The Fear Of Abandonment


Musings / Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

A good friend of mine messaged me yesterday. “How are you managing the space inside your head? These ghosts are coming to the party. Mine, at the moment, is the fear of abandonment.” Since I don’t want to paste his message word by word, I will paraphrase the rest of it. He spoke about how he trusted another person completely, and made himself completely vulnerable. He stayed for the other person, even when he wanted to leave. Yet, when he was at his lowest depth, the other person did not think twice about leaving. That experience has left him “so scarred,” he can’t think of fully opening up to another human, for fear of being abandoned again. 

When I read this, I took a long, deep breath. Several long deep breaths. It seemed like the ghosts in my mind had jumped over to my friend’s mind. The space inside my head is often noisy. Chaotic. Filled with unnamed guests. Some friendly. Most just plain vicious. And the most vicious ones are the ones I have created myself. Actually, scratch that out. ALL the ghosts in my head are living there because I created them. I ALLOW them to live there, leeching off the insides of my cells, and playing with every corner of my head, creating scenarios that don’t exist, and playing off old ones that also don’t exist anymore. Those ghosts jumped around frantically when I typed my reply. 

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My Dear Feeling Abandoned Friend,

Let me share something with you. Abandonment has always been a problem word for me. When my brother died, I felt abandoned by him. When my sister got married, I felt she abandoned me. When my adopted sister too went away after her marriage, I felt even more alone. Since then, I keep waiting for people to turn up and then go away. That pattern got entrenched even more after that. I made friends and allowed them into my life. Many of those friends then got married and well, boom, just like that, you are also an also-ran in their life. I keep telling my closest and most frustrating friend she abandoned me – she got married, went to Dublin, leaving our business, and then while her life changed, mine was still the same. I just no longer had a travel buddy. A weekend partner. A friend I could do anything with. Despite our closeness, I don’t trust her. And then, there were the others. Relationships came and went. Fleeting.

Three years earlier, I had the most lovely friendship, an intense connection I had never had with anyone else until then. Not romantic. But just a soul-crunching, once-in-a-lifetime connection. Guess what happened to that? Her boyfriend came in, told her that I can’t be in her life, and just like that, she went off. It’s something that I grieve about till today. I had the same questions as you, my friend: How can you just walk off? How? 

But you know, over these years, I have learned that I can’t understand the ghosts of anyone’s minds. I don’t know why people act the way they do. I don’t know why people hurt us. I don’t know why they leave. And frankly, trying to understand them is so tiring. I can only look at myself. I am aware that there will be lots more people who will come and go in my life. I don’t want to label it as ‘abandonment.’ People will lead their lives the way they want to. They should. Most of the time, they aren’t even thinking of you in their actions.

I like to look at it differently now – as different phases where different people play a role in my life. Maybe, they were just candles, lighting a flame for you at that time. In the end, at 40, I am grateful for the ones who stay. And those are so damn few that you feel physically pained. Like the sort of pain that comes after a heart-thumping 20-minute 5K run. 

There’s no way around it – people will damage us, bruise us, leave us naked in our souls, and make us gasp in our vulnerabilities. But I believe that it opens our hearts up. I like to believe that there will be light in the cracks when that happens. So, I have personally learned to just let it be. To stop myself from obsessing over what people do. And to do what I can do. Which is to be open, kind, and as fucking strong as I can be. Even in my weakness. Even in my vulnerability. Even in the abandonment. Especially then. 

Let’s make our hearts a messy place. Let’s be messed-up. I hope that maybe, there will be answers to all that we go through. And even if there are no answers, let’s be glad we asked the questions. 

Love,
SM

Do you have words for my friend? What can we do to cope with being vulnerable? And dealing with the fear of abandonment?

6 Replies to “The Fear Of Abandonment”

  1. For me, everyone in my small world is important and I try to make sure that I have time for them. I know how it feels to be cast away and taken off the priority list and I have promised myself that I would not neglect the people I love. And so I try. 🙂

  2. Such an endearingly vulnerable post! 🙂
    I’m sorry your friend had to go through that. I’m sorry you had so many skirmishes with abandonment.
    I think the people who stay, few as they are, make it truly worth all the heartache. Merely the possibility of finding someone like that, perhaps, gives me the strength to be vulnerable.

    1. You are also right in that sometimes abandonment need not be personal.
      I have been on other side of your experience as well, and I compelled to tell you my story. When I got married, a handful of my close friends told me that they felt abandoned, much to my sadness. I never intended to make them feel that way, I wasn’t even aware of it. I had too many “new” things in my life, and was busy trying to adjust to all of them. And then when I reached out, I found this inexplicable disconnect with some of my closest friends. I felt sad, that they had given up on me so soon.
      I couldn’t reason out who abandoned who, and after a lot of struggle, I made my peace with it. Such is life, I suppose.

      1. Thank you for reading and these beautiful messages, Restless. It took me a while to come to that wisdom, hehe. That people are not always thinking of you. That they think of themselves first. My ego took a while to accept that reality.

        I feel for you in the little story you have shared. I completely get that marriage is a life-changing event. It’s one of the most critical stressors in our life, along with moving houses, changing jobs or professions, death, and divorce. Too many things change with marriage and we all may struggle to manage all of it. Priorities, I am told, shift. But I feel those priorities should be temporary – we can’t realistically expect to put good friendships on the backburner for a long period while we pursue one person. But I think good friends should also be ready to accept you when you come back, and I am saddened that didn’t happen in your case. In my little experience, I think Poodle (who may comment later) is the only woman I know who invests a great deal in friendship even with marriage. But, I am sure, there are lots like her out there. I haven’t met them. Yet. 🙂

  3. A beautiful, well-worded post as always. This is my favourite line – “Maybe, they were just candles, lighting a flame for you at that time. In the end, at 40, I am grateful for the ones who stay.”

    At 89 I will still be with you, not as your candle but as your tubelight as you said *chuckles in glee

    1. Sure, Birdy. I am sure even then you will be fighting with me over meeting. 🙂 And saying, “4 hours,” then, probably instead of “meeting for 4 days.” You have scarred my soul. And set it alight. And sometimes, I don’t know what the difference is.

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