Abandoning My Children When I Was Incarcerated

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever get over the grief and shame of abandoning my children for 18 years when I was incarcerated. When I went away, my son was 10 months old and my daughter was three years old. By the time I was released, they were young adults. My daughter had a child of her own.

I feel so guilty about the pain they endured during our separation that I often give my daughter money that I don’t have. Sometimes I commit to doing things that I am not fully prepared to do. It’s as if I am incapable of saying, “No” to my daughter. In fact, I have never said, “No” to my daughter, despite how unreasonable some of her requests are to me.

I can’t help but notice how the unhealthy relationship I share with my children impacts my self-esteem. At times I feel so unworthy. I often compare myself to other women and admire the relationship that they have with their children. My failure as a mother threatens to ruin my self-concept.

Being a mother was the most important job I ever had. I failed miserably. Now I face the daunting task of learning to forgive myself while seeking forgiveness from my children and striving to find balance between reintegration and family reunification.

There are times when I just want to be left alone. At other times I wish I was Super Mom and I could become a cake-baking, cookie-making grandmother overnight, but he chances are slim to none, so for now I just take it one day at a time. I often feel terribly unlucky because I have missed out on the most important part of life… being a mother to my children.

Sure, I can be there for my children now, but they are all grown up. It’s not the same. Nothing will ever be the same. The loss is tremendous. The pain runs deep, and the most important thing I can do for myself and my children is to let go of my guilt and strive to be the best woman and mother that I can be today. In all honesty I don’t think my best is good enough, but as I said, my self-esteem is shot to hell in some aspects. I’m still a work in progress.

Video: What to do about feelings of shame and guilt

Today I read Dr. Robert Simmons 10 steps to overcoming guilt and improving relationships. In a nutshell this is what he said:

  1. Understand that guilt is normal
  2. Seek to understand why you feel guilty
  3. Learn from past mistakes
  4. Be willing to apologize
  5. Remember that there is always tomorrow
  6. Don’t dwell on the negative
  7. Work toward self-development/self-improvement
  8. Help Others
  9.  Get therapy if necessary
  10. Get spiritually grounded: pray, meditate, do yoga…



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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