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mum died when I was 5 years old

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At the age of 50 it has now become apparent that the whole of my life has been severely affected by the early loss of my mother. It has affected every aspect of my life. Relationships in particular. My inner child has never grown up. In the body of an adult, my inner child is still that 5 year old little girl grieving for a mother she has few memories of. She constantly craves affection, cuddles and attention. Still needing a carer rather than a partner. Someone to look after her and guide her, to show her she is loved. It's distressing and debilitating to live like this.  It destroys relationships. I have severe abandonment issues which resulted in an 18 year marriage with an abuser. I struggled to leave for various reasons, but the main one being that having someone abusive was better than having no one at all.

My father also died when I was 24.

I've struggled my whole life with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem and am now developing physical symptoms.  Possible Fibromyalgia.  I never had any grief counselling or help of any kind when I was a child, or received any help at all since. I'm seeking help now as I realise this is not going to go away on it's own,  and it's making my life a misery.

Any suggestions? 

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I want to acknowledge your losses, to lose the two people closest to you so young is really hard.  I'm very sorry, especially to lose your mother as a young child.  This is beyond what I can help you with, I really encourage you to see a specialized grief counselor, one especially trained in grief, not just a therapist, they'd be most qualified to help you through your grief and how it's affected you as well as what steps to take from here.  I really wish you well.

Marty may have some suggestions, I'm sure she'll be along shortly.

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My dear, it's good to know that you are actively seeking help with this, as I think a few sessions with a qualified grief counselor or therapist would be extremely helpful to you. Through research in the field of bereavement, we've learned that the loss of a parent in early childhood does indeed have an ongoing effect on the life of a person through the teen years and on into adulthood. In the words of grief expert J. William Worden, who served as Co-director of the Child Bereavement Study at Harvard Medical School:

It may be that the most important long-term consequence of parental death during childhood is neither depression nor anxiety disorder, as important as these are, because these only affect a small percentage of adults with childhood parental loss. Rather, the most important long-term impact may be their continuing sense of emptiness and an ongoing need to rethink who this parent would have been in their lives had he or she remained alive. This ongoing presence of the lost parent is strong for most people, even though they may have had adequate parenting by the surviving parent or parent surrogate (p. 110). ~ J. William Worden, in Children and Grief When a Parent Dies.

In addition to your plans to meet with a grief counselor or therapist, I encourage you to do some reading about this, so you'll feel better informed and know that you are neither "crazy" nor alone in your reactions. See, for example,

Childhood Loss: The Untold Burden

Families With A Missing Piece

The Lifelong Effects For A Child After The Death of a Parent

And while this young man's loss differs from yours, his story is a powerful testament to what can happen when delayed grief is acknowledged and dealt with effectively in therapy: Voices of Experience: Delayed Grief.

This is your life, my dear, and there is help available to you. I hope you won't let another day go by before you go after and obtain the support you need and deserve.

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Thank you so much for your replies.  I am still in disbelief over the fact it has taken me 50 years to realise the connection between my inner emptiness and neediness and the death of my mother. It seems so obvious now. I will definitely look into getting some grief counselling and I will look into getting and reading some of the books suggested.  Thank you again. This will hopefully be a huge turning point in my life . 

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Thank you, Marty, you've given some great places to start.

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