Self-Care

How to Overcome Abandonment.

On December 1, 2017, I was a wife of 19 years and mother of two boys, 17 and 9.

On December 3, 2017, I was suddenly a single mom of two boys, 17 and 9.

In one day’s time, my life was completely flipped upside-down. It was swift and quick, leaving me in confusion and denial.

It was a few weeks before Christmas and my youngest son’s 10th Christmas Eve birthday. And a few months before my oldest would graduate high school and move out of state to college.

In fact, I had just booked a last-minute family trip to Disneyland for the family a week before. Exactly one week before. I stretched my finances to make that trip happen, too. One week before, when it was Thanksgiving and I made our family of four a turkey. One week before.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

Thanksgiving 2017.

But there I was on December 3rd, left with the responsibility of raising my sons solo, financially supporting the three of us and our family home, a trip to Disneyland that was too late to cancel, a MAJOR holiday quickly approaching (I hadn’t bought one single Christmas gift yet), and a big birthday milestone coming up for my son.

And that wasn’t even the tip of the iceberg.

What was coming next would be way worse. Way, way worse.

I didn’t know that I would soon be crushed under the trauma of abandonment and grief.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

The details of that day and what has transpired since is a lot. Today’s story is about the abandonment itself, which was the most difficult hurdle for me to jump over. Because you can’t jump over it at all, you gotta climb.

I am not sharing this story in an attempt to gain attention or sympathy. My intentions are far from that. I believe in the power of learning during times of extreme circumstances and using that education to help others during their time of grief and pain. The lessons I’ve learned in the last 6 months did not come to me in vain, but instead to protect and assist others who are living in hell right now like I was (and still am some days).

I am grateful that I have the platform and voice to speak these words. And I also understand the incredible responsibility I have to use it for good.

Earlier this year, my friend Alex wrote a post that touched on the trauma (physically and emotionally) that her sudden separation brought. I remember the comfort I felt reading something so close to my personal experience, as I was literally living through it.

Everyone experiences trauma differently. This is only my story. Some of it may relate to you or someone you love going through abandonment and comparable trauma. If so, please know that you are not alone and there is hope.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

Here are some of the symptoms I experienced early-on after abandonment.

I couldn’t eat. 

Like, I didn’t have an appetite at all. No hunger pangs, nothing. I lost 30 pounds in 4 months and still struggle with making sure I get enough food in my body because I’m now in a daily routine of just not eating as much as I once did.

I couldn’t stop shaking.

You know that feeling you get when you almost get into a car accident and your senses are all hyperaware and you can’t stop trembling? That was me, but ALL day and night for weeks. I would wake up shaking. I still battle with this on days where I experience a trigger, flashback or just plain “vibrating” on a high level.

I would have panic attacks so extreme that I couldn’t feel my hands and feet.

There was so much crying that happened, but the panic attacks and breakdowns were downright scary. I had had a few major panic attacks in my lifetime, but nothing like this. I would cry so hard from deep down inside my gut that I couldn’t get enough air to breathe. My hands and feet would start to tingle, and I knew that I needed to take some deep breaths, but the pain was too great to stop. It was terrifying.

I couldn’t sleep through the night.

Falling asleep was never a problem, as I was so mentally and physically drained by the end of the day, but sleeping through the night was nearly impossible. It was always 3 a.m. Every. Time. 3 a.m. = wide awake. My brain would plug in and remind me that I was alone. Alone with a massive load on my shoulders. Alone with a fragile heart. Alone. And it was dark and quiet. There was nothing I could do about it.

I isolated myself.

I became really quiet around those who loved me because my full-time job was simply getting through each day. When I did reach out to others, I could feel their confusion and trepidation. I could feel their questions of “Is she just whining or does she really need help?” and “Is she asking me to take a side?” Of course, it was my own insecurity that told me that because it wasn’t in my nature to ask for help (more on that later). So, I withdrew to be alone in my shame and loneliness.

I could not muster any ounce of joy.

Me. No joy. This was not me. At all. I couldn’t find anything to be excited about or, at very least, be content with. Work was the biggest struggle of all because it required creativity and objective thinking. I had to push myself to meet deadlines because I couldn’t risk losing a contract. I didn’t want to smile and smiling is one of my favorite things. Laughing was rare. It was like I was a shell of a human being.

I wanted to lay in bed all day.

I didn’t necessarily sleep while doing it but found myself in bed way too many times, mostly when the kids were at school and the house was quiet. Cleaning the house became a gigantic chore when it would naturally provide me pleasure and satisfaction. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything beyond what was necessary. Or go anywhere that wasn’t required for that particular day. Again, not me at all. Not even close.

My blood pressure was high from anxiety.

When I feared that I had real depression that needed attending to, I made an appointment with my primary care physician. When the nurse took my blood pressure, it was surprisingly high (when it’s normally low), and she attributed to my anxiety skyrocketing. I didn’t even know that was a thing, and likely another reason why I was always shaking.

I thought my body would break.

I said many times to loved ones that I felt like my body was breaking down. I was fatigued, mentally foggy, and felt like I was walking through sludge. I thought I was dying.

I fought hard to fix it.

In spite of the physical and mental breakdown that was happening in my life, I fought with every ounce of my being (or should I say 30 pounds of my being) to make things right and good. I turned every stone, resource, and possible option I could to bring about a solution. But I was fighting alone. Again, alone.

So, what did I do to help? At first, not much because I had no bearings on what was up and what was down. And I also made many mistakes along my healing journey, too.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

Here is what I suggest to heal the pain.

Talking about it.

One of the important elements of healing is talking about the pain with people you trust. Who are people you trust, you may ask? You’ll soon figure that out after you reach out, and do not think for one second that you reaching out is immature, dramatic, or fueling the fire. Your cry for help is not a smear campaign, it’s a cry for help. Sometimes the truth coming out of your mouth sounds like an outrageous situation because it really is an outrageous situation. That’s why you’re in pain. Not everyone will understand that or listen, but those who matter will.

Therapy.

I was very fortunate that I had an established therapist of four years when this event happened. I upped my visits to weekly (from my usual bi-weekly to 3 times a month) during the most painful weeks following. If anyone was a safe person to share my pain with, it was my therapist.

Leaning on your village.

As someone who is typically supporting someone in the village, it was very difficult for me to ask for help. It still is. I had to learn how to undo that. I didn’t have to be alone in this dark place and the more I reached out to my village, the more I was able to start rebuilding joy and gratitude again.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

My village.

Medical treatment.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to my primary care physician when I found myself having trouble staying out of bed and finding joy. She was able to monitor my weight loss, anxiety, and depression, and was honestly another safe person to confide in. NOTE: If you have feelings of injuring yourself or others, please seek medical care immediately.

Avoiding triggers.

For weeks, I stayed off of social media and had trouble even watching tv. Everything was a trigger. Families, couples, any kind of happiness…it would send me spinning into self-loathing and hurt. When I took the kids to Disneyland, it was a huge struggle for me, as the parks were full of real-life families, kids, couples, and happy things. Faking my way through that trip for my kids was extremely difficult. When I returned home, I knew I had to be more careful about putting myself in triggered situations like that.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

On our way to Disneyland.

Consuming information.

I’m a research queen when it comes to anything and everything new I discover, and it was no different with this experience. It was comforting to read books, articles, and resources from women who had lived similar situations. This comforted me and affirmed that I was NOT alone, NOT crazy, and NOT hopeless.

A few resources that helped me through my pain:

You may be wondering how I am today, 6 months later. I’m happy to report that I’m in a really good place. I have grown tremendously this year, learning so much about myself, my children, and my village. I would be crazy not to recognize these gifts I have in my life. My cup of gratitude is overflowing.

Oh, and my oldest son just graduated from high school. And my little guy finished fourth grade. ❤

How to Overcome Abandonment.

There are many more life lessons I have yet to share with you here on My 40 Life and my Instagram page, so be on the lookout for updates.

How to Overcome Abandonment.

I am grateful that you took the time to read this. If you would like to reach out to me privately to chat about the topic of abandonment, please email me at amybellgardt@gmail.com.

Love & Peace.

disclosure – the books I linked are affiliate links.

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66 Comments

  • Reply Clarissa June 3, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for writing and sharing some of your story. I am so glad we finally had the chance to meet and connect in real life over the past year or so. Your smile is always so genuine, kind and vibrant. I am so sorry that something took that away from you for a time. I am glad you took the steps to ensure that you could be good for yourself again and in turn your kids. Know that you have a lot of people in your corner to support and love you both near and far.

    • Reply amy June 3, 2018 at 11:23 pm

      Clarissa – I know that I’ve said it before, but I will say it again. You are a bright light in our community. You listen, give, and spread good. I’m fortunate to know you. Thank you for being the positive force that you are and for supporting me through my struggles.

  • Reply Jenn P. June 3, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Thank you for sharing your heart. While I’ve not faced that exact situation, I can say I genuinely know the feelings you’ve experienced, if that makes sense. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through, but am happy for you with how you’ve handled it and hope you experience many rainbows and all the happiness you can handle as life goes on. ❤️❤️

    • Reply amy June 3, 2018 at 11:30 pm

      Thank you so much, Jenn. While our symptoms and experiences may be slightly different, we can all relate to pain, grief, and suffering. We are certainly not alone. ❤️

      • Reply Jenn P. June 4, 2018 at 2:11 am

        So true.

  • Reply Sommer June 3, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    How brave if you to share your story and pain but so helpful to so many. I’m terribly sorry you had to go through all of this but thankful you are in a good place. Peace & Love.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:01 am

      I was definitely shaking when I hit publish, but in a way that made me feel proud and truthful. I need more of that. Thank you for reading. 🙂

  • Reply Sue Robinson June 3, 2018 at 11:37 pm

    Amy, you are such a light. I have never met you in person, but have been a profesher and happy reader of all your work and love beig apart of the world you share. I thank you for sharing your story, I think, even when it so hard, it is important to share our unedited selves to others to help them see they aren’t alone. I have been in a place both similar and different in ways to your story and it was so hard to write about, but also very soothing. Thank you for sharing because I can relate SO MUCH. It’s nice to know that you aren’t alone in the hard parts of life. I cannot wait to following along here and read all about this new chapter in your life. Much Love Always! – Sue @MotherhoodnMe

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:07 am

      Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone. And for reading my work. Please know that that keeps me strong. xoxo

  • Reply Désirée June 3, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    Been thinking of you. I knew from FB that things were hard. Lots of love, friend. Becoming a single mother is never easy but you are amazing and your kids will always have someone incredible to look up to.

    • Reply amy June 3, 2018 at 11:56 pm

      Thank you, love. You are an inspiration for all of the single moms out there. Give me your sage advice and love. ❤️

  • Reply Naomi June 3, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    I am happy to know you are getting back to where you need to be.

    • Reply amy June 3, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      That is a great way of putting it. That is exactly right. Thank you.

  • Reply Audrey McClelland June 3, 2018 at 11:46 pm

    Oh, Amy. You are a warrior. Thank you for sharing this. Life doesn’t always go as we planned and it’s at these times where we really see who we are and what we can do with it. We have one chance at this lifetime … and I love that one of your many gifts is in sharing your beautiful spirit and truth. I have loved from you afar for all these years and continue to do so. Come to Rhode Island whenever you want. My house is your house my friend.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:00 am

      Thank you, Audrey. You, too, have been an inspiration for many years. It’s strong women like you that keep me going. I just may take you up on that RI offer. 😉

      • Reply Audrey McClelland June 4, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        Girl! You better! I’m here ALL SUMMER LONG!!! Bring the kids or just a girl trip!!

  • Reply Wendy Nielsen June 3, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    Sending you so much love and support during this trying time. I can absolutely relate to your experience with trauma and isolation. I hope it’s ok to share this with my readers who have similar experiences. ❤️

    • Reply amy June 3, 2018 at 11:57 pm

      Thank you for the love, Wendy. Yes, please share it. I want to help. I need to help. xoxo

  • Reply Melissa June 3, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    This is so powerful and honest. And I love that you share your resources and how you are on the path back to well ness and that you share how all of this is a work In progress. I feel like you are proof that our circumstances don’t have to shape us_ that we can take our power back and reinvent ourselves and truly rise in ways we never imagined possible. I felt this way and continue to feel it since my mother’s very sudden and unexpected passing and my dad’s death six. Years ago. I’m rooting for you so big time

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:06 am

      Thank you for sharing your story with me. I learned through my research and healing that abandonment takes on the same emotions as a sudden death, so I get it. It’s hard for the brain and heart to wrap around it, which leaves you in this place of deep suffering. It takes a long time to build strength from that, but it is very possible. Thank you for rooting for me. I’m rooting for you, too.

  • Reply Melissa June 3, 2018 at 11:55 pm

    You are beautiful. You are strong. I’ve always looked up to you and I know you will get through this. And your words and story will help others. ❤️

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:03 am

      Thank you so much, Melissa. You’ve always been a positive person in my life. I appreciate the kind words and encouragement. 🙂

  • Reply Andrea June 4, 2018 at 12:05 am

    I’m so sorry you have to deal with this but at the same time I’m insanely proud of you for DEALING with this. You are so strong and the fight in you will make sure the joy is never gone for long. So happy I had a chance to see you briefly last month. Please reach out any time you want to.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:09 am

      Ah, the way you put this, “I’m so sorry you have to deal with this but at the same time I’m insanely proud of you for DEALING with this.” Yes. I suppose you’re right. When you’re face-down in the work it’s hard to recognize that you’re doing the work. Thank you for recognizing that and thinking of me. xoxo

  • Reply Carol Jones June 4, 2018 at 12:17 am

    Thank you for sharing 🙂 You are doing great!

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:57 am

      Thanks so much. 🙂

  • Reply Colleen Padilla June 4, 2018 at 12:21 am

    Amy so heartbroken you’ve had to deal with so much pain but as always you inspire me in your strength and ability to move forward. Wishing you continue to find new joys and that “spark” of light. Finding a way to share your story … is so going to help others! And…will hopefully also continue to help you too. Sending hugs and love! I’m here for you!!!!!! xoxoxo

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:58 am

      Thank you for being there for me. It was awesome seeing you a few weeks ago! I have a long way to go, but encouragement like yours will keep my energy levels up. xo

  • Reply Kelly Whalen June 4, 2018 at 12:32 am

    I’m so incredibly sorry that you had such a tough year and had to cope with such a sudden trauma, but you have come out the other side with so much grace it’s an inspiration.

    You have shared something so deeply personal in a way that will no doubt help many people who go through similar circumstances.

    Sending you so much love. 💗

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:59 am

      Thank you, Kelly, for always being a supportive friend. I will take that love and offer more back to you. <3

  • Reply Jenijen June 4, 2018 at 12:39 am

    I am so sorry this happened. I’m also sorry that I never reached out when I could tell that things were difficult for you. We’ve only met a few times and I didn’t know what was happening, didn’t want to pry. But I could have just sent you an encouraging note. Should have.

    It’s a beautiful (and healing) thing to honestly reflect back help and hope for others’ benefit in the face of your own trauma. Wishing you joy, peace, healing, brightness, and continued strength. xo

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:55 am

      Do not apologize one bit. I do not fault anyone who didn’t know what to say at the time. I didn’t know what to say, either. I appreciate your support and love today.

  • Reply Nicole Feliciano June 4, 2018 at 12:40 am

    Beautiful. Sharing your light as you emerge on the other side is so generous.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:56 am

      Thank you, Nicole. As Brene Brown says, there is power in vulnerability.

  • Reply Jo-Lynne Shane June 4, 2018 at 12:45 am

    Oh, Amy. I had no idea. I knew something was up, but I never imagined this. I am so terribly sorry that you have suffered this way, but thank you for sharing your story and resources for others who may find themselves in this or similar situations. I’m glad you are on the upswing, but I know there will still be ups and downs. Praying for your peace and strength in the days to come.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:57 am

      Thank you so much, Jo-Lynne. No one really knew, and this is only one piece of many experiences that I have to share. I am grateful for you love and support. xoxo

  • Reply Lucretia June 4, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Love and strength to you. Your truth is profoundly strong and your sharing will so help someone when s/he needs it most.
    <3

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 11:58 am

      Thank you, Lucretia. xo

  • Reply Shan Dieli June 4, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Oh hunny. I knew something was going on but not exactly what. And I understand it is not the worlds business to know unless you want them too. Thank you for opening up and sharing so others may know they’re not alone. I went through a lot of the same things a few years back and I too isolated myself. It’s how I cope. Reaching out has never been a strong suit of mine, go figure right. Sending love and light.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 11:59 am

      I get the not reaching out part because you fear the response. I was there, too. What I found was that it was worse staying silent, because those who “showed up” helped pull me through. It was worth any possible rejection.

  • Reply Jen @ Lita's World June 4, 2018 at 1:46 am

    Your honesty and willingness to share in case it might help others feel that they are not alone speaks tons about you – and everything those of us who follow online know about the person you are. Sending you much love and blessings to continue being the amazing mother you already are and to your continued healing from this – only way to describe it – tragic event. Thank you for opening up your soul and sharing your struggles and strength. I feel sure you will help many with your honesty and powerful story.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Thank you so much, Jen. Thank you for affirming my choice to share this here. I truly do hope that it helps others. xo

  • Reply Caryn June 4, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Amy…I am so sorry my friend. You are much braver than a lot of us who have been through similar experiences. I only wish I had other women to talk to when I went through my divorce. I know that sharing so openly will be the comfort someone needs one day…hugs my friend…

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      Thank you, Caryn. If I can help one woman not feel alone, I have done my job. Thank you for affirming that. 🙂

  • Reply Kelly Loubet June 4, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    You’re so brave to share your story. Thank you for the update to those of us who love you and go way back with you. And thank you for turning your situation into an opportunity to help other going through the same thing. I was so worried about you, but didn’t want to intrude. You’re one of the most lively, joyful, adventurous, and bright women that I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Shine on, Amy. xo

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Kelly. So many people were worried about me, and I hope this post lets them know that I am okay and on a path to healing. I so appreciate your thoughts and good vibes, friend. xo

  • Reply Danielle Smith June 4, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Here for you then. Here for you now. Your strength, heart and capacity to keep climbing are an inspiration . Love you madly.

    • Reply amy June 4, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      Thank you for being there right from the beginning. And before it even happened. You have been a big part of my strength, friend.

  • Reply Susan Carraretto June 4, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Amy, I am so incredibly sorry that you’ve had to go through this. But I’m happy to hear that you are doing so well now and you’re able to share your story. It will help so many others!!!

    I’m 8 years into my single mom journey and it’s tough but it gets easier.

    • Reply amy June 5, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Thank you for the encouragement, Susan. 🙂

  • Reply Amy Locurto June 4, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    What a brave thing to write about! I am so proud of you. Thanks for being a strong woman sharing your voice. I know it will help so many others. I pray for you every day and so very sorry you had to experience all of these things.

    • Reply amy June 5, 2018 at 1:24 pm

      Thank you for praying for me. I’ve certainly needed it. 🙂

  • Reply Nicole Standley June 4, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    Even though we have only spent a few times together, each and every single time you have absolutely lit my world up. You have this unique energy that is so beautiful, so loving, and so much fun, that I’ve always noticed how wonderful I felt after being around you. My heart shattered into a million pieces for you when I read this. But at the same time, your writing is so eloquent and you managed to capture something so raw with so much honesty and grace that I can’t help to feel so incredibly hopeful for you. I’ve been talking a lot lately about finding female role models for my tween daughter, and you are truly an inspiration. Not to mention a beacon of hope for others out there, lost, trying to navigate their way back as well. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Reply amy June 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      Nicole, your words are beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing them with me. Your support and love mean the whole world to me. xoxo

  • Reply Sandie June 5, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Amy — we’ve talked at many Mom2 conferences, and I have been keeping you in my weekly prayers and thoughts for friends afar since you announced (on Facebook) that you were going through something incredibly painful. Thank you for opening up to all of us and sharing your journey to move forward. You are an amazing woman and mother and humanitarian, and I pray that you’ll find comfort and strength through this process of becoming a new you.

    • Reply amy June 6, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      Thank you so much for thinking of me in your weekly prayers. It means so much, really. I appreciate your continuous support and love. xoxo

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  • Reply Jyl Pattee June 6, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    This makes me cry because I can feel your pain in your words. I love you. That is all. <3

    • Reply amy June 6, 2018 at 9:36 pm

      I love you, too. xoxo

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  • Reply Shannon June 18, 2018 at 11:45 am

    I know you don’t know me, but I blogged for several years when my kids were toddlers (at Potamus Prefers). They are 10 and 11 now. I have followed Mom Spark for years and just saw the link to your post pop up on FB and decided to check in as you were always a fave blogger. My circumstances are different but I can relate to the finding joy and spending time in bed. Both my kids have special needs and I have a severe pain condition. Your writing is amazing and encouraging and I send my love to you for many more days of joy.

    • Reply amy June 20, 2018 at 1:39 pm

      Thank you so much, Shannon. I have a son who has special needs as well, so I understand the added layer of daily struggles. I appreciate your love and support. You are a warrior. Stay strong, my friend.

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