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Abandonment Issues

I used to believe that every single person in my life would leave me at some point. Sometimes it’s because I have given them no choice but to leave, and other times, they leave for reasons I can’t even comprehend.  Since I was a little girl, it has been a consistent pattern in my life that the people I love, the people I open my heart up to, and the people who are supposed to love me, all walk out on me sooner or later.

My abandonment issues began when I was very young, not even 7 years old, and I was in a courtroom with my mother, her new husband, and my newborn little sister. I sat on the courtroom floor next to my little sister, holding up a pearl necklace and watching her face light up every time it swung by her face.  I didn’t know why I was in the courtroom, and I looked up and around at the people walking in every so often to see if I recognized anyone.

I saw him sitting at the opposite end of the courtroom. I don’t know why he caught my eye, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of this man in the long, brown trench coat.  He had dark, raven black hair and he was wearing tan pants with dark brown shoes.  I couldn’t see his face because he had it buried into his hands and he was rocking back and forth on the hard wooden bench.  I remember wondering if he was crying, and if he was, what in the world he was so upset about.

The judge entered the courtroom and we all stood up. I slipped the pearl necklace I had been dangling over my sister’s car seat into my pocket and peered down the row at the man in the tan trench coat.  He kept his face down and gripped the bench in front of him with his hands.  The judge called my mother’s name, and she walked to the front of the courtroom with her new husband.

I was shocked to see the man in the tan trench coat stand up, approach the bench, and stand next to my mother.  My little sister began fussing and my mother turned around and shot me a dirty look.  I quickly found her pacifier and stuck it in her mouth while the judge began asking my mother and the man in the brown trench coat some questions.  I couldn’t hear very well, but I could see the man in the brown trench coat sign some papers, pass them to my mother and stepfather, and put his head down.

The judge asked the man in the brown trench coat if he was sure he knew what he was signing. The man nodded, muttered something I couldn’t understand and then turned around to leave the courtroom.  He walked right by me with his head down; it was obvious he just wanted to get out of that room as fast as he possibly could.

Mom and her husband came back to where my sister and I were waiting and took us out of the courtroom. “Who was that Mom?” I asked her.  “Who was that man that was up there with you?”  She looked down at me and sneered.  “That was your father, but he’s not anymore.”  The man in the brown trench coat was my father; the man I had never met, and he had just signed me away to the custody of my mother’s new husband forever.

I’ll never forget that day. I’ll never forget the feeling of cold that seemed to take over my body when those words came out of her mouth.  I’ll never forget the tears that immediately sprang into my eyes and I’ll never, ever forget the feeling of disappointment and hurt of being left in a courthouse by my father, without even a hello or a quick hug.

Thus began a cycle; a cycle of people leaving me or me cutting them out of my life when I felt hurt to the point of no return. I always had that day in the courtroom in the back of my head; that day that my own father decided he wanted nothing to do with me ever again.  If my own father, my own flesh and blood, didn’t want me then who would?

My mother didn’t want me, my stepfather and little sister treated me as though I was an unwanted disease who just lived with them, my mother’s side of the family wanted nothing to do with me or wanted to deal with Mom and her abuse of me, and any friends I would manage to have would only be around for a short while. If anyone tried to get close to me, I would put a wall up and keep my distance.  I had already been hurt and rejected by the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally; why would I be dumb enough to let anyone close enough to me to cause any more pain?  Why let people close when all they will do is leave?

I didn’t want to be abandoned again and I thought that the best way to do that was to keep everyone I knew at arm’s length and keep walls up around my heart. I didn’t want to feel the way that I did in that courtroom ever again.

But then I had my children and my life changed forever.  The moment I held my first son in my arms, I knew he was going to be in my life until the moment I drew my last breath.  I knew that I had the opportunity to know unconditional love and give unconditional love in return.  I knew that I was this little boy’s world and that he depended on me to be there for him 24/7.

I know it sounds selfish, but it felt good to be needed and wanted by someone, even if that someone was just a little 7 lb. baby boy sound asleep in my arms.  Having my children made me see myself through their eyes and love myself the way that they love me.  And you know what?  Once I started loving myself and once I began to feel truly wanted, it became easier to allow other people to become close to me.  Once I saw myself as a human worthy of love; I was more willing to share myself with others and let down some of those massive walls I had built up around me over the years.

Love yourself and the rest will follow. Not everyone leaves.  And those who do leave?  Well, maybe you really didn’t need them in your life in the first place.

Abandonment Issues

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Abandonment Issues. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 2, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2017
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