to parent myself and learn to live.
Take care.

    Jonice - August 23, 2020 Reply

    Good for you for doing the work, Michael! Thanks for sharing.

brandy - August 15, 2020 Reply

Ok. So my son has never meet his father due to father’s lifestyle choices recently he was killed should I tell my son he’s 6? Should he meet his dad for the first and last time at the funeral??? Please help.

    Jonice - August 16, 2020 Reply

    Dear Brandy, please consult a professional therapist on this important question. It should be answered by someone who can hear the full story and help you make a decision that’s best for your son. I am so sorry you are going through this.

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