The Journey from Abandonment to Healing

Susan Anderson
Berkley Trade; March, 2000
The Journey from Abandonment to Healing

This is a "get in touch with your feelings" book and will help anyone who is struggling with the loss of  a romantic relationship.  This is a good book for people struggling with abandonment issues, including those going through the ending of a relationship as well as those suffering the woundedness of earlier disconnections.

Every day there are people who have lost a romantic relationship and feel as if life has lost its purpose. We have all experienced it. When a relationship ends, the feelings harken all the way back to our lost childhoods when we were helpless, and dependent. Our adult functioning temporarily collapses.We  feel shattered, bewildered, condemned to loneliness.

Abandonment represents core human fear.  Abandonment is a cumulative wound containing all of the losses and disconnections stemming all the way back to childhood.

In her book Anderson attempts to characterize relationship loss and abandonment in a way similar to how Elisabeth Kubler-Ross MD characterized the five stages of grieving in Death and Dying (1997).  Anderson defines five phases of a specialized kind of grieving--grieving over a lost relationship.

As we apply the tools of recovery, at the bottom of abandonment’s pain, we can discover a wellspring of positive change.

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Susan Anderson is a psychotherapist and author of three other books on abandonment grieving -  Black Swan; The Journey from Heartbreak to Connection (workbook); and Taming Your Outer Child. Anderson earned two masters degrees at Stony Brook University - a Masters of Liberal Studies form in 1974 and a Masters of Social Work in 1983. Anderson qualified for a Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) from the National Association of Social Workers in 1993. 1n 1997, she earned an Addictions Specialist Certificate and was Certified as a Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC).


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An overview of the five stages of abandonment:

  1. SHATTERING--Your relationship is breaking apart. Your hopes and dreams are Shattered. You are devastated, bewildered. You succumb to despair and panic. You feel hopeless and have Suicidal feelings. You feel Symbiotically attached to your lost love, mortally wounded, as if you’ll die without them. You are in Severe pain, Shock, Sorrow. You’ve been Severed from your primary attachment. You’re cut off from your emotional life-line.
  1. WITHDRAWAL--Painful Withdrawal from your lost love. The more time goes on, the more all of the needs your partner was meeting begin to impinge into your every Waking moment. You are in Writhing pain from being torn apart. You yearn, ache, and Wait for them to return. Love-withdrawal is just like Heroin Withdrawal--each involves the body’s opiate system and the same physical symptoms of intense craving. During Withdrawal, you are feeling the Wrenching pain of love-loss and separation--the Wasting, Weight loss, Wakefulness, Wishful thinking, and Waiting for them to return. You crave a love-fix to put you out of the Withdrawal symptoms.
  1. INTERNALIZING--You Internalize the rejection and cause Injury to your self-esteem. This is the most critical stage of the cycle when your wound becomes susceptible to Infection and can create permanent scarring. You are Isolated, riddled with Insecurity, self- Indictment and self-doubt. You are preoccupied with ‘If only regrets’--If only you had been more attentive, more sensitive, less demanding, etc. You beat yourself up with regrets over the relationship and Idealize your abandoner at the expense of your own self-Image.
  1. ANGER--The turning point in the grief process when you begin to fight back. You attempt to Reverse the Rejection by Refusing to accept all of the blame for the failed relationship, and feel surges of Anger against your Abandoner. You Rail against the pain and isolation you’ve been in. Agitated depression and spurts of Anger displaced on your friends and family are common during this turbulent time, as are Revenge and Retaliation fantasies toward your Abandoner.
  1. LIFTING--Your anger helped to externalize your pain. Gradually, as your energy spurts outward, it Lifts you back into Life. You begin to Let go. Life distracts you and gradually Lifts you out the grief cycle. You feel the emergence of strength, wiser for the painful Lessons you’ve Learned. And if you’re engaged in the process of recovery, you get ready to Love again.
Diane Sudol