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Abandonment and THE PEOPLE WE KEEP by Allison Larkin

April, a talented singer, lyricist, and guitarist, is entirely alone. She was a young girl when her mother left her and her dad. Years later, when April was in high school, her father met someone and started a new family, leaving April to live unaccompanied in a trailer. Moments with her dad were infrequent yet traumatizing. After a terrifying argument with him, where he broke her most prized possession – her guitar— April ran away. She was just sixteen.

Thus started a several-year period of homelessness, with April earning just enough money performing in coffee shops, bars, or on the street for convenience store semi-meals and gas to get to the next destination. Some people tried to help her, and many others took advantage of her. Only one thing was consistent– April’s rules to avoid emotional intimacy. When April occasionally breaks the rules and lets people see glimpses of her true self, she inevitably becomes scared and flees.

April is in a cycle of abandonment.

Abandonment can start in childhood. Kids depend on their primary caregivers for love, support, and safety. When parents don't meet these needs, children assume they are not good enough and blame themselves for their caregiver's shortcomings.

Later in life, abandoned children hide their true selves from friends and romantic partners out of fear that the other person will immediately reject them. On the rare occasion the (now adult) abandoned child does allow emotional intimacy into relationships, they tend to desert the other person when things get hard to avoid being discarded all over again.

Breaking the cycle of abandonment is challenging but doable. Here are some tips:

  • Examine the reasons for parental abandonment. Particularly attend to the causes that had everything to do with the parent and nothing to do with the child.

  • Reframe your self-concept. Rather than seeing yourself as not good enough for the parents who left, see yourself as someone worthy of love yet did not receive it.

  • Treat yourself with love and kindness. If you do not treat yourself respectfully, you will not expect others to and can fall into unhealthy relationships.

  • Tell trustworthy people about your past to prevent it from re-occurring. When increasing emotional intimacy with friends and romantic partners, you can inform them about your fears related to closeness and that you may sometimes want to flee. Ask for them to help you stay physically and emotionally present.

Suppose April had been able to break the cycle of abandonment earlier. In that case, she might have avoided trauma related to homelessness and loneliness. Rather than writing sad girl music, April may have penned upbeat songs, but I would have traded it all to see April happy.

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