According to the Webster dictionary, abandonment is the act of abandoning something or someone.
Abandonment in the context of the mother-daughter relationship occurs when a mother physically leaves the child, whether through living in another country or regularly creating physical distance between them. Going often or failing to connect emotionally when present. As you will also see in this blog post, a child can also experience abandonment when the mother fails to advocate for her or chose not to believe her side of the story.
Types of Abandonment
Physical abandonment occurs when a mother leaves home. The mother might move to live in another country or another part of the country. There are various reasons why this might happen, such as economic migration, a woman fleeing violence or family structures where extended family care for children enabling the mother to travel for work.
Due to the mother leaving the daughter may have several painful experiences that she has to suffer alone. She may have to endure puberty along with other physical and biological changes in her bod but have no one to guide her.
She handles unanswered questions around puberty, periods, and what to expect. Many young women thought they were dying when their period started. Some thought they were ill or bleeding to death. They had so many varied imaginations. Mother figures that are present failed to play the role that a mother should have played.
Physical abandonment leaves the daughter with questions and feelings of rejection. These questions are sometimes never answered by the mother, who feels her actions were justified.
The reason for leaving is irrelevant. The daughter needs to understand and heal the impact of the loss. She may have an intellectual understanding and is sympathetic to the need that influences the decision; however, the feelings of the wounded child needs to be acknowledged and healed.
Physical abandonment can also occur when mother though living in the same home fails to bridge the gap that exists between her and her daughter. The distance would have started in childhood and becomes more pronounced as the child grows morphing into emotional abandonment.
Emotional abandonment is an emotional state that leaves the child feeling alone, rejected and unwanted. This withdrawal might be sudden or a gradual moving away that can create anxiety in the daughter.
A daughter experiences emotional abandonment when the mother is present but not available. She also gets it from the mother who cannot love and connect due to her experiences of neglect. She may decide to stay; however, breaking the cycle of neglect requires more than a decision to stay.
The mother who decides to stay also has to knowingly do several things different not to get the outcome of recreating that pattern of abandonment for her children.
Healing alone eliminate the risk of recreating patterns of abandonment. Living together doesn’t mean the mother; knows how to have conversations about puberty. Sharing physical space doesn’t mean that she knows how to take the daughter into her confidence or indeed to work her relationship with her daughter so that they can have meaningful conversations.
The mother might not know how to win the daughters heart where she can provide needful guidance about changes in her body.
There are several ways that mothers recreate feelings of abandonment.
1. When a daughter discloses instances of sexual trauma and the mother chooses to side with the partner, a colleague or family member or immediately dismisses what the daughter says and not listens. Not being believed gives a feeling of aloneness and being invisible because the person who she expected care and love from could not provide what is most needed.
Sometimes this experience plunge women into many years of self-hate, blame and internalised hatred and anger. The storm of emotions can magnify when culture dictates that the daughter should care for the mother in later life.
Culture demands loyalty from the daughter or the daughter feels a sense of duty to care for and keeps contact with the mother. Forgiveness is possible; however, healing gives you a chance to work through those feelings safely so that the care you provide comes from a place of love and not duty. Duty can be as toxic and harmful as hate and anger.
In some instances, the mother demands care as a duty, as service she deserves because of the years of sacrificing. A daughter needs to address and heal from her injuries to prevent this pattern passed down to her daughter.
2. Feelings of abandonment recreates when the mother regularly retreats to her room gives no explanation, and the children are left to ‘figure’ out what’s wrong. Often in these instances, children take responsibility for what they perceived as the reason mother cannot spend time with them. This blame can last a long time.
It also leaves a feeling of unworthiness and not being good enough.
· Lack of quality time can also create feelings of abandonment. It’s in those special times together that a mother and daughter will connect. When there’s a gap, she questions her worth and wonders what needs to change for her to be loved. This pattern of ‘fixing’ her and chasing love can linger into adulthood until the trend is acknowledged and the root healed.
3. Emotional abandonment can also occur when a mother who is more comfortable with tasking than connecting. Tasking might have a purpose and desired outcome, such as ensuring the daughter has necessary life skills. However, children are not known for their ability to reason and arrive at logical conclusions. Adults would struggle to understand without an explicit explanation.
The mothers were daughters too, and understanding of her generational patterns can help the daughter understand her mother’s context and what made her the mother that she is today. However, that won’t stop the toxicity.
Firstly she has to heal.
Though you may intellectually know why your parent left and make a decision to forgive and try to forge a relationship, the wounded child still needs to heal. Without healing, the risk of the intergenerational pattern of abandonment will continue.
You may experience psychical abandonment when your parents left, and you had to find ways of dealing with those emotions. Burying, ignoring or intellectualising the pain of neglect won’t heal the hurt.
Many counsellors, therapist or other mental health professionals are trained to help you recognise and begin healing. The book by Mark Wolynn ‘It didn’t start with you’ can help you understand the generational cycle and begin to improve.
If you are looking for ways for you and your mother to Heal Wounds to Scars one day retreat will be a great place to start. Get the details HERE.