So, here she is, the girl that has been physically or emotionally abandoned and rejected by her own mother. (Of course, the same thing can happen to a little boy.) A situation that people who were raised in a whole, happy family can never, ever understand nor do they want to. The nicest of them have some vague compassion, but many of them shudder: ”So glad it’s not me, I could never deal with that.” Others think: “What”s wrong with her? There surely is something wrong with a child who is not loved by her mother.” Or they give this piece of cold advice: “Life is too short, get over it!”
Surprisingly, relatively few people have a clue what early abandonment and rejection by mother really means for a child. In spite of Sigmund Freud or the extensive scientific research that has been done about Attachment Disorder, just to mention the highlights.
The lack of being loved into this life and being given a home is devastating while going through it, debilitating in the long run, and sometimes even deadly. Most ponder suicide at some point of their life, and some follow through.
As a grown-up, somebody you love can be physically absent and you still feel emotionally connected. You can live your life and, although you would prefer a physical presence, you know that this person is “there” as an inner presence. If somebody you love is emotionally absent, that’s quite another matter. Even their physical presence does not help to overcome the feeling of abandonment. So, emotional absence overrides physical absence every time. However, if they happen at the same time – for example, when the loved one dies, or walks out on you – it is devastating because it triggers your childhood memories.
Babies and small children cannot distinguish between physical and emotional absence. The mother (or a surrogate figure) is necessary for the survival of the child, in every respect. Therefore, having somebody around who cares is the most urgent desire a human being has from the first breath taken in this world.
A child who has been mothered appropriately will develop towards independence. Yes, there will be phases later in life when abandonment is felt deeply, but they pass. On the other hand, a person who has not been mothered sufficiently as a child will fall into a black pit of despair and stay there for quite a while.
When we are grown up, it is not the mother herself we are longing for, it is somebody else he or she is emotionally attached to: a lover, a spouse, a friend. That is why romantic -and not so romantic- relationships tend to be treacherous and volatile. Every time your lover or friend seems to abandon you (physically or emotionally), you go through this hell of early childhood trauma. Needless to say, this is not good for the relationship – and the sad irony is that you set yourself up for more abandonment in your life, which re-traumatizes you every time it happens.
As long as you don’t see your missing mother as the root cause of all your relationship dramas later in life, they are destined to be repeated time and again. Until the healing journey begins.