How To Overcome Abandonment Issues From Childhood

abandoned child

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
Diya - August 12, 2020 Reply

It took me a long time to work out my own childhood abuse and self-esteem issues, but I did get there. Going inside and getting to know my spiritual self was the key. Through observing and changing my thoughts about myself and my life, I was able to change the way I felt and learn to love myself. Loving myself was the major turning point in my life – realizing that I don’t need anyone else to love me. It’s good you have acknowledged you haven’t let go of the hurt and pain, which was true for me also.
One thing I did was a guided meditation and it was very powerful and healing.

Love and peace,

    Jonice - August 13, 2020 Reply

    Dear Diya, that is so wonderful that you have found the way to loving yourself. Thanks for sharing it!

Paula - August 11, 2020 Reply

Hello, I am the abandoning parent. Husband left me for high school sweetheart, then I left everyone. Since, husband and new wife divorced. I should not have left children, which I grope with daily. Trying to reach out to son who has last year of high school. He lives with stepmom, as dad moved to another state. We were close, the kids and me, do I reconnect because anguish is daily, sounds selfish after this many years, yet I feel pull to reconnect. Thanks,

    Jonice - August 13, 2020 Reply

    Dear Paula, it is virtually always better for the children to have a connection with a non-abusive parent who cares about and loves them. I encourage you to manage your pain and continue to reach out to yours. All my best wishes to you.

Bridgette - August 10, 2020 Reply

My Mother walked out on us when I was 7 years old, I had 2 brothers, we went home from school to a fridge and a chair, she took all my toys also,and put all the furniture and toys in storage, she left because she wanted to go to university to become a nurse. I never really seen her growing up, occasionally she would come into our home and leave a second hand bra or something on my bed. When I was 21 I left for another country and met a great man, we built a house together, things were perfect. She contacted me and said her and her new husband were moving to were I was now living, I let her back into my life with open arms, she turned up and didn’t like my boyfriend, so stupid me desperate for a mothers love left him. She befriended all my friends, then I slowly realised one by one my friends were disappearing out of my life, one friend of mine approached me and told me my mother was telling them all stories about me, how I was so nasty to her growing up etc, I couldn’t believe it. I went around to see her about this and she said before I even opened my mouth, you can’t come in your ex is coming for dinner with his new girlfriend. The next day I rung her and got her answer machine, I said why on earth are you going around telling people I was nasty to you growing up, she never returned my call and has never had anything to do with me since, this was 17 years ago, however the one child that she does speak to she got my new address of him 2 years ago and a big box arrived in the mail, with all my childhood toys and cards given to her from when I was born.

Erika - August 4, 2020 Reply

This one was very good. They always are.. So perfect with my 5am coffee. I don’t know what I’d do without your writing! You are what I would classify as a hero.

    Jonice - August 4, 2020 Reply

    Aw, thanks Erika! I’m so glad 🙂

ROBYN - August 3, 2020 Reply

Every one keep their own story. Even got the family but cannot overcome and think that we really belong to this family. But anything happen, they did love you and me much, that our luckiness.

Bishwajeet - July 31, 2020 Reply

Thank you sir for this article. I’m abandoned by my mother. The every fact you wrote is 100% true because I’ve feel it. I have my dad,step mom & 2 step brothers .but I can’t to believe that’s my family. I always feel alone in my life.

    Jonice - July 31, 2020 Reply

    It’s very painful to be abandoned by your mother, for sure. I hope you are talking with someone about this and getting support and help to heal.

Shweta A - July 31, 2020 Reply

I was reading about Cen
and I know now why I am struggling so much with my life
I been through so much and my family my parents just abandon me to protect their own reputation in society.They lie to the world and never said truth about me because of their own mistakes

    Jonice - July 31, 2020 Reply

    I’m so sorry, Shweta. Please do find some support. A CEN therapist would be so helpful.

Nicole - July 30, 2020 Reply

Hi there! I found out today that my bio dad passed away. I had never met him or honestly ever thought about him, so why am I crying and so upset over his passing? I was adopted as a baby by my maternal grandparents and was basically raised as their child. I grew up in a family that was my blood, but still was very confused and felt like I never belonged. I was in a family where I had a mother but didn’t. Where I had grandparents but yet didn’t. Where I had siblings but didn’t. My grandparents were my parents and one of my aunts was my sister but yet they weren’t. I often wonder and wish they would have adopted me out to another family. A normal emotionally and financially stable family. Instead they kept me in the same screwed up family that I was born in. I of course know my bio mom but growing up she wasn’t a mother to me. She was just someone that came to my house to visit my parents of course that coincidentally were her parents. She never spoke to me or hugged me or tried to be a part of my life growing up. In fact it’s like she didn’t acknowledge that I was her child at all until I was 35. Then she half ass attempted to get to know me and express that she loved me and never wanted to give me away. I knew this was a lie. She only said this because she wanted to convince me and herself that she did no wrong. At that point it was too late! I had a mother that raised me. Was I happy in the family I was adopted into? No! It was dysfunctional! My aunt/sister always told me to go live with my real family! I wasn’t interested in having a relationship with my bio mom and of course this made her angry. It was kinda nice to reject her like she did me. She didn’t talk to my grandmother/ mom for a long time because she was mad that I considered her my mom. Didn’t she realize I needed a mom and was entitled to have a mom?! Even if I expressed interest in getting to know her it wouldn’t have fixed 35 years of abandonment. She never would’ve loved me the way she loved the two kids she kept. We never would’ve had the same relationship. I should mention my bio mom had two kids already when I was born. She was young and couldn’t take care of those two yet she continued to have kids.
My bio mom ended up having 5 kids total. Supposedly with the same man. She kept my oldest sister and one of my brothers. She gave one daughter to my paternal grandmother. She gave me to her parents and adopted another boy to a totally different family. I always considered him the “lucky” one for escaping this crazy family! She was barely a mother to the two children she kept and not a mother at all to the other three kids. After hearing today that my bio dad passed away it brought up all the heartache and abandonment that I’ve tried to repress. I’m single, never married and with no children and barely any friends. I have pushed away any hope of relationships my whole life. So you would think my bio mom or bio siblings coulda called me or sent me a text to let me know my bio dad passed away? Nope my aunt/sister sent me a text to inform me. I guess two of my bio siblings plan to have him cremated. Something else I didn’t know about and didn’t get the opportunity to be included in. They have never included me or cared about my feelings, so why should that surprise me? Thats partly the problem. I felt like I was abandoned all over again. I felt like I was abandoned every time I saw my bio mom growing up. I hope some day I am able to heal and move on. Unfortunately that day is not today.

Nicole - July 26, 2020 Reply

I just discovered this, I hope to find a therapist that can help me. I am pushing my 17 year old away because she’s out all the time and up until about a month ago we were super close and doing a lot together. I’m not being the best parent right now, because horribly enough, I feel abandoned by her. That sounds awful to me and ridiculous that a parent feels this way about their kid. I know it’s irrational and I need to take a step back because I’m really pushing her away. Do you know any therapists who do remote visits on this issue? I really don’t want to destroy our relationship because I’m being toxic and awful.

    Jonice - July 27, 2020 Reply

    Dear Nicole, your feelings are real and are shared by most parents who go through the process of their teen’s natural individuation. It is very painful indeed. I’m glad you realize that it’s not right to take it out on your daughter and is harmful to her. Please check the list of CEN therapists on this website. Most of them can help you with this and most of them are doing remote therapy right now. Look for one in your own state or country if possible. All my best wishes to you as you go through this.

Rebekah - July 23, 2020 Reply

Adopted at a little over a year then went into a children’s home at 5 and sexually assaulted and beat for it. Then went back to first adopted home to more abuse and trauma. Adopted again at 8, was totally out of control by then and by11 was in foster care. Damaged but trying so hard to be normal and raise my kids by someone who is a total narcissistic asshole

    Jonice - July 23, 2020 Reply

    Dear Rebekah, that is a lot to cope with. I hope you have a therapist to help you and support you. If you don’t, I strongly encourage you to get one. All my best to you.

Kyle - July 12, 2020 Reply

Abandoned at 1 into care. Fostered till 7 by a whole host of other people. Adopted at 7 where I was beaten, shouted at, basically abused. Ran away multiple times at 12 years old after being locked in a room with a potty. Had black eyes and was beaten till I peed myself. Jailed at 13 for stealing money to escape and then moved into care homes. More abuse, mental, emotional and physical. Drugs and sex everywhere, violence a daily occurrence. All of this dealt with by myself alone. I’m now 29 years old and can’t trust no one, can’t be in a relationship with anyone. No family, nobody to talk to about a life full of trauma. Then at 23 years old after having my own child, social services took her away.

    Jonice - July 12, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kyle, I am so very sorry for all that you have been through. You absolutely must talk with a therapist about the trauma that you have endured. I promise there is help for you, and you deserve it.

Ruben - July 4, 2020 Reply

This is my first time really talking about this so Sorry if its crap. im 21 and I grew up without my father my whole life because My parents split up when I was 2 years old and all my mother really talked about was how he was abusive and a druggy which is the reason they split. I was a bad kid in school I never did my work I was always getting in trouble aswell. I was basically a statistic of child issues ,I fixed myself up later on but when I was 15 the true weight of not having a dad hit me like a semi truck, I remember seeing kids hanging out with their dads smiling and laughing and all i could feel was depression, jealousy and confusion. I wished I had a dad who would play catch with me, take me to sports games, say he was proud of me, hell even have my first beer with him. I kinda did that with him but it was in my dreams really. I used to lucid dream about having a nice big family all gathered around the dinner table and I felt truly happy for that small amount of time. It was like heroin I was addicted to it but I eventually fell back to reality and the dreams stopped. I talked to him on Facebook when I was 13 like 3 or 4 times but it felt like I was talking to a stranger and never messaged him again. I tried dealing with the pain by smoking of weed not for the enjoyment of it mostly just to not feel anything all, my mindset was if Im numb than i cant feel the pain. im an only child so I dont have brothers or sisters to talk to about this with but I wanted to ask was how do I get rid of the pain? I feel like a bitch sometimes because im 21 and i still have this deep emotional scar in my heart that feels like it will never heal. Thank you for reading this I cut out alot of things i wanted to say cause it was just Getting sad but you get the jist

    Jonice - July 5, 2020 Reply

    Dear Ruben, thank you so much for sharing your painful experience of growing up without a dad. It’s normal and understandable that you would feel as you do! I strongly encourage you to talk with a therapist about what you’ve been through. You can heal the pain by sharing it and getting support, guidance, and understanding + view it in a new perspective.

Kat - July 1, 2020 Reply

As a young child I was doted on by my father, I was with him always. When I was around 4 he started molesting me, although I didn’t realise for many years. He was an abusive husband, and eventually when I was 8, he was asked to leave. This by far was the most traumatic experience of my life. As I grew older I saw him occasionally, and when I was 17, three days before my first child was due, he died. This for me was a double edged sword, I was devastated that he died, but at the same time, I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to confront him if my child was a girl. I have been pretty messed up all my life, having unsuitable relationships, lost really.

    Jonice - July 1, 2020 Reply

    Dear Kat, these traumatic experiences would make anyone who suffered through them feel struggled and lost. I strongly encourage you to get a trauma-informed therapist to help you make sense of everything that’s happened to you and empower yourself. You deserve so much better!

Carrie - June 23, 2020 Reply

My Mom and Dad met in highschool back in the late 60s. He was in the closet. She was pregnant from another man and gave the baby up for adoption. She was raised in an incestual household. Her father raped her sister and had a kid- who was adopted out. And her brother raped the same sister. Years later, the same brother married and had two girls. The girls ended up being adopted. One went to the same sister whom he raped and my Mom and Dad adopted the other girl. Then 4 years later my brother came along, then me 18 months later. Then Mom left my Dad and us three kids. I wasn’t even walking yet. She didn’t appear at the Divorce Hearing. She wrote a note to the preciding Judge, “I give up my rights to my children.” I saw it years later. I learned through family that she fled to Florida (we were in NY), and was in abusive relationships. Her boyfriend would call my Dad and threaten his life if he didn’t allow Mom to see us. She would send cards from time to time. Dad would send my adopted sister to Mom’s sister’s house so she could stay connected with her own sister. Unfortunately, Mom’s sister’s husband was molesting both of the girls. He went to prison. His son also is in prison for molesting children. My mom visits them, calls them and sends them money. Growing up, we went to family counseling. My sister acted up constantly and did not value herself. She acts like a 14 year old and still does to this very day. (She is 48 years now old.)

Fast forward 15 years, I am a young adult, my sister is a single mom with a toddler. She has been manipulated by her real Dad, (my mom’s brother aka incest rapist), making promises he will take care of her, set her up in one of his rental properties, if she sleeps with him. So she does and this goes on for awhile and the wife found out.

My mom believes that both her brother and my sister are responsible. I am so angry that she has an ounce of sympothy towards her brother. I tried to intervene and explain to mom my sister’s past abuse and her mental frame of mind, and she still protects her brother, and adores her father, the other rapist.

Fast forward to today, 20 years later. Mom has stayed silent the past 20 years. She retires and moves back to NY, close to her brother. She showed up on my sister’s doorstep and has snuggled her way into my sister’s life with no explaination, no apology, just sweep it under the rug and not talk about the big elephant in the room. My sister says that the past is the past and all is forgiven. I believe Mom is taking advantage of her inability to face these problems with her.

I am so furious. My sister, my brother, and I all deserve an apology from mom. She refuses and “doesn’t want to go there.” Meanwhile, she adores her rapist family and has no remorse for it.

I know I have abandonment issues. I can tell just by how angry I am with her right now. I have trust issues with women, and feel very alone in this world.

I knew I could not convince my sister that Mom is bad news for her own well being. But I was not prepared for how upset I was going to feel. My sister posted a rant on Facebook about “All lives matter.” I replied to it. Then Mom chimed in. I was furious. I felt she does not have the right to waltz into our conversation. She made some statement for all rights and for animal rights. She has several pets and has had them all their lives. I replied, How about just focus on animal rights. Human rights, particularly children, haven’t been your family’s priorty for generations.”

I knew at that point, I allowed her to get to me and I stooped low. My sister attacked me and said I was inappropriate. I told her I needed to step away from her for awhile. I can’t handle mom being in the picture with her.

I didn’t mention that I did spend some time with Mom when I was in college. Her husband would drive her with a 40 ounce of beer in his lap and a cooler in the back to come see me at school. We would go shopping at dive beach shops that sold seashells and junk. She never asked when my racing heats were, never asked about my classes, never wanted to know who I was, how I was doing. So I ended the friendship. When I was 30, I reached out to her as a mediator between my sister and mom. They were arguing. We talked for a few years. But, she was the same person I met in college. Selfish. She doesn’t have a mom bone in her body. So I ended it again. I told her I didn’t need another fake friend. I needed a mother and it wasn’t fair to her that I expected that from her when she clearly doesn’t know how to be a mother. I’m tired of dissapointing myself.

So I am very protective of my sister. I am concerned for her that she will get her heart broken. And she never actually dealt with her own child abuse and sexual manupulation by her father (mom’s brother.) And they are all burying their heads in the sand and taking advantage of this 14 year old trapped in a 48 year old body.

I walked away from my sister but told her I loved her and to call me if she ever needed me, but I could not be around her if mom is in her life and mom doesn’t respect her at all and needs to fall on the sword and apologize. But I know my sister won’t go there because it will open up a big wound, and I know my mom knows that and I am sure that makes her happy.

My brother has also started talking to mom. He has bigger abandonment issues and is bi-polar. He says he is keeping it light and not expecting anything from her. Again, I think he is giving her a hall pass. My Dad has also been in contact with her to help her with her relationship with my sister. So, I think I am feeling betrayed by both of them.

I really have no idea where to go from here.

Jan - June 18, 2020 Reply

The Woman I Never Knew
So, what can I say that doesn’t make me sound bitter and angry about this woman?
She was my birth mum. She left before I was one. She had an affair. She lived a life built on a foundation of lies with her third husband.
I am a product of her first marriage with a man who was my father, my dad, my saviour. A man and child she left. A man and child she wrote out of her life and her history.
I do not remember a time when I didn’t know that my mum wasn’t my birth mum, or that Thelma had left when I was little and married someone else.
Over a period of 50 years I gathered some other facts along the way. She was materialistic – when offered the choice of me or any and all other possessions she chose things. This one fact I have never understood. As a mother myself, comprehending how a parent, especially a mother, could do this is something I have failed to do.
She had three other children, none of which she left!
This woman married three times in all, but her third husband knew nothing about my dad or me. Thelma never tried to make contact with me.
Diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the 1990s and died in 2015. She didn’t make any attempt from the day she walked out to the day she died, or even beyond her death bed by way of a Will, to make atonement for her actions.
It seems it is the craze of the older olds to investigate the past and family history. My aunt is one of these many people who is fascinated by their ancestors and the connections they made. This is how I came to meet the family whose lives where built on Thelma’s lies.
To a man/woman they are stunned, shocked, rocked to the core. The woman they knew was beautiful inside and out; loved by all; who helped everyone. A great teacher, mother, wife, friend. I do not know this woman.
The woman I “know” is a cheat, a liar, cold hearted, unnatural, selfish, ruthless. She is the woman who had an adulteress affair and fell pregnant. A woman who tried to have me illegally adopted behind my dad’s back and when this failed was complicit in the blackmail of my dad when he was threatened by her lover that if he exercised his then legal right to sue that man they would seek full custody and dispose of me any way they could.
To me this woman is an alien, a liar, a cheat a bitch of the very highest order.
I will be forever grateful that she never had any real chance to be part of my life. To be an influencer
I will, however, be eternally grateful that my dad was extremely fortunate to find a real woman, Marjorie, my mum.
I will be continually grateful that my dad saved me from the life Thelma plotted and schemed for me and that he was there for me every single time I needed him.
I never knew Thelma and I count myself fortunate that I never will.


Mitch - June 14, 2020 Reply

My father was a very powerful n wealthy man
And become partners in the most prestigious firms
Because i child out of wedlock was kept secret
He didnt even tell his closet friends about me
He abonded me at 5 yrs old
I dont even remember him
I have so much pain through the years
I was always the boy with out a father
I had seveere problems like everyone else on this site
Emotion ‘ trust issues
I calllee my father when when i had my son 24 yrs ago
He said he wants nothing to do with me
And he was happy that i never ruin his reputation all these years and he wanted it to stay that way so he said to mE listen when the times comes i will have a very large trust set up for me and my son
Then 2015 i spoke to him again just because
I was getting the feeling of how can any man neglect there child
And he said the same thing in the end i will be well compensated for my emotional pain he put me through

So in may he passes away his partner was shocked to know i exist and he wrote me out of his will not by name he didnt mention my name he put in some fancy wording im purpose leaving certain children out
So now i feel the pain is real i will never get a relationship with my dad
And also he lied about keep his reputation that he was able to build because i was kept secret
So i know i feel the pain all over again

    Jonice - June 14, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mitch, your father wasn’t a father to you at all. I strongly encourage you to seek out a good therapist near you. You will need help and support to work through this. Best wishes to you.

Laura - June 2, 2020 Reply

I will be brief after just leaving a long message. Just want to add I know my parents did not do this to me intentionally, because no one would ever knowingly put their child through the pain and what it did to my life. BUT unfortunately realizing that did not heal the damage. Sorry for length

Laura - June 2, 2020 Reply

I was physically and emotionally abandoned. You have it almost right. BUT the child also grows up living on the defensive just waiting or trying to prevent more pain. Also do not trust anyone. And do not trust themselves to make decisions, and do not trust their own feelings. It’s a tortured existence. I know I’m referring to myself. I have tried it all years of therapy, I tried the “fake it till you make it”. I after my parents split (without a goodbye from my father) and I was 11. When I needed my mother most she became suicidal. I cannot put the pain I felt into words! It nearly killed me, and because of that pain I had to close off my heart. I would’ve done anything to feel worthy of love or even trust. But the pain was too deep. Wanting a relationship and love more than anything. But being consumed with deep seated self hate has made this un-conquerable. I cant let someone get close because I’m just waiting for them to hurt me. And I cannot bear
the pain again of rejection. Please you’re very wise but sometimes it’s just not possible to get over it

Bill - May 27, 2020 Reply

Thanks for the article. I am searching for answers to my grandchilds issue. We have been having a sleepover at my house 1 day a week for 8 years. His parents divorced 8 months ago. He recently announced he does not want to come and stay at my house. His mother informs me that he has not slept in his own bed since my son left him. He has recently been glued to her. I think it might be the fear he thinks that the other parent may leave him. Anyone going through this with their child ? All responses would help. Thank you

Debbie - February 21, 2020 Reply

Dear Joe and who ever else this might help.
I am not a doctor or therapist. I’m just someone who has also dealt with abandonment issues through most of my life. And now I fear I unintentionally and accidentally might have caused this feeling to one or both of my children through the process of our divorce. I still stayed involved, and continue to be involved in our children’s lives on a daily basis. But I took a back seat in a way to allow time for their father to step up and partake in parental duties without me being around so that after we divorced I knew he could handle having the kids on his own when they went back and forth between staying with him and myself. I wanted our children to still have equally active parents in their lives. I think that backfired and they feel I left them in a way, when all I was trying to do was better prepare their dad to be more involved.

Anyway… one thing I have learned over the years from my experiences of being abandoned, and after what I think has happened with me and my children, is that when I look to the root of why I felt abandoned, or why my children did, has nothing to do with what actually happened. So if we can realize that the person that abandoned us did not do it to hurt us, and their choices were all about themselves for whatever their reasons, it helps a little bit to realize we weren’t at fault. It wasn’t because they didn’t care about us. It wasn’t because we were bad or wrong or insignificant. It was a choice they felt they needed to make for whatever was going on for them in their life at that time. Looking back at my younger years I couldnt have understood that. And sometimes I still don’t understand the whys. But I now get it is what it is. And their choices are theirs. How I chose to live now, how I chose to harbor bad feelings or let them go, how I chose to hold onto negative thoughts or stay positive the best I can, or allow myself the process to really heal. Forgive them for what they did. Because they didn’t intentionally set out to hurt us. Forgiving isn’t accepting. It isn’t saying that what was done was ok. But it is healing within ourselves to let go of the bad feelings. We dont have control over what others do. But we do have control over What we do, how we will think, and how we will react. There is a lot of self help stuff out there. Just google the feelings you are having. Look up inspirational quotes. Listen to inspirational videos on YouTube. Help is out there everywhere.
Best wishes to all of you out there struggling.
Always remember, no matter what, you are loved, you are important, and you do matter. Many blessings to you.

    Michelle - February 22, 2020 Reply

    Dear Debbie,

    Thank you for sharing that. You are right.. forgiveness is not accepting what the parents have done but more about moving forward for yourself. Self care and self love is important.

    Amy - March 11, 2020 Reply

    Hi Debbie,

    “So if we can realize that the person that abandoned us did not do it to hurt us, and their choices were all about themselves for whatever their reasons, it helps a little bit to realize we weren’t at fault. It wasn’t because they didn’t care about us. It wasn’t because we were bad or wrong or insignificant. It was a choice they felt they needed to make for whatever was going on for them in their life at that time.”

    I know that for many “Abandoners”, this is probably true, but certainly not for all.

    My father abandoned my brother and me when we were 12 and 7, respectively. A big contributor to this was my mother, he became very bitter with her after divorce and financial issues. In any case, he moved over 6 hours drive away and cut off contact completely. Several years after this, he cut off contact with the rest of his family over a petty argument. He had an affair before he and my mother separated and he is married to that woman now, he’s also a parent to her children.
    I contacted him recently, as I now have 3 children of my own and have a good marriage, and I would’ve liked my children to have a grandfather. I turned up on his doorstep after 27 years and he didn’t recognise me. How can your own parent not recognise you???? Anyway, I was willing to wipe the slate for my kids but after an email here and there he decided he no longer wanted to retain contact and sent me a hurtful email telling me I was vengeful and my mothers child.

    He made the decision he made for himself, not to better his children. Having children myself, I can’t imagine how you can throw them away.

Joe - February 18, 2020 Reply

My father left the home for another woman when I was 17. He was a good father all the way through grade school. He was attentive and loving and I wanted to be just like him. He always had the answers, he could fix anything, he was the one everyone looked to first. When his career took off he began to be less involved with us kids but we just went along. I had no idea anything was even wrong between my parents until on day a week before Christmas I came downstairs to find my mother, brother, and sister huddled together on the couch crying. Mom told me Dad had left and she didn’t know if he was ever coming back or if their marriage was going to make it. I was literally the last person to know. The next few years my father’s infidelity was not an issue he’d discuss with us and he tried after his divorce from my mother to integrate me into his life with his new wife but it always felt forced and uncomfortable. One day he found a notebook I began keeping to journal the feelings about the situation I never could reveal to him. The sentiments in that journal were not complimentary toward him, his new lover, or the situation overall. He blew up at me, told me I had no right and that I didn’t understand. I asked him to help me understand and talk to me, it didn’t matter. He told me to leave and not come back. I was 19. I went back to my mother for a few weeks and then back to college. I didn’t speak with my father for over 2 years but when I did it was me who took the first step and reached out to him. Anyway, as the years went by I made my own bad decisions and have suffered from divorce also. I never had any children of my own which I view with both relief and regret. I always left the door open for dad to come back and be the man he was when I was 12 but he never came back, not really. I just wanted him to walk alongside me just for a little while even. He told me once while his second marriage was failing he thought his life was a waste. I was 29 by then and trying to get past my own divorce by then. I couldn’t think of anything useful to do or say. Dad died in 2011 and the pain of being abandoned multiple times; initially in the traditional way and then in many smaller ways as life has gone on is almost unbearable. I don’t want to die in this state of mind. I’m middle aged now and I feel no better now then I did all those years ago. I’ve tried counseling but it hasn’t helped. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, I don’t know. My marriage now is under stress and I can’t keep going down this road. I hate this life I’ve lived and I just keep asking how it’s come to this. If you have any thoughts I’d welcome your advise. I’ve been running on empty for so many years.

    Jonice - February 19, 2020 Reply

    Dear Joe, there is so much pain in your story, and you are sitting with it. I very much encourage you to get a therapist to share all of this with and get some changed perspective on it. It’s important that you process this with someone who is trained to help you with it.

Eva - January 5, 2020 Reply

My 7 year old granddaughter was abandoned on Dec 20 by her mother. I have looked after her since birth as the child’s father left them before the baby was born. Now the mother went to work and decided that her 13 year older she 32 and he is 45 boyfriend was more important in her life than the beautiful child she has. Has not communicated with her and it was Christmas. Should have been a special time for a 7 year old but she did not even get a present or a phone call. Nothing. We love the child more than anything but a mother’s love should be different. The mother has hurt her father and her grandmother and me. I hate her to the point I can not eat I feel sick. Need help for us and the child. Can anyone help? The child is starting to have issues asking why mommy left, she must have hated me. What to do.

    Jonice - January 6, 2020 Reply

    Dear Eva, please consult a qualified, trained therapist. You and your granddaughter will need some help and guidance through this.

Mary Alpern - December 31, 2019 Reply

My parents left me to fend for myself without any relatives or family friends in a foreign country when I was ten. They did not have to, it was not a case of war or other extreme emergency. I am almost seventy now and those years without a family and the subsequent return to parents who ended up brutally abusing me still affect me.

I have three sons, I tried to be a better parent than my own were and succeeded to a large extent. My sons are all parents now and they are wonderful parents, much better than I was, and I am delighted with them, their wives, and their children. I have five grandchildren, two boy and three girls. The oldest girl is 10, and I cannot imagine abandoning her to live on her own in a strange country.

I guess I’m offering this as a message of hope for anyone who reads it. don’t give up, do the best you can.

    Jonice - January 3, 2020 Reply

    Dear Mary, I am so sorry that happened to you and it’s just wonderful that you have survived and thrived anyway. Thank you for sharing your story!

Clarissa - December 30, 2019 Reply

My mom abandoned our family (dad and sibling) when I was in my early twenties. I wasn’t a child, but I was entering a rocky part of my life that included a major depression diagnosis. I’m well into my thirties now and still dealing with the fallout. I am haunted by the possibility of her contacting me again. I wonder if she knows she has grandchildren now, or whether she would even care. He will never know his grandma and sometimes I wonder how I’m going to explain it to him someday. It’s bothering me today and this week because it’s the end of the decade and everyone is feeling nostalgic. As for me, I feel ill. My dad still talks about her. It’s like she’s dead, but I know she’s still out there. I look her up online once in a while on particularly dark days. I wonder if it’ll ever get easier.

    Jonice - December 30, 2019 Reply

    I’m so sorry, Clarissa. An abandonment like that is always so painful. I hope you have talked with a therapist about this and I suggest you do so as needed.

      Clarissa - December 30, 2019 Reply

      Thanks Dr. Webb. I’m in the process of getting in touch with a therapist who knows about CEN (after reading your brilliant book on the topic). I’ve been a client of at least three therapists over the last decade but never really found solace or help. I felt like they were people with both parents and a secure attachment in childhood and could never really understand the magnitude of how CEN and abandonment affected me mentally, emotionally and physically.

Sean - December 22, 2019 Reply

I had a friend whom I’d known since grade school whose parents lavished everything on their first born son and barely noticed their second child. They would give their first son the best of everything and “might” give what was left over to their other son… if they didn’t think the first might need it someday. Their eldest went to private schools, had tutors, a new car at 16 and they paid his way through college. My friend went to public school with me, got his clothes except underwear at goodwill and was pretty much ignored if he hadn’t done anything to tick them off. He once said jokingly that he thought his parents had him in case his older brother needed a kidney, but I knew he wasn’t being altogether facetious when he said it. He was melancholic… a word I didn’t know about until I recently read the description of, but now realize fit his personality to a T, even when he was very young. He spent more time at my house than his own once he was done with his chores because his brother bullied or belittled him. We were going to enlist in the Air Force on the Buddy System once we graduated, but I was found to have spinal stenosis and was disqualified from enlisting as a preexisting condition. He went through with it and enlisted right after high school graduation. He visited me in college and said the only time his parents contacted him was to try to guilt him into giving them money because their eldest son had bled them dry. I remember telling him that giving them money wouldn’t make them care for him, that their first son would always be their first priority and he needed to cut them out of his life. We lost touch not too long after that and I don’t know if he ever did do that. My mother told me that she heard the older brother was convicted of scamming people and did time in prison, but she never heard anything about my friend. I hope he found a woman who loved him and made him happy.

    Jonice - December 29, 2019 Reply

    I hope so too, Sean. That is a sad story indeed.

Ted - December 18, 2019 Reply

I was lucky because loving my daughter came naturally and helped me face my own abuse as a child. As I spoke to her I could hear my own childhood playing over in my head, it was enlightening and therapeutic. My mom beat and ridiculed me as a child and said horrible mean things literally to her death bed as my siblings stood near by. She loved them but not me in a daily blatant fashion. My siblings were traumatized by her actions towards me as well. None of us, mostly me I suppose, really understood how harmful a toxic relationship with ones mom can be and how it propels you along a fairly predictable destructive path. I made peace with it and accept the past. I fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful girl and together we had a little girl. We divorced after about 7 years of a manic marriage. She was a victim of sexual and emotional abuse as a child which she couldn’t admit or face until she was in her 50’s. She walked away from our daughter after the divorce and fell deeply into depression, addiction and extreme victimhood. Sadly our daughter has suffered from many of the same consequences and problems caused by her mom abandoning her. I’ve always been her dad and raised her with love and security as my main thrust of being her dad. Our daughter has been thru a ton of therapy and overcome some heavy burdens and is living a pretty good life but it remains a constant struggle I worry will overtake her will and fortitude to keep marching on. This time of year is tough and like so many souls she struggles to keep it together. I’m not asking for anything really just randomly came across this site and recently received a sad text from my little girl who feels so deeply and is so sensitive and thoughtful to the fact her mom walked out on her, it broke her heart…….it’s just a bummer that’s all. Be a good parent and simply love your kids and listen more than speak. thanks 🙂

    Jonice - December 20, 2019 Reply

    Dear Ted, thank you so much for sharing. You are clearly a loving, caring parent.

Jessica - December 16, 2019 Reply

Hi, my partner’s mother left him when he was a baby and his father was never involved. So his grandparents brought him up who he has always called mum and dad.
His biological mother then went on to have 2 other children and a couple of months ago gave birth to a new baby. I believe this has triggered something inside him as he has not been his normal self.
I started researching child abandonment as I have noticed characteristics of this describes him completely and I feel has finally given possible answers to his behaviours. He can also identify and see how this is something he could be dealing with, however he won’t see a therapist.
Is there anything that can be done to help him see therapy may help or any tips to help battle this himself.

    Jonice - December 20, 2019 Reply

    Dear Jessica, it is hard to help someone who is not willing to be helped so be mindful of that. I suggest you keep nudging him to go to therapy and offer to go with him. And look up articles on abandonment so he can read about it.

Jo - December 11, 2019 Reply

Hi Jonice, I am pregnant and the father (who has been affected badly by CEN) has decided he wants nothing to do with the baby. I’m so scared that I won’t be able to soften this blow on my child when they are old enough to understand their dad isn’t around and didn’t want them.

    Jonice - December 12, 2019 Reply

    Dear Jo, the fact you’re already worrying about this now is a good sign for your emotional attention to your child. You can seek the help of a therapist once your child is old enough to understand.

Rett - December 8, 2019 Reply

I had two parents who were present but busy, I am one of 10 children and my father worked very long hours as I grew up. I have always craved attention and not known how to get it, always felt that I wasn’t good enough. Looking back now I recall things that are a bit strange – like not asking when I needed things, for example when it came time to go to a school formal (prom) I made my own dress without a thought that it would be ok to ask my parents about it first and maybe share that experience with them, I did a lot of things for myself perhaps because I didn’t want to feel the shame of being ignored or having someone say ‘no’. I also knew something was wrong to me that I didn’t feel connected to my friends and never had physical contact with them or my family members – didn’t hug or kiss and always felt awkward physically. When I left primary school and then high school I went to a new school with no one I knew and didn’t feel loss for not being around my friends, it didn’t even occur to me to ask to go to a school where I knew people. Now I’m starting to think that I didn’t learn how to ‘feel’, how to trust or depend on people when I was young. I always feel so ungrateful for thinking and feeling these things though. Another problem is that I had a sister prone to sudden angry outbursts and it became my job to ‘keep the peace’ so I spent a lot of my life walking on eggshells and trying to keep my younger siblings safe. Many of us are now cut off from her but I still feel extreme guilt that things aren’t right with her. I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, major depressive disorder and have been told by my psychologist that I suffered childhood emotional neglect. I have been being treated for mental health for 15 years and lose faith regularly in anything ever changing. So often I just feel doomed to be miserable forever.

    Jonice - December 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear Rett, maybe try something new. Ask your therapist about finding a therapy group for you to add into your treatment and/or get a medication evaluation. Do not give up!

Elaine - December 4, 2019 Reply

I was 6 when my parents got divorced. I was not totally surprised but it still stung. At first it was not too bad. My dad still came to visit my brother and I, and we tried to live life as normally as possible. Over time though, he began to come less. We began only seeing him a couple times a year. He began missing birthdays, holidays, plays, everything. Every time he missed something it was someone else’s fault. He would call and blame anyone but himself. Eventually he quit doing that. He just quit coming and never said why. When I was 9 he signed over his parental rights. He gave my brother and I up. He made us come to court just to watch that happen. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that he would actually give us up. My brother was not as upset as I was because he is autistic and didn’t entirely know what was happening. He was also a huge momma’s boy, so that helped soften the blow. I was crushed though. I had always been the daddy’s girl, then daddy gave up his girl and walked away. I still struggle with wondering what happened. He apparently went back to where he was from and reunited with his daughter from his first marriage that I didn’t even know about. When I found that out I was even more hurt. What did she have that we didn’t? Why did he love her enough to be a part of her life and leave us behind? These are things that I still struggle with as a 23 year old, but I hope that by acknowledging what has happened that I can move on from it and not let my future children ever feel the way I do.

    Jonice - December 7, 2019 Reply

    Dear Elaine, your dad’s other daughter had nothing special over you. He did what he did for himself and i guarantee it had nothing to do with you or how special you were. I hope you will find a good therapist to talk with about your father’s abandonment. You deserve to be more resolved about this.

Laurie - November 30, 2019 Reply

Hi I was abandoned by my mother at the age of 2. I was left in a restaurant however my mother took my two older siblings back home with her and left me behind. This has caused so many issues as an adult I have issues with trust, I was sexually abused at the age of 4. I have self esteem issues ( not feeling worthy). I find my self taking blame for everything . I have been married 3 times. I suffer from some sort of depression. I have since meet my two older siblings. One blames me cause she did not have “a real childhood ” because my birth mother was hiding from family. My other sibling does not blame me. I need help to grow and move on from this.

    Jonice - December 1, 2019 Reply

    Dear Laurie, please see a therapist. This was a very painful thing to live through, and you deserve help and support.

Jackie Brown - November 10, 2019 Reply

Thank you.

Jackie Brown - November 10, 2019 Reply

Hi, To this day I feel as if I don’t belong and I feel as if I am on the outside looking in. I have trouble in maintaining a relationship as I was not shown love as a kid so I always misinterp love. As a young girl growing up I found that I was no trouble told by my mum about having my periods and my younger sister got a bra before me and I had to buy my own. I was not told about having my periods and when I did I took myused sanitary towels outside to bin because I didn’t know what to do with them. When my dad came home drunk my mum would tell him to sleep with me instead of taking me in beside her. I left home because my wee sister attempted suicide which I witnessed and years later she hung herself…. I could go on and on. My mum, dad, older sister and younger sister are dead and my younger brother has been attempting suite. know that I suffer from anxiety and depression due to all of the above but after reading all about CEN I now realise that I have found my missing jigsaw piece and CEN is what I need help with. I am sorry that some of my message was rather blunt but I was having difficulty explaining myself. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post.

    Lara Arnott - November 22, 2019 Reply

    I hope that you will feel that you are not alone. It is only when we can give up the hope of having the reality of nurturing and loving parents that we will truly discover ourselves. You are enough. As I know I am. All of us will find each other and remind ourselves of how beautiful we are. It is not easy. Please keep going.

Carrie - November 7, 2019 Reply

My birth was unplanned to parents of three older children. My mother was an alcoholic who made no plans for my arrival; I was born at home with no crib or provisions. Other family members were called in to help. My mother told my siblings to name me, and my care was left to my 12 year old sister who, understandably, resented me. My siblings were gone by the time my father died of a heart attack. My mother was emotionally unavailable. I’d go to bed at night and periodically call out to make sure she hadn’t left. My sister received a call from my school saying I was unkempt, and so she and her new husband took me in. My sister hated me for this and reminded me daily of how stupid and ugly I was. Finally she tired of me and called my uncle and aunt, and they reluctantly took me. I was told on my arrival at age 13 that their friends couldn’t understand why they would take me in. I felt so alone. My mother was a drunk and one day my uncle received a call from a motel telling him to come and get her. He made me accompany him, and I think he thought this would scare her straight. No such luck. These were back in the days when AA was the only option and when approached about getting help, she disappeared for three years. I have been married three times and did manage to have a good career. I have no children but do have a loving husband. One could say that with the pain I’ve spent a lifetime trying to manage, I am still running on empty. It is difficult because I’ve never reconciled with not being wanted, but I tell myself that perhaps I was put on this earth to make a positive difference in someone’s life. Thank you for listening!

    Jonice - November 9, 2019 Reply

    Dear Carrie, thank you for sharing your story. It is wonderful that you have established a good marriage and career and have such a positive outlook. You have made a positive difference in people’s lives just by sharing your story here. All my best to you!

SD - October 30, 2019 Reply

The father of my children his mother left him with his dad at the age of 7.they were never married just a one night thing. His dad was young and ripping and running in the streets doing drugs and drinking so my child’s father was constantly staying with family members as his dad ran around town. His mom She was young and wanted to finish collegesobthis is why she left him with his dad at 7. When she tried to get him back from his dad he wouldn’t let him go back with her. Now he is an adult with a drinking problem and slowly killing himself. We have another baby on the way another boy. But I left him I couldn’t deal with the drinking. I’m so saddened and hurting because he is a good man but I found t deal with his mood swings and binge drinking anymore especially not raising kids.Can this type of abandonment have caused his downward spiral and drinking issue?

    Jonice - November 1, 2019 Reply

    Yes it could. I’m glad you have the courage to protect yourself and your children. Perhaps after seeing what he is losing, he will realize he has to change. But only he can make that decision, of course.

Janice - October 25, 2019 Reply

My mom left my sister and I when I was 3 and she was 6. My dad was a prospector and was never at home so he had my single aunt (my mom’s sister) look after us. She had 4 children of her own and was not very ‘loving’. My aunt remarried when when I was 9 so my dad moved us to another home; we were in this home for 4 years. We saw my dad infrequently in this time frame as he was always in the bush and when he did come home he was always at the local bar drinking with his buddies. I still recall the number of the bar as I would call often to find out when he was coming home as we would often wait for him in his apt when we knew he was out of the bush. My dad cared for us as best as he could. We rarely (once a year maybe) saw my mother and when I did I was a bit afraid of her. She was with the same man she left my dad for; still is to this day. We lasted 4 years in our second home, then farmed out to my cousin’s when I was 12 (this was also one of the girls I grew up with but she was 6 years older). We stayed there a year and then moved away with my dad; he built a home for us and he semi-retired. I lived with him through high school and my sister went to university after 1 year. I have a relationship with my mom but I can’t get beyond how she could have left her 2 daughters. I have asked and heard her story but as much as I try to forgive her the little child in me still has a hard time when I am around her. I am now 57 years old and she is 81. I see her about once a year as we live far away. While I worry a bit about my relationship with her my bigger concern now that I realize it is my inability to feel. I have sought partners who were not available and was with someone for 22 years. She passed away 7 years ago, and that was very difficult for me. Since she has passed away I have undertaken some personal growth work, hence my realization that I have suffered from abandonment. I am now in another relationship and I am struggling a bit as I am so aware of my inability to feel and express love. I was able to do so in my last relationship as it was not an equal relationship in that I was never sure she wouldn’t leave. So I was always chasing. My current partner loves me very much and I trust them not to leave; I just wish I could be more in touch with my feelings. I think how I feel rather than feel how I feel. I saw a grief counsellor after my partner died and that’s when my disassociation with my feelings became apparent. I don’t want to live like this anymore. What do you recommend as a source/path for healing?

    Jonice - October 27, 2019 Reply

    Dear Janice, I am sorry you have been through so very much. I recommend you start with the Identifying & Naming Exercise and Feelings Monitoring Exercise described in the book Running On Empty. If you do this consistently and do not give up, it will help reconnect you to your feelings.

Michael - October 5, 2019 Reply

My mother abandoned me when I was eight. My brother and I were brought up by my perfectionist, workaholic father, who practically never spoke to us. He did get his aunt, my great aunt, who was in her seventies, to cook, etc. She practically didn’t speak either. I got into drugs before going to university. My first wife was abusive and fifteen years my senior. She died in 2012. I’m now 51 and married to Michelle. Our only child, Rose, was stillborn. I have not had a good time. I have experienced what you mention, in spades. I’m not working, but I did have a few unsuccessful jobs. My website is not really about me at all. It’s to help other people who as adults have had to fix and build every tiny little aspect of their life again. I did it. It took a very long time and several serious mental health diagnosis. See my help site for encouragement or even a solution. As I say : “Godspeed…”

Deborah Johnson - September 27, 2019 Reply

I am the child of emotional abusive/absent parents. Father was given up by his mentally unfit mother at three, never knew his father. My mother was sexually abused by her father as a child. I have been diagnosed with a handful of conditions over the years. Abuse, incest and neglect were also the back drops of my past. I live with Cluster B traits. Maladaptive coping strategies reflecting layers and layers of mental problems reaching back over generations. DNA testing showed many markers for mental health issues, which in turn, produced generations of people not fit to parent. No drug addiction, alcohol issues, I don’t know how I am still here. Life has been a struggle since I was a little child. Your site resonated with me, I will get a copy of your book to see, if I have some of the right strategies in place. Thank you for being here.

    Jonice - September 29, 2019 Reply

    Dear Deborah, I am very sorry you have been through so much. I hope you will keep working to heal and feel the self-love and happiness you deserve.

AuntG - September 21, 2019 Reply

My 66 y/o bro-in-law’s daughter was not embraced as a child by her father, partially due to mother’s need to “have” something of her own. She pushed him away until she needed him to parent. They never married. Old hippies. She passed when niece was 16. Slowly father and daughter got closer, although they lived together all her life. Fast forward, she is now mid 40’s with a 5 y/o girl. She has nursed an alcohol and drug problem for 10+ years, 3 marriages too. She moved in with her grandma to help her rehabilitate except she stole some of grandma’s medications. She and her uncle both lived with grandma/mom. They never got along as they were close in age. Son also has alcohol problem and has never lived on his own. Niece moved out for a year but showed up with daughter in need of a place to stay. Son manipulated mother/grandma into saying no, based on niece’s previous behavior and uncle’s detest. Now Grandma is in facility, dying and asking to see granddaughter and great granddaughter, but niece will not budge. Isn’t someone suffering from the feelings of being slighted are really in desire for the slighter to confess their wrong doing? I believe niece is losing an opportunity she’ll never get again. To hear her grandma say she’s sorry for listening to her son verses listening to her heart.

    Jonice - September 23, 2019 Reply

    That is a painful story, AuntG. It is very difficult to decide for someone else what is best for them. All you can do is offer support and your opinion, if it is welcomed and the rest is up to her.

Martin - September 4, 2019 Reply

Everything in this article rings true, except for the solution. The older I get I realize how there is no replacement for a child’s father. When your father does not believe you matter…. well, then you don’t matter.

    Jonice - September 6, 2019 Reply

    Dear Martin, I know it’s hard! But it’s important to keep filling that empty space with people who do believe you matter. It is possible to accept it yourself and move forward feeling better.

Codi - August 14, 2019 Reply

It’s so sad how billions of us are going through the same thing but have been judging each other harshly not realising we finding our own way that makes sense to us to survive and breath. I’ve lived in others shadows for fear or being cheated on or left. I didn’t know until last month what it mean to spend time with me. Do a movie and lunch alone needing no1. From one relationship to another for fear of being alone and the choices we make in that state. In troubled times I’d rather be alone than be with ppl. Even those that were genuine in helping me I gave them a hard time. Maybe pushed away the good ones and got stuck with blood suckers. Thank you for this platform for we are now able to see there is a silver lining. I’m just thankful I’ve been exposed to this conversation now than wen im older. How many other ppl would I have hurt unaware. They say the abused becomes the abuser. Being each others strengths will help us be better for our kids and most importantly being better versions of us and what god has intended. It’s our time to Shine bright for the world to see….

    Jonice - August 18, 2019 Reply

    It does sound like now is your time Codi! Take on your Childhood Emotional Neglect starting right now. It will pay off in helping every area of your life.

JM - August 6, 2019 Reply

At the age of 6 my father left and started a new family and never looked back. The thing is I adored my father. He treated me like his little princess and made me feel like I was the apple of his eye. His love was everything to me. Then he left started a relationship with a girl half his age left my mom pregnant with my brother. He was the financial bread winner and paid all the bills. So when he left we had no money. Our electricity was cut off in the middle of winter. We got evicted from our home. We had to go live with relatives until we became such burdens we had no choice but to go live in a shelter in the Bronx. Where we got sick and had traumatic things happen to us there. Eventually we saved up enough money and moved to Florida and started a new life. My mom had a miserable life. She did the best she could but this made her bitter and she was not able to give us emotional stability or make us feel safe. She was damaged by this. She worked and busted her butt to put food on the table and give us shelter. But she was never able to hug us or kiss us or tell us I love you. Till this day she can barely touch me or show love a way a parent should. He knew we were struggling and we literally were hungry and he abandoned us, he didn’t come for us. He didn’t save us. He didn’t care. But he had his young pretty 20 yr old girlfriend. A neighbor had to take my mom to the hospital when she went into labor he legit just left us. She had a difficult pregnancy. My brother was born into a fatherless home and poverty. This has left us both with extreme trust issues. To the point that I think everyone will eventually screw me over. I found out he died 10 yrs ago and had a burial of honor by the navy because his son from his new family is in the Navy and he was given a send off for great men. This left me loosing faith in life being fair. Even in death he was given respect. Meanwhile we have trauma and deep rooted pain. I am an extremely successful woman. An over achiever. Everything I do is to win and show the world my worth. But inside I feel a void. I literally have people tell me you have it all. It has taken years and years of talking and letting it out to semi heal and forgive. Weird enough I am married. I have been married for 20 yrs. my husband is extremely gentle and a great father. He shows love to our kids better than me. I am trying to be a better mother. It’s hard for me to hug them and tell them I love them. I do love them so very much but it’s hard for me to say it. It is tragic how abandonment and childhood emotional neglect can ruin your life and potentially new victims who bare no blame. The only reason our marriage has lasted this long is because he grew up in a loving nurturing home. He is patient. He gives me love when I’m unlovable. He told me the other day you have to start trusting me. You’re killing me. I realized then I had to let this go and forgive. Since I have taken steps to change and forgiven my dad and also my mom I have felt an immense weight lifted from my chest. Forgiveness is extremely powerful. It saved me and set me free. I learned to forgive not for them but for me and all the people I love that I do t want to hurt.

SGBarnard - July 8, 2019 Reply

Yesterday, my biological mother died aged 97. “Well she had a good life” is the most common reaction. Well she did and always made sure she did, to the point of leaving me aged two, to live with and marry another man. She took my brother, aged 1, to live with her and her new man, though her new in-laws insist he be sent to boarding school. My father kept me, thinking that my mother would come back for me. She never did. My father re-married and I became a stepdaughter and later a stepsister. My stepmother did what most “normal” people would do, loving her own biiological children in preference to another woman’s child. Suffice it to say I had a miserable childhood, being torn between my father’s mother and other relatives, being constantly reminded that my biological mother was far superior to my stepmother, thus turning my stepmother against me and them. I have often wondered how I would feel when my real mother died, but I awoke this morning and my first thought was “I’m free” … free of the pain of being abandoned as a child, free of the feeling that I ought to be a better person than I am (more recent contact with my real mother having indicated to me that I could better myself), free of the feelings of hurt and pain that I learned to live with as being “normal”. My feeling is like a ton weight has been lifted from my shoulders, a ton weight that I have been unaware of carrying. Relief and not grief is my reaction. I am no longer aware of envying my mother’s other children, because she appeared to prefer them to me. My fear of not being good enough will surely wane with the time left to me (I am now 75) I have been married three times now, hopefully now for good, and after 3 miscarriages have no child of my own.

    Jonice - July 8, 2019 Reply

    Dear SGBernard, I understand why you feel freed from a burden. Please use this freedom to keep growing.

James Davis jr - November 29, 2018 Reply

Hi .I am a 24 yr old guy and I live with my buddies.This is my experience .My mom always chose her boyfriend’s over me.My mom was all about tough love,detachment and always used the lines ‘my children don’t control my life ,I want my happiness.Her boyfriends were emotionally abusive to me and when I was 18,she brought on her boyfriend who was 18 onto the house.We eventually had an argument and mom chose him and kicked me out.She said age is just a number and that I should respect her man.She even went on to get pregnant by this guy .When I went to visit my mom later,this guy came out and told my mom is not comfortable meeting me and that I should talk to him .I never saw her again .I barged and I argued with my mom and she said I was a brat and that spouce comes before children according to bible.I told her that the bible also condems pre martial sex thus exposing her hypocrisy,she kicked me out again.It really hurts that my own mom loves another boy more than her own boy .was I so bad that she had to take another son?I now live my life as a player .I have a thing for older woman coz of my mommy issues .I am a good looking guy and get a lot of girls .Sometimes I fall in love but I am scared .Guys my age thin of hooking up and stuff but I just want a mother figure.I have intrusive thoughts and anxiety .I am horribly empty inside.The worst is a lot of people just tell me I should get over it and that my mom should be happy.I lose faith in humanity when I see parents are even encouraged to be selfish .I am hurting very bad and I have lost interest in anything.O font watch movies ,sports or anything,life is now just a long party where I feel mostly disconnected from everything else.You are the only psychologist who spoke of this emotional stuff and I like that ,the world needs to know the truth.Its really difficult to believe that I am worthy of love.
I’ll tell you something funny.My mom has arched eyebrows .The other day my buddy was with his girlfriend who had arched eyebrows.This triggered an anxiety attack in me.Her arched eyebrows reminded me of my mom who didn’t even acknowledge me while making out with her boyfriend .Am I that insignificant?Its painful to live now.

    Jonice - November 29, 2018 Reply

    Dear James, your story breaks my heart. You do deserve love and you are lovable! The way you describe your experience shows how thoughtful and insightful you are as a person. I encourage you to get a female therapist who is licensed and recommended by someone you trust. And keep reading and learning about CEN because it will help you understand. All my best wishes to you.

Abd El Hamiid - November 14, 2018 Reply

I have a 27 months son under my care who was neglected and abandoned by her mother 18 months ago when the baby was just 9 months old. The mother abandoned him when he was sick (Bronchitis due to being neglected by his mother in cold weather nights alone in the house when I had traveled for work) so that she can be able to attend to her night_life_needs (alcohol abuse and sleeping around with other men for money)

I was left to take care of my son alone; got a great maid who is an expert at taking care of babies who has managed to help me raise our son to this end. My son was never breast fed by his mother; in fact he touches his flat titties and calls them “MOMMA” (This act drives me nuts but am trying to keep up with it and now we do it together as a game we play; though he does that mostly when he needs my attention and to be shown love and carried by me).

After 17 months of me hustling to raise him alone; his mother recently came back with police warrants and causing all sorts of chaos claiming she wants back her child. I have gone through court proceedings and been called to police many times; showed them facts about child neglect and abandonment which this woman did to her own child, but it is very difficult to convince the AFRICAN POLICE OFFICERS ON MATTERS CONCERNING CHILD NEGLECT AND ABANDONMENT BY MOTHERS. They feel whatever the mother can become even after carrying out such a serious crime, she can just walk back into her child’s life whom she abandoned for months.

I am trying to figure out how this should end; am so confused; my child saw her mother he was confused too, it is a whole mess now.

Only God can come to my rescue on this matter.

Sara - November 14, 2018 Reply
I am interested in some of your work or books if u have any. My sister has 2 girls who were abandoned by their mother, unknown fathers. The oldest was 2 when the mother left them. The time she had been with her mother she was left with strangers for weeks at a time on and off and neglected physically. She had issues with potty training and has had issues with withholding bowel movements. She is 5 now and continues to have issues. She has a counselor but I do not believe she is getting adequate counseling. She has been in counseling since she was 3. It hasn’t been consistent counselor gone or doesn’t see her on a scheduled basis. She has started school but does not function on an emotional level of a 5 yr old. More of a 2 yr old. I know a lot of the issues she has are due to the loss of her parents. Her younger sister’s alleged father also recently showed up after 2 yrs and ct has ordered visitation. For the older child this has had an effect. She knows she has a dad but not in her life. My sister is struggling with dealing with her behavior and seems resentful or attributes her behaviors or reactions to ‘being just like her mother’. I have worked with kids and I see the signs I also understand how my sisters reactions to her are actually contributing to her issues but I don’t know how to approach it with my sister. She is very sensitive and over reacts to constructive criticism. She doesn’t understand how this trauma effects everything this child does. It has defined her up to this point. I have told her she needs to find another therapist that will address the issues and also encourage the child to express feelings about her mother, father, her sister and that situation. She also doesn’t help my sister understand the issues or how she can help her. Their solution is to separate her from others when she does anything wrong and I’m not talking like a simple time out. It’s a go to bed and she stays there for hours sometimes all day. I get teaching her certain behaviors are unacceptable but it’s almost like they don’t know how to get through to her or don’t want to deal with her so their solution is to get rid of her so that don’t have to which to me only re enforces her feelings of abandonment. An example: she has been sent home from school several times supposedly sick (teacher says she says she is..) she is very clingy and constantly begs for attention or affirmation or praise. I think this drives the teacher nuts and so she sends her home when she isn’t in mood to deal with it. She has issues with BM she holds herself and then has accidents or something similar. This to me a control thing she has no other control over her life but this. So she uses it. Teacher calls says she has had accidents and can’t quit going. Says this is what child told her.. my sister picks her up and sends her to bed ‘she’s too sick for school needs to go to bed’ I told her to check the underwear sent from school. There is nothing more than a skid mark on one and less on the other. So now my sister is assuming child lied to teacher (possible) so my sister attributes this to her being manipulative and lying to get her way just like her mom did.. so she is going to stay in bed rest of day. I told my sister she may want to find out why teacher is just believing a 5 yr old who she knows isn’t always honest what 5 yr old is) They say she is lazy and just doesn’t want to do school work. I think there is more to it. My sisters home life is not the best either it is up and down. She has a veteran husband who suffers from PTSD and is an alcoholic who gets out of hand at times. I have many times thought of telling my sister I would take her if it is too much, but I fear my sister will take this as a slight. I am looking for resources that she can possibly read and understand some of the behaviors and the reason why she does it. Also give her some direction on how to react and not react. There are other children in the home my sister has 2 natural children boys 16, and 5 and also the younger sibling a girl she is now almost 3. She was 6 weeks when they were abandoned. She too is starting to mimick some of the behaviors like being clingy, constant attention, wanting control etc. Their mother has seen them maybe a total of 10 times in 2 1/2 yrs since she left. I don’t think the youngest quite understands but she senses something. The oldest knows who her mother is and knows she has left her. She craves attention and information about her mom and makes excuses or makes up things (her mom bought her this or that) about her mom. This aggravates my sister and she assumes she should hate her mother. I have told her it doesn’t work like that. She gets it but she doesn’t. The older this child gets the more I fear that things will get worse for her unless someone tries to help them understand. Sorry for the book! I am at my wits end.

Leigh - July 1, 2018 Reply

I’m just now starting to emotionaly connect with my eight year old son and I’m 67. Yes I had my own children late to partially help me understand unconditional love. I now feel it but still don’t “share” it with my children. Unfortunately my ex is trying to keep them away from me which has turned me to try and understand what went wrong. I’m now just realizing the obvious which is often right under our nose but we don’t see it. I call it common sense we don’t have. However as I read your literature on CEN it all starts to make sense. Then I have to keep from beating myself up over it because I “know” I’m smarter than that. But in now amazes me how I missed the signs of CEN myself. It is now so obvious but I missed it. Just thanks for making me see it when I took the test I answered yes on nearly all questions. In fact at times I would have had 100% yes answers. SCAREY. I must say that my work and present awareness I’m sure will be a life saver. Yes I have even contemplated suicide in the past but would never do that to my kids. Now I realize how much I can do for them by making sure they don’t fall into the CEN trap. However they also have a narcissistic mother but she goes the opposite direction by allowing them to completely run their life on emotion. Any thoughts on that Jonice? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. I am working on my CEN but don’t know how to deal with her impact. As I said before she is trying to keep the kids from me in a very “controlling” manner. However she passes all the blame on to me. In fact she is into the realm of serious child alienation which is even worse in my mind than CEN. I would welcome any advise on dealing with this strange combination of “disorders”. In fact I would love a “one on one” with you, Jonice, if that is possible. Thanks again. Leigh Summer

Suntime11 - May 28, 2018 Reply

Thank you, Dr. Webb!! Reading your blog posts always makes me feel better. Your abandonment post really hit home for me, as I felt abandoned by my mother when my younger sister came along, and I could do no right. As an adult I’ve been terrified of people I love leaving me or becoming bored of me if they find out the “real” me, so I’ve always run away before they had a chance to do so. My mom had other issues, probably a narcissist/sociopath, but that’s another story.

Kate, I wanted to respond to your comment, as I was struck by the familiarity of your confusion of what a healthy relationship looks like. First, I’m sorry that your childhood was so bland and crummy- you deserve better, and the fact that you’re putting effort into being the best parent you can be is the best thing you can do. I wanted to share with you a technique that really worked for me when healing from my “backwardsness”- Emotional Freedom Technique. You can google it- you tap on acupuncture points with your fingers, and bad feelings clear. I also found it helpful to talk to a therapist, and I often found myself asking, what do I do to have a healthy relationship? What does that even look like? So keep up the good work and keep trying, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Do you have fun with your kids? Play with them, take them to fun places? Btw overnight camping with kids you’ve never met before is pretty standard, and usually results in fun times and new friends. Best wishes to you and your family 🙂

    Jonice - May 28, 2018 Reply

    Thanks for your helpful advice for Kate, Suntime11!

    Katie - May 29, 2018 Reply

    Suntime11 , thank you for taking the time and reading my comment and replying. Your comment strike me as well. I have no friends and never made an effort to seek one, for the exact same reason that you mentioned above! I always thought that I am weird and different and it will make people “puke” if they knew the real me. At family gathering I joke a lot and say silly stuff so I can hide the real me. My kids started to see the pattern and ask so many questions about my Behavior in “public”. But I have not told them the truth since my daughter is 14 and she has her own hormonal issues and my son has anxiety and just make things worse. Beside, I am not looking for their “empathy”. This is my problem not theirs. My husband knows 50% of things but since he comes from a nurturing family he thinks I am making this up. Playing with my kids is great, spending time with them is wonderful. But when I see them having fun with their fri nds and socialize (something that I never got to do) is very “rewording” in a sense. I listen not to thbe conversation, but how they interact and have fun. How they make conversation and maintaining it. I can’t describe it, but it does help me emotionally to see them happy. It makes me extremely happy. Because I have broke the cycle. My kids did and still do help me, but I feel guilty because being a parent should be the other way around. I can’t explain, it is almost a guilty feeling. I have tried to seek therapy but not too many therapist know about CEN and how to deal with it. I read a lot and I just started to take care of myself. Every day a small thing. Doing my nails, taking a bath, reading, relaxing, napping. And I started to tell myself every morning that “you matter, your existence is of value”. It is hard to do it in front of a mirror, to look at myself in the mirror and saying these things. So I haven’t tried it again. I hope to get there sometime. Btw, I am 39 and soon to be 40. I haven’t seen my father in 3 years and my relationship with my mom is not great. We see each other, but it feels weird. I don’t feel close to her, I don’t know what to talk about and we just keep it “whatever” and that’s it. We see each other at my siblings home mostly once a month or once every 2 months. I don’t miss my parents. As a matter of fact, without their presence I can breath. I know I am hurt, but for some reason I don’t remember much. Sometimes I do believe my husband that maybe my brain is playing a trick on me. As if this entire life of mine was a movie, once of those movies that you don’t recall much, but th feeling stays. I am going to google and practice. I want to be normal (whatever that means and if it does exist).

kate - May 24, 2018 Reply

Dr. Webb,
I’ve read your book and keep it close.
My background: i was raised with a set of parents that were both narcissist (father severe, mother moderate) i was deprived emotionally from being a child. At a very young age, i’ve learn to survive. I wasn’t allowed to play with other kids, go to my classmate house, etc. i was in 24hr/day “supervised” by either mom or dad and i had to go by their rules. I was belittered, put down and i was told on a daily basis that i am worthless and without my parents i would be nobody. I was trained by my mom to steal my own clothes from stores and drop out of high school. I was sexually abused by my mom’s brother. Physically abused by both parents and severely deprived from being a child.
I tried to commit suicide at the age of 17 (now 39 – clearly survived) . I wanted to die, because i felt like a burden on the family and my parents and wanted them to have a good life. I always thought that i was a problem/burden on everyone. I was never cared for even when i was physically sick. I clearly remember my ear infections where i use to warm up a towel and put it on my ear at night so i could ease the pain (around 5 or 6 years of age). I had severe allergy reaction to a food and suffered from hives for a week and finally an extended family member gave me pills. Long story short, i did not quit school and went to university and did not steal!. Got married to a wonderful husband and i have 2 children. The little child that never got to grow up in me, got a chance to experience life with my kids. I am on medication so i can function. But the waive hit me from time to time. It storms out. My kids are emotionally extremely spoiled. I am doing exact the opposite of what my parents did. It takes time, what i do is try to analyze the situation and think of how my parents would react and do the exact opposite. I do take my kids to a psychologist, not because there is something wrong with them, there is clearly something wrong with me and i don’t know any better. I almost need a coach on how to parent.
here is the tough question:
my 12 year old son is suffering from anxiety. Every child’s emotional need is different and coming from a battered childhood, i can’t read or understand his emotional needs. I am there for him the way i “think” is the right way, but i don’t know. He is sensitive, and understands more than he should be. He worries about money, time, and wants to make sure that he pleases everyone. I keep telling him that is my job that he needs to enjoy his childhood and make memories. He doesn’t hang out with his friends, even if i “force” him. I want him to explore the world around him, just have fun and be a kid. Our therapist wants me to push him (cold turkey) in the world. Sign him up in over night camps and other camps where he doesn’t know anyone. I am afraid that this method will actually hurt him more if the group that he will be in is not a good one. I am desperate to help him. I talk to him, we spend so much time together, but i want him to not worry and enjoy his life. How do i help my son to over come his anxiety? how do i help him? I am afraid that he will have a void in him, that emptiness later on. I can see it happening if he continues the way he is. How do i avoid the running on empty for my child?

Noks - May 22, 2018 Reply

I Love your work. I read running in empty borrowed. I’d like to own it now.

    Jonice - May 22, 2018 Reply

    Dear Noks, I’m glad you liked it. You can find Running On Empty everywhere.

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