How Can I Best Support Someone With Abandonment Issues?
The fear of abandonment may cause a person to be overly clingy or needy or to require constant affirmation from friends and family. This fear usually comes about if a person has lost a loved one, such as a parent, through death or divorce. She may fear being abandoned by anyone who is significant in her life. Although the onus of the work to overcome these fears lies with your friend, you can help her by being a source of emotional and physical support.
1 Be Ready to Connect
Abandonment can create feelings of loneliness. Your friend may be afraid of being deserted by the people he cares about. Your physical presence can go a long way toward downplaying these fears, notes Susan Anderson, a psychotherapist and author of four books on abandonment. Schedule time to hang out with your friends. Watch a show on TV, play games or order pizza and have a sleepover. Invite your friend on group outings like to the skating rink, the bowling arena or a football game. Call, text or email occassionally to check in. These actions will help him feel connected.
2 Try to Identify
Allow your friend to voice her fears and concerns. Give her an attentive ear when she wants to talk. Be ready to lend a shoulder to cry on. Although you may not suffer from the same overwhelming fears, you might be able to imagine yourself in your friend’s place. Everyone has been rejected or abandoned at some point. Share your own experiences, for example, when that guy you liked turned you down or how you felt when your brother left for college. Show your friend that you can identify with her feelings so that she can take comfort in knowing that she is not alone in her feelings.
3 Don’t Try to Fix Things
When you see someone you care about in pain, there is often a temptation to fix the problem. You may try to give advice or come up with a solution. However, your attempt to place a Band-Aid on your friend's fears may only cause him to feel as if you are ignoring the issue or sweeping it under the rug. Understand that the issue of abandonment is much like the pain you might feel when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Make your friend feel comfortable sharing his feelings and offer advice only when he asks for it.
4 Get Outside Help
Accept that your friend may need more support than you are able to give. If her abandonment issues are not addressed, they could affect all her relationships both now and in the future. Encourage her to talk to a parent or other close family member with whom she feels secure enough to share her problems. You may be able to find helpful resources from your family doctor or the school counselor. If your friend’s problems seem to be getting the best of her and it becomes obvious that she is having difficulty coping, you might suggest that she talk to a professional therapist.