When I was a little girl, I often wondered why I never truly felt loved. There was such an emptiness that I experienced. In hindsight, these were symptoms of emotional abandonment. My eyes are open now and I can truly say, I was once blind, and now I can see.
What is emotional abandonment?
Emotional abandonment is when a parent “abandons” the child by not providing for their emotional needs and natural desires. This can happen either by the parent having misplaced priorities in life or lack of acknowledgement for moments when a child is visibly in distress.
You may hear a parent say things like “ stop all that crying!” or ” shut-up, it is not all that bad” or “stop being such a baby.” Crying equates to weakness and something to extinguish immediately.
Emotional abandonment is a subset of childhood trauma and is often looked over hastily when a child becomes an adult. I think this happens because of the expectation that society puts on parents and children that the strongest swim near the surface of their emotions and not in deeper waters. There is an emphasis to keep emotional matters hidden and internalized alone through secrecy and deep shame.
Related post: How Childhood Trauma leads To Loneliness: Overcome Now
In motherhood, the mother abandons the child, as soon as she abandons her own emotional needs. This may be the result of mother wounds or what she learned through generations of abusive mothering.
You can also see this when a mother disregards her true identity and worth. She may also dismiss her own emotional distress as a signal that she is making poor choices and may lack the ability to self-nurture.
Emotional abandonment: Mother-daughter dynamics
Abandonment of confidence building
Mothers are supposed to model godly confidence over fear. Growing up, my mother would use fear to mother me. I was “forbidden” to hang out with my girl friends in their homes or to make new friends because of her fear-mongering comments.
My mom would say…
It is dangerous to drive to your friends house at night or you can’t trust friends. They will do bad things to you! I’m your only friend.
As an adult, I had difficulty with forming deep long-lasting relationships with women because of the fear of being hurt by them. It was also difficult to use godly discernment or to follow my own womanly intuition on what constitutes a good friendship. Instead co-dependency developed between me and my mother.
Abandonment of Emotional Identity
Emotional identity is being able to recognize your emotions, how it affects your emotional well-being, and your sense of how you see yourself. There are several core emotional needs that mothers should provide in their daughters. I came up with 13 emotional needs that I personally would have liked to see in my relationship with my mother
- Love ( affection) – I feel deeply loved when you are with me; 1 Corinthians 13:4–8
- Appreciation – Thankfulness and I am told how special I am –Ephesians 5:20
- Acceptance- You accept everything about me, even my flaws- Romans 15:7
- Attention- You acknowledge me and spend intentional time with me- Proverbs 23:26
- Comfort- You make me feel better when I feel sad, scared, or lonely-Deuteronomy 31:8-9
- Security- I feel safe even if something hurts or seems scary- Proverbs 3:26-35
- Encouragement- You help me to see how strong I am- Joshua 1:9
- Control – You help me to see that I can make my own decisions in life- James 1:5
- Community – I can have deep connections with friends and family-Galatians 6:2
- Intimacy – I feel seen, heard, and known- John 15:4-6
- Purpose- I know my future is bright and there are plans to help me to get to where I am going – Romans 8:28
- Nurture- I am being taken care of (mind, body, and soul)- Ephesians 6:4
- Support- You take me in as your own and remind me that I am never alone- Romans 8:15-17
Abandonment of Womanhood
Mothers who abandon their daughters may also struggle with showing their daughters how to be a woman of God and how to accept everything about being a woman.
I remember when I got my first period. I was very young, still playing with barbie dolls, yet the call to womanhood came knocking on my door. It was slightly traumatic for me because I was afraid and never received comfort from my mother. Instead she looked at me in amazement and horror. She then told me that she would call other women in her home country to tell them about my “unfortunate” transition to womanhood.
Later in life, as I navigated through seasons of puberty, I was shamed for getting pap-smears, breast exams, and developing too quickly. In my mother’s eyes, I was too womanly and was beckoned to look and do more child-like things.
Many mothers who have experienced trauma, project their own fears of womanhood onto their daughters. It is likely that their mother’s never celebrated their transitions from childhood.
Abandonment of Nurture
Mothers are called to nurture ( care deeply) for their daughters. Nurturing takes discipline, dedication, and being intentional about training up a child to be emotionally mature. If your mother did not nurture you by modeling how to self-regulate, self- care, or self-love, then you may not have the adequate skills to relate to others and yourself.
Heal from emotional abandonment
It’s time to choose you
It is time to choose yourself and what you never received in childhood. An abusive mother more than likely looked to you as their emotional outlet through trauma dumping, projection, and codependency. You probably never had the chance to really voice your opinion or feelings on anything. You also did not get the chance to do things that you liked because of people-pleasing to appease the emotions of others.
Take the time to write down some of the things that make you happy and go ahead, like the Nike saying and ” Just do it”
Get to know yourself
During my healing journey from emotional trauma, I got the realization that I did not know myself as Jen. Ask yourself the question, who am i ? Do you like the girl staring back at you? Get to know yourself and your uniqueness in God’s eyes.
Mother the inner child
Mother your emotional wounds by having self-pep talks. Encourage yourself by saying how special you are. Talk to the child version of yourself and be kind. What are some things that you would like to say to the child at 7 years old that you wish your mother would have told you?
Allow God to meet your needs and desires
When I kept feeling lonely even in the presence of other people, I realized through the Holy Spirit it was because of childhood trauma. I was so afraid that I would not be able to have a child and a husband. I did not trust God to meet my emotional needs and deepest desires. But as you probably noticed, it was because my emotional needs went unmet by my mother.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life (not getting what you want in life makes your heart break, but when your hope, desires, and wishes are met, it is like a tree giving you life)
God told me that He wanted to step in and meet all of my emotional needs and desires. Looking back now, I can see that God has met every emotional need. He is now convincing me that He can also meet my deepest desires.
He can do the same for you. Are you ready to take a deeper dive into your emotions? check out these blog posts below.
Read my open letter: Open letter on Emotional Abandonment for Daughters to Heal Now
Do you have Emotional Trauma? How Toxic Mothers Use Emotional Trauma: What You Should Know Now
Enmeshed with your mother? How Toxic Mothers Are Enmeshed With Their Daughters