I Finally Told My Sons Why I Left Them

Photo: freemixer, Latino Life | Canva
Mother leaving her sons

On Mother's Day, UPS delivered a giant box to our house, and when I opened it, I saw a beautiful gift bag that was purple and silver and sparkly. There was a card from my two sons, Brandon and Shawn, saying that they wanted to get me something practical that I could use every day.

I opened it up to find Tupperware, but not the usual kind. This was really nice clear Tupperware with black handles on the sides. You might think I wanted flowers or candy, but this present showed that they really knew what I needed. The fact that they remembered me on Mother’s Day was so special that I cried — over Tupperware.

Maybe that’s why I decided to tell them what I’ve been holding back for eighteen years. The story I couldn’t put into words.

Brandon is 25 years old now, and Shawn will soon be 21. I’ve known they were old enough to hear the truth for a while, but I never had the guts to say it before. I’m not sure why I chose today, only that I felt a very strong urge to let them know. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

When Brandon was seven and Shawn was three, I let them go live with their dad. The day I signed over custody was the worst day of my entire life. Their dad left my apartment with the papers and blasted a hole in my heart so wide that it’s never truly closed.

Meanwhile, there was a monster in my life. His name was Micah, and he made life miserable for me and the boys when he lived with us. We left him and moved into another apartment, but he simply wouldn’t leave me alone. In fact, he didn’t until he died a few years ago.

We all lived in the same city, so I was able to spend a little time with them whenever I could. When the boys were little, they often asked me why they couldn’t come to live with me again, but I couldn’t put it into words that they would understand. I would just hug them instead, hoping they would feel how much I loved them in my arms.

Today, I chose to tell them why.

RELATED: I Left My Children When My Mental Health Failed

My boys, my 16-year-old daughter, my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, and I have a group chat on Discord. We use it to send messages, funny memes, and videos to each other. We also watch TV together and are halfway through The Last of Us, which we watch about once a week.

This is where I sent my message. Here’s what it said:

I love you boys more than anything and Victoria (my daughter), too. I know we’ve never talked about this, but I want to tell you why I let your dad raise you. It wasn’t about Micah. I had to go to a mental hospital years ago, and when I got out, your dad came over and asked me to sign over custody. The reason I did it is because I believed it would give you both a better life. I was in poverty and had serious mental issues (which are better now). Your dad had a huge family to love you and take care of you. I wanted you to be able to do things like Scouts and go on family trips to other states and even countries. I wanted you to have tons of friends and playdates and anything your heart desired.

Those were things I wasn’t able to give you at the time that you really needed. I tried to be there for you as much as I could when you were young, but I was also ashamed because I let you go. You guys asked me why you couldn’t live with me, and I didn’t know how to explain it in a way you’d understand. But you’re old enough to know now.

I am so grateful for the relationship we all have today, every minute of it. You guys bring joy to my life that I’ve never had before. I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t tell you this in person, but I’m much better at writing these words rather than trying to talk about it. I just wanted you to know that I never stopped loving you since the day you were born, not even for a second. You kids are my whole life, and each of you is my favorite child for different reasons. I love you with all my heart … Mom.

RELATED: I Spent Time In A Psych Ward So I Could Be A Better Mom To My Kids

After I hit "send," warm tears sprang to my eyes, and I doubled over onto the floor with ice-cold pain in my body like I’d never felt before. The emotion was so huge and unimaginably strong. The more I thought about it, I believed it was guilt and shame and desperate years of crying over my boys trying to leave my body.

I sat down to breathe through it, and it started to settle after about half an hour. I suddenly felt so raw and exposed and, even though it hurt, I believed I was finally starting to heal.

Both boys have written back to me after reading my message. They were kind, forgiving, and loving. Shawn told me he wouldn’t trade me for anyone in the world. Brandon thinks I made the right decision at the time for all of us. They helped me start to let go of the enormous burden I’d been carrying for over a decade. For that, I could never thank them enough.

They have both grown up to be such kind and wise men. They have their own families and friends now who love them. Most of all, they are happy. One thing I was right about was that their father would do an amazing job with them. He taught them to be smart, generous, loving, and helpful. He has been a better father than I ever could have hoped for.

RELATED: 5 Ways Parents Can Re-Bond With Their Kids At Any Age

I’m not sure how to feel about the message I sent today. I have some anxiety mixed with relief and the wonder of actually having a chance to let some of my pain go away. I hope I unburdened the boys a little and answered some of their lifelong questions. They were so young when the divorce happened. There may have been times when they blamed themselves, as children sometimes do, but I wanted them to know it was no fault of theirs.

It was my responsibility to give them a good life, and that’s what I tried to do. As much as it hurt all of us in the past, we’re happy now (as Shawn says). That is truly all that matters.

RELATED: 'Put On A Happy Face': How I Manage Severe Depression As A Mom

Glenna Gill is a writer and blogger from Charlotte, North Carolina. Her articles have been featured in Scary Mommy and P.S. I Love You. When I Was Lost is her first full-length book, a memoir of love, loss, and hope.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.