The Grief of Neglect


Sometimes clients think that because they were not hit or touched inappropriately, and had adequate food, shelter and shelter, that they didn’t suffer in their childhoods. However, I am struck how often people suffer depression and anxiety as adults because they didn’t have security, nurturing or guidance from their parents or caregivers. Emotional support such as this is so basic that many of us, who had such emotional presence in their lives, take it for granted. However, it is a cornerstone to who we are and how we perceive ourselves and the world. There are very deleterious consequences to not having one’s attachment needs met, and to heal the grief of neglect we must first acknowledge it. 

Sadly, without having support from others, we have difficulty imagining that it is possible to receive emotional presence from others. Some of the work that I’ve been interested in and practicing involves attachment repair, and there are some great practitioners who have written and developed EMDR protocols based on this. These writers include Andrew Leeds, PhD and April Steele, MS. One way that adults who have suffered from emotional neglect can heal is to receive EMDR treatment geared at attachment repair. In particular, I recommend listening to the audio CDs of April Steele, a Canadian clinician who guides the listener gently to imagine holding and being held as an infant and toddler. You can listen to samples and purchase the CDs at this web address: http://www.april-steele.ca/imaginal-cds.php.

As painful as it can be to look at the wounds of neglect and re-experience the grief that comes from it, I recommend undertaking the journey so that you can have positive relationships with yourself and others. When the encumbrances of distrust, detachment and alienation are healed, you are free to experience your current relationships through the eyes of the present.

3 thoughts on “The Grief of Neglect

  1. Amen! Thank you so much for writing this. I think too many people (including people who have been neglected) tend to minimize this form of trauma because they somehow think it is less painful than abuse. It can actually cause impacts just as significant.

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  2. Thank you for your comments. I am saddened to see how many people question their wounds from such an experience and invalidate themselves for what they have suffered because it is not “enough” compared to others’ suffering. But it is real, and it needs to be mourned and processed just as any other childhood hurt.

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