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How Does One Become an Abandonment Expert? Painfully

August 2, 2010 1 comment

I’ve had such profound life-experiences with abandonment and grief that I couldn’t help but become an expert in these subjects – and I’ve learned so many things from other people as well, that I also can’t help but want to bring some hope to people out there – whether it’s for someone who is going through a loss, or a friend or relative of someone who is struggling to fill a void.

In my own experience, here I was, a psychotherapist specializing in grief, loss, and abandonment for almost twenty years when my marital partner, the love of my life for 18 years, without warning, suddenly up and left me for another woman.

The devastation I felt catapulted me into an intensive change. I had to meet the challenge of dealing with the excruciating pain of loss, rejection, and betrayal. To survive, I had to get to the bottom of this pain to discover what made it so potent. Going right into the pit, I learned new ways of coping. The effort resulted in my publishing three books on abandonment, radio appearances, television talk shows, articles, my website that reaches out to abandonment survivors and clinicians throughout the world, and the workshops I give around the country to guide people through the techniques of abandonment recovery.

But it isn’t just abandonment that I’ve developed an expertise in, thanks to new life-experience. After being abandoned, I was fortunate to be able to find love again. My new marital partner, Paul, and I were together for 9 beautiful years, but within the past 4 years, he died. A whole new level of sensitivity opened up for me.

The amazing thing is that I had already been doing grief counseling for almost 30 years by then (in addition to abandonment therapy). I’d taken every training course in grief and thanatology known to humankind in the New York Metropolitan area, and felt that I was very knowledgeable about the grief process. What I learned is that I understood it on paper, but it took experiencing it to really get to the heart of what it’s all about – and to figure out how to meet its challenges.

In contrast to the grief experience, when I had gone through the abandonment 10 years earlier, there was no such thing as abandonment recovery and certainly no support groups for abandonment (because I hadn’t begun to set all of this up yet). I was pretty much alone, save having an extremely good therapist, Richard Robertiello MD who is now deceased who helped me immeasurably by validating my feelings and offering a roadmap for taking it a day at a time.

But with this more recent loss – Paul’s death, things were different. Bereavement is a socially recognized phenomenon. There was plenty of help and I reached out to several bereavement groups for widows and widowers. This was so helpful. I met wonderful people, continue to meet with quite a few of them, and learned so much about myself and about how “life goes on.”

I want to be able to talk about what I’ve learned from my experiences as a psychotherapist, as a widow, as an abandonee, as a human being – and what I’ve learned from so many people. I welcome feedback and questions from people.