How Do You Deal with Being Abandoned?

I've written blogs about physical, sexual, and verbal/emotional abuse, but there is one more kind of abuse I'd like to address...neglect and abandonment.

First Understand What Is Neglect and Abandonment?

You can be considered neglected or abandoned when you don't know where your parents are, if they have left you alone, or have failed to maintain contact with you. It also includes being left alone in circumstances where you suffer serious harm, lack adequate food, housing, clothes, medical care, even education or supervision.

Another common childhood experience is being emotionally abandoned by a parent. When parents are critical, dismissive, or preoccupied to the point that it communicates to a child that "You don't matter," or "Your feelings aren't important". This makes a child feel unloved, unaccepted and misunderstood.

Abandonment can also be experienced when one parent disappears from a child's life. It can happen at a very young age, or it can even be when you're a teenager or young adult.  A parent walking away from the family, divorce situations, and even suicide of a parent can lead to deep feelings of abandonment and communicate to a child, "You aren't worth being connected with." The common factor is an outright decision by the parent to not be a part of their child's life any longer.

Netasha expressed her sadness over having her father leave her mother when she got pregnant. "They went through all the court stuff, and he told the judge I was his mistake and that he wanted nothing to do with. So, it's not that I hate him or anything, I'm just disappointed in his decision. It would have just been easier growing up with him around. I'm about to graduate high school and go to college.

Don't Cover the Pain with Unhealthy Choices

For a child who has been abandoned by a parent, it's easy to try to fill that void with unhealthy relationships. Kristy commented on how she's lured into relationships with destructive guys: I am lured to these guys because I have almost no relationship with my father, and I want to replace that missing love with a boyfriend. Having the poor relationship with my father makes me feel like I did something wrong or need to prove I'm worthy of love from a man. Therefore, I'm attracted to a jerk who will test my limits and make me endure mentally and emotionally scarring situations to prove I am worthy.

Neglect and abandonment are huge issues, and can often lead to many forms of addiction...including love addiction, substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm, etc.

Remember It's Not Your Fault

It's easy for anybody, regardless of age, to think the disappearance of their parent is somehow their fault. This is not the truth. As a young person, you cannot carry the blame for a grown adult's abusive decision. They are simply operating out of their own place of hurt and pain, and that can be caused by a number of things, in particular, their own abusive upbringing.

Learn to Forgive

It's normal to feel angry when you have been betrayed, abandoned or hurt in some way. If that anger is not dealt with, you will soon become bitter and miserable. The process of forgiving someone does not excuse what they did or in any way say it was O.K. It just gives you the freedom to move forward and no longer be tied to the person that hurt you.

Look For a Mentor

You may think a stand-in parent won’t work for you, but I have talked to many students over the years where a substitute parent or mentor has made all the difference in the world. Just knowing someone really cares for you can make a huge difference.

Laura’s comment says it all: I have gotten the chance to get closer to my band director at school. He has helped me so much this year. He is like a dad to me.

But how does one go about finding a father figure? Morgan sent me some great advice:  I think they should go to a grandpa, uncle, or even an older brother they know loves them, and just spend time with them. Chat with them. Go to lunch with them. Everything that those suffering from Father Hunger would want to do with their dad. It certainly wouldn’t replace their dad, but it would bring some love from a male father figure into their life and fill some of that void.

Immediate Need

If you determine you are living in a neglect/abandonment abusive situation, it's important that you tell someone. Find someone you can trust to talk about what's going on at home. It will help you get perspective on your situation, and help you decide what actions you need to take to protect yourself.

You can always chat with TheHopeLine. You can also call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).  There is always hope and there are ways to deal with abuse going on in your own life, or to help someone you know who is going through abuse.

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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9 comments on “How Do You Deal with Being Abandoned?”

  1. . I want and need help so bad but I will not go see any one .
    I feel like is not a weakness but a weakness in me, I'm afraid not of what I do what of what what happened to me. If I don't deal with it

  2. To everyone and anyone who feels like they've been abandoned I know the feeling and it is so horrible it makes you want to just worse than die. Especially when someone says they will always be there for you and then treat you like you are the worst person in the world

    1. Rodney, We are here to help and listen. Dealing with abandonment can be overwhelming and it can manifest in many different ways in your life. Talking about it is important. You can chat one-on-one with one of our HopeCoaches every evening to talk about what is going on and to get help. To chat with a HopeCoach go to

  3. Hi,
    I don't know if this is neglect or if I am just overreacting. I have always had health problems. So, at the age of three I was sent to my aunt's house in some other town far away. They were really nice people with no children. Only my mother used to meet me once in a while. After 6 years, I moved back with my parents. That is when my mother decided to pursue her MBA in a bigger city. I was sent to my mum's friend's place to live for 3 years even when my father was in the same town. I found a friend in my sister during this time. My sister on the other hand got to live with my parents for 16 long years and was pretty close to my father. Once my mum finished her MBA, I was done with my boards too. I was then sent to another city to complete my education. Even then, only mum used to visit me. Dad used to visit only if my sister was in the same town. I started feeling the discord between me and my father. I never got to explore a father daughter relationship. I used to envy my friends who were loved by their parents. My father was very orthodox and did not believe in having boyfriends. Unfortunately, there were a lot of complaints about my sister going around with boys by skipping college. I protected my sister during this time by turning all evidences against the situation. I lied to my parents about my sister for 7 long years. Once I began to work, my father started to open up to me. We slowly started to become friends. To my bad luck, he died within 5 months of my new relationship with him. I was shattered. I am going to carry a guilt that I couldn't ever build what i wanted to. But I was excruciated when my sister verbally abused me and asked me to leave the house the very next day of my father's death. I kept my calm thinking that she is being impulsive. Moreover, I wanted to be the bigger person so that my mother will be fine. My sister created a lot of ruckus in the house during the following days. I kept quiet because I knew that was the need of the hour. But my insecurity began when the "Leave the house" incident repeated and my mum decided not to take a stand about this. I started feeling lonely and one fine day I left the house. I knew that I was letting this happen to me. Owing to the fact that I wanted to study further and that I didn't have a job, I moved in with my grandparents. But today, my grandparents made a statement that they wouldn't let me stay even if I paid them $10000, had it not been for my mother. I was back to living on mercy. First because I wanted mum to support my education and second because my grandparents told all this. Now, I am in a state where I will either go crazy because of rejection or run away from home. I tried talking to my mother about all this, but she didn't seem to understand.
    I feel betrayed. I don't know where to seek help. Real help.

    1. Hi I am very sorry for what happened. I hope that you find it in your heart to forgive your family. It sound like your great person with a good heart. It's nice to know there is still good in the world.

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