What do you get when you combine a child with a wounded caregiver, both unknowingly carrying abandonment wounds AND grieving the death of a beloved caregiver?
Answer: Healing and Single (Grand)Parenting 101.
I had not recognized myself as having an abandonment wound (especially since I minimized it for survival). Having suffered years of sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, living through emotional and psychological abuse, only to later relive my childhood experiences through my adult relationships. I lumped it all together as abuse, believing attending therapy and or medication would cure me.
Well yes, it might have if that’s ALL it was. Instead, I taught myself that this was my assignment in life to be the victim and martyr. I subscribed fully to the idea that my way of being was never going to change. I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and severe domestic violence. I was a clinical study for therapists and doctors looking to claim their fame. I was a widow.
So it did not make sense to me that both my grandson and I were struggling to move past grieving the death of my husband, his grandfather. We weren’t motivated, not communicating, nor caring because we were both unaware of unaddressed core wounds, specifically, abandonment and its companion, mistrust.
It all changed when I learned how I can become aware of what I am unaware of on my recovery path. One way was to lean into my curiosity to discover “the” intent (what’s the cause) of my choices. Remember, this may not be what you need, rather it’s what worked for me.
There’s always something that will land us on the threshold of choice to change or stay the same, such a major event that shifts our awareness from living in a bubble of unawareness to looking deeper internally or into our past. For example, we can convince ourselves we are fine after a life event occurs until we are unknowingly triggered causing us to react (not respond). The trigger could be ANYTHING; however, we blame our reactions on the event of the present moment.
It’s not the event that triggered us, rather the source is an unaddressed core wound and the beliefs it led us to create about ourselves, and shapes our view of others. This is where asking ourselves what THE intent is, assists us with awareness.
Becoming aware of what we are unaware of, asks us to risk being curious about habits, patterns, feelings, and beliefs that are creating discomfort in our lives, such as aspects of self that can be born from an abandonment wound. The most predominant aspect of the abandonment wound for me is a fear of trust.
Not trusting can lead to:
• People Pleasing.
• Over giving in relationships.
• Disconnect of mind/body/spirit.
• Mental/Physical illness.
• Feeling unworthy.
• Victim mindset.
• Narcissistic traits.
… and more. I’m sure you can see some overlap here with other core wounds, mental illnesses, and personality disorders. It’s no surprise for me that in more than 20 years of counseling, not one therapist approached the possibility of my suffering from a core wound, let alone an abandonment wound, nor did they suggest I could explore the positive side of my habits. There are a few explanations for this.
First, abandonment wounds had not been explored much until recently with scientific breakthroughs in the treatment of trauma. They were always just considered bad habits, things I was told I “should” change. Second, as I mentioned, we can only address what we’re aware of.
Three years after the death of my husband, with some growth, but I was still not trusting myself. I knew I couldn’t stay the same. I couldn’t continue to move in and out of depression, anxiety, and grief, and lack motivation because I had a child to raise and a life I WANT to live. My grandson and I both were in serious need of assurance that we could trust ourselves, be the supportive friend we deserve.
Some days the word “complex” feels understated. So, how does a wounded parent or caregiver with an abandonment wound raise a wounded child? They Become Unbound step by step through processes of:
• Awareness of our needs AND the child’s needs.
• Acknowledge the reality of the present moment.
• Accept responsibility for the healing process.
• Commit to Unlearn patterns and habits of the abandonment wound.
Of course, this is a minimized summary of all the processes of Becoming Unbound from an abandonment wound. To date, the biggest challenge has been believing I can trust myself.
There have been applications I’ve had to practice daily, asking the hard questions and answering honestly, looking at the reality of the symptoms of my core wounds, and all of this takes unrelenting commitment to see my intentions come to life.
I’m not alone on this path and I suspect neither are you. There are 2.7 million wounded adults raising grandchildren, and over 19 million wounded single parents.
This isn’t something we set an intent to do, which THAT — the lack of choice — is a TRIGGER of our abandonment wound. We didn’t have a say-so as a child how we were being treated. We didn’t have much resistance or say in any of the events that caused our core wound, specifically the abandonment wound. But we DO have a CHOICE in our response to the trigger. That response determines what we choose to do next.
Will we use the triggers to raise our awareness?
Where in your life can you take responsibility for the emotional, physical, and or psychological discomfort you experience? Is there something more you need to be aware of?
This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic of abandonment and the wounded caregiver. I’m open to hearing your story, helping you explore resources, and even sharing a few tools and processes with you to get you started on your trauma recovery path.
Until next time, be well and know that I am sending you much support and love.