If you've ever 'sent your child away' ...

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by goldenguru, Oct 9, 2007.

  1. goldenguru

    goldenguru Active Member

    For those who sent children away for extended lengths of time .... do you ever struggle with your decision to do so?

    We began the nightmare almost 5 years ago. Made her long term placement almost 4 years ago. She has been home over two years. By most standards she is doing well. She is happy.

    That's her. Me? Sometimes out of the blue I wrestle with this overwhelming sense of guilt. Parental failure? The sense that I abandoned her? Can't quite articulate it actually.

    She harbors no ill will. We have a wonderful relationship. But, in those deep places in my heart I still have a raw wound. And truthfully, I don't get it. I don't know what to do about it.

  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Very interesting question, GoldenGuru...

    My SO and I are in the process of sending our difficult child away. We are about to place him in a long-term Residential Treatment Center (RTC). psychiatrist, therapist and Residential Treatment Center (RTC) Exec Director predict that the placement will be a minimum of 3 years at this point, more likely 5...we will see how it all goes.

    I know that this is the right decision for the whole family. difficult child cannot live at home anymore, and he needs too much support to be out on his own. I don't feel guilt about it, only relief that we have finally found somewhere that can take him. (difficult child has been to 4 schools and another Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in the past 4 years).

    SO, on the other hand, is struggling with near overwhelming guilt. He feels as though he failed difficult child, and that he's abandoning him.

    I asked SO why he felt that way, and he said that is how he would feel if he were in difficult child's place...that his parents were abandoning him. But difficult child doesn't seem to feel that way at all. He's very anxious, but he loved his summer Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placement, and is excited about going.

    I wonder...do you miss those mom-and-daughter things that you wish you could have done during your difficult child's time away? Do you think that you would have felt abandoned in her place? It's really hard sometimes, not to project our own feelings onto our children...but they are different people with different needs from our own.

    It sounds like you did the best thing for your daughter, especially considering how well she's doing now, and the fact that you have a great relationship now.

    I hope that my difficult child and I can re-establish a relationship that's as good as the one you have with your daughter. Right now, I'm counting the days until I can have my life and family back.

    Just my $0.02
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member

    GG...I think I do the same thing you do. I still harbor tons of guilt and I know I shouldnt but I do. Cory doesnt blame me for what we did to/for him all those years but I cant help but feel that if I were him I would be stark raving MAD at someone for sending me away all those times but keeping my brothers!

    I think that is why he feels that we love his brothers more than we do him. I also think that is why I tend to overcompensate with him. I do feel guilty. I feel guilty that I passed on this blasted mental illness.

    He has never said anything about how he wishes we hadnt done this stuff to him...in fact he has said that he knows we tried hard to help him. But I guess the mom in me cant help but feel guilty.
  4. judi

    judi Active Member

    I will post the other side of the coin...our son was only sent away for six weeks. It completely fractured our relationship. We are his intact bio family with no other problems except his behavior. It is now over 6 years later and we still have little to no relationship with our son. For me, it wasn't worth it.
  5. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Maybe I don't understand yet, because we're in the midst of the turmoil, and doing what we have to, to get out from under it. Maybe in a few months or years, if things have settled down and difficult child is doing well, it will hit me then. I guess right now I'm in red alert mode...when I have time to reflect later, I will have time to feel all the things I might be suppressing now.
  6. jbrain

    jbrain Member

    Hi GG,
    the only reason I feel bad for sending difficult child 1 away is for the money I spent that I somehow suspect may not have been necessary. We sent her to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Utah a week before her 16th birthday and she spent 8 1/2 months there. It was extremely expensive and we had to take out a 20 yr loan to pay for it. She relapsed when she came home and ended up court ordered to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in our own state that was much more affordable and probably actually more helpful.

    In any case I don't feel guilty about it, she was incorrigible and I was hoping to find her help and give our family a break. She has no hostility regarding it--she understands why she had to go and it is something she now brags about to friends--she likes to tell people she was so bad she had to be sent to a "level 3 lockdown facility".

    I don't know what she would be like if she hadn't gone--at the time I feared for her health and her life. That seems kind of dramatic to me now but who knows? She is doing pretty well now and maybe partly from having learned how to take care of herself when she was away. She seems to have some fond memories of the places she was and is still friends on line with many of the girls.

  7. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    I don't feel guilty. I do, however, regret the times and things we could have done together. We were both cheated by her choices. I can't say that the Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) really helped her all that much. It did keep her out of harms way for 16 months. It got rid of all the negative influences in her life at that time (she managed to find others after she'd been home awhile).

    I was truly afraid she would see it as another abandonment and, at times, she lets me know how little I love her since I sent her away. That makes me so sad. However, when she is not angry, she lets me know that she knows I had to do it and that I truly was trying to save her from herself. Considering some of the other things that spew out of her when she is angry, I take the lack of love thing with a very huge grain of salt while understanding that a part of her does and always will feel that way.

    So, no guilt but a lot of other sad feelings.
  8. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    I have to side with Jane. We sent our son away - once to a rehab for 30 days and twice involuntarily commited to a state run facility. He resented it but it probaably saved his life. I felt guilty also when I practically called hisprobation officer and said to please either drug test him, come see him or lock him up he is going to die on the street. That was very hard to send him to jail to save his life. However it has not stopped his behavior. It has almost destroyed our family life. Right now he lives here athome - when he comes home - he is 24 and on probation again. Sometimes I think it is a mental illness but he knows right from wrong - I cant trust him anymore to leave him here by himself since my young easy child system and things were taken from our house while my difficult child was here with his "friends" one day. I hate it - it is a nightmare. If his probation officer said he could go back to rehab and court ordered it I would be happy. I dont want him to go to jail but do I have to put up with this turmoil?
  9. KFld

    KFld New Member

    I think you have to think of it as, what is going to happen to him if we don't send him away? What will his life be like, and yours??

    If you feel it's best for him and for the rest of the family, then follow your heart.
  10. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    I have sent mine away several times---pysch hospital, rehab, jail, but he always finds his way back. Guilt---nope! My dad, who was the ultimate difficult child and never was much of a father, did give me the best advice of my life right after my first marriage ended and I was facing the daunting job of being a single parent. "You do what you do---you make mistakes and if you let the guilt eat you up, it will destroy you." I wish he had taken his own advice---he died at 57---but I understood what he was saying and took it to heart. I recognize my own faults--I am human. I wish that sending difficult child away had made a difference in his life, but it didn't. What it did do was give everyone at home a reprieve from his choices and the turmoil he caused.
  11. busywend

    busywend Well-Known Member

    Well, I sent mine to her father's house. Much different. But, I still felt the pain of changing up her life so much. I do not feel guilty for it. But, I sure wish it was not necessary to have to do something like that.

    I feel worse about the fact that I did not get the 'good' parenting experience that I know exists with a easy child. Don't get me wrong. I love my difficult child to pieces and we get along much better these days, but I will always wonder what it would be like to have a child that was like me as a child. I was a easy child. I am grateful for not having put another child through what a lot of you have to with siblings, but I still would have loved to have gotten the easy child parenting experience. I am too fearful of getting another difficult child to try.

    Feeling guilty is very unproductive. Your difficult child might not even be alive if you had not sent her away. You will never know what might have been. If things are improved, than try to be grateful for that.
  12. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911


    I had overwhelming guilt. My son has been in numerous psychiatric hospitals, Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s, hospitals, group homes, Department of Juvenile Justice, and now lives 21/2 hours away from me so he can learn some independent living skills to move on into his own place someday.

    Most of my guilt was due to the fact that while I put up a good front my psyche said "You didn't do a good job protecting him from his father." This in turn lead me to believe that every time difficult child acted out? It was a direct result of something that I did or didn't do and I excused those behaviors constantly. Oh and get this one, when I finally came to grips with the fact that I excused his behaviors I had guilt over THAT because I was supposed to know better and not let him get away with those things so THAT was my fault too."

    I've had to come a long way from the place in my mind that my evil x put me. I had to fix ME first before I could begin to tell difficult child how to do anything so before I made myself feel guilty over that too? I got into counseling. Today I'm a much better person and parent. Once I got a better ME under my belt the rest of the problems either were diminished because I could SEE how my perceptions and choices were clouded in a mist of manipulative behaviors and control issues of my x. I had other unresolved issues I didn't even know about that caused me to choose and marry whom I did. I had unresolved issues that caused me to stay in the marriage - that and him being so abusive and controlling.

    See your mind changes due to the environment it's in the most. Some people think that it's normal or okay to do the things they do to others because of the grand excuse "I was raised that way." And refuse to believe that Mom or Dad may have been wrong. So some people grow up with abnormal thinking & problem solving capabilities and when we play the motion picture in our head of what we THINK life should look like, and fall short? We blame ourselves. We didn't "live up to" or "fell short of". When in reality we did what we did or we wouldn't have done it we would have done something different. So first rule of therapy for me was eliminating the word SHOULD. As in I should have. VERY liberating.

    I've worked through the guilt and still there are moments when I'm in a store and I see a shirt or a favorite candy of difficult child's and I pick it up thinking maybe for Christmas and then put it back down because that is enabling and it makes ME feel guilty about my decisions to let him go.

    I know what you're feeling. From time to time it's okay to miss them, and even feel sadness over the loss of a dream. The best thing any of us can do from that point on is to find new dreams that are healthy and productive for us. My difficult child will find his own way. It's what he really wanted. And it beats the yelling and carrying on - heck sometimes he just calls to hear my voice now. THAT makes me feel good. And knowing I did what I could to help him reach his goals despite the past? That makes me feel good too.

    Get yourself happy - it will make you feel healthier.

  13. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    thank you left in 6/2000. He came home to live twice, 3 months each time, once in 2003 and then again in 2004. He was 9 when he left. It's probably 50/50 that he'll ever live here again.

    I have to say, I don't think husband and I have ever struggled with the choices we've made, at least not after the fact. The initial decision to place him in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was by far the hardest parenting decision we've ever had to make, and the second and third times really were not a whole lot easier, but once the decision was made? It was made.

    thank you was extremely unsafe at home. husband and I really stretched our parenting skills and resourcefulness beyond all expectations, trying to keep him home. There was simply no other option left to us. It was not our failure as his parents and it was not abandonment. It was protecting our other kids and hopefully giving thank you the very best shot at possibly becoming an independent adult. Jury's still out on that one.

    Certainly there has been a huge sense of loss over the years for various reasons. The Halloweens and birthdays and Christmas' and Thanksgivings spent in Residential Treatment Center (RTC). The fact that my child didn't grow up before my eyes, that he and I missed so *many* good night kisses and good morning hugs, that really husband and I missed almost half his life. The thought of what will he tell his kids about his "childhood", because he really didn't have much of one. Absolutely there's an ache and a wound there. But also.... we had no choice. I have no doubt that thank you's situation would be much *much* worse if we had somehow tried to maintain him at home, because he simply isn't/wasn't manageable here.

    We made the best possible decision we could, trying to weigh the needs of the entire family. We haven't always been spot on (Residential Treatment Center (RTC) #2 was a snake pit, which we obviously didn't know at the time) but we have always tried our very best to make thoughtful choices for thank you.

    We have a pretty good relationship with thank you. Always have, really, aside from the usual difficult child blow ups about how he didn't need to be in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and his half-hearted attempts to lash out at us from time to time. We see him a couple of times a month, and the door is open for him to return home if/when he proves he can function for an extended period of time in his current lesser restrictive placement. I want more than anything for him to be safe and happy.

    I think probably the one thing that I do have guilt/regret/hurt over is the fact that to this day, I cannot bring myself to fully trust him to be safe, to make good choices. It's nowhere near as bad as it used to be, that expectation that he is going to explode into another violent rage at any given moment, but I do have to admit that if he *were* to blow up, it wouldn't come as any great surprise.
  14. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911


    THAT was truly spoken from the heart. - Nice to know someone else feels like I do. And you're right....about missing the growing up before your eyes. difficult child is my only child so it's the poor dog that gets dressed up at Halloween. I think he does it to humor me.

    Thanks for your keen insight. As always.
  15. tracy551

    tracy551 New Member

    My guilt too was too much for me at times. difficult child is in his 2nd placement. I think about him when he was little and how sweet and loving he was and I think how could I do this to him, he's my baby. But then I think of how My Baby has treated me and his brothers over the years. Even despite all that some guilt is still there.
    I think for me it's the guilt of feeling I could have done more to keep him from ending up like he has. i don't know.
    He comes home next month and the stress of not knowing how things will be is over whelming at times. Being in these places has changed him alot but I'm not sure if it's for the good. He talks, how should I say it, more "street" Like he's been raised in a big city and has lived on the streets with drug dealers and thugs.
    I told him when he comes home to leave the "thug" at the door because that's not gonna fly in this house. We'll see how it goes.
  16. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    GG, I guess that if we all had one idea of what a good mother looks like I may feel some guilt but despite my grief at my son's downward spiral I did what was required. I made the best choice I could considering the options.
    When difficult child needed doctors. he got them. When he needed medications, he got them, when he needed us, we were there. When he needed more than we could give, we got him help. It was painful but it stopped his spiral. Even if it didn't work, it was a choice that was made with the best intention.

    I'll never be mistaken for a madonna like mother but I did what was needed to help my son have a chance at a life. It doesn't look like a Norman Rockwell but it was love and the intent was not to punish but to save them from themselves.

    I'm not sure the source of your wound. Is it that you don't see your daughter as achieving and success as reason enough to heal the wound?
    So by some standard we may not appear like a good mother but we did what our children needed.
  17. Sondar

    Sondar New Member

    We had a couple of placements, both times court-ordered and frankly just in time. Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) kept him safe. Of course I wish things had been different, but he was crazy out of control, delinquent to the hilt. We always did pretty much what the experts advised us to do, and I have no regrets.

    But I am still looking for results like you have GG. He has little insight into his own behaviors and so hasn't made an observation about those days yet.

    Tracey, I hear you about the attitude. Let's hope it's a posture they wear to survive in a jail cell. Ugh.
  18. Martie

    Martie Moderator


    I think I understand what you are saying...but for me, the sheer terror of impending suicide outweighed everything (except finding the RIGHT placement because I knew the wrong would would make things worse.) I do not feel guilty but I recognize he was gone for 14 months, not a major portion of his childhood.

    I have to live with ex-difficult child saying he would have "grown up and outgrown his problems" without EGBS, and that I "overreacted." I thank his 20 year old self for his 20-20 hindsight (I should enjoy this year, I won't be able to say that next year or ever again.) I do not agree with him at all. If you are happy with your daughter's life and your relationship, then I am sure you did the right thing.

    EGBS was the single best decision I ever made as a parent. I had tried to do ANYTHING necessary to help a very unusual little boy fit in and get along....EGBS did what neither his father nor I could do--Fran said it well...it stopped the downward spiral and I believe that no amount of community based Tx would have achieved the same result.

    I have one thing to add: ex-difficult child made very good use of the therapeutic opportunities that EGBS provided and it was a good place to trial medications and rule out bipolar. I think that he did grow up and has outgrown many of his problems: He remains irritable but now that he is an adult, it is called "artistic temperament" which although not a disability, can be a pain to live with--the operative word here is "live." Without an out of home placement, I am not at all sure he would be alive, and that's what counts.

  19. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    Have you talked to a therapist about this? I wonder if maybe rather than guilt you feel loss of your place as a parent? You needed help, but don't we all? We send our children to school, to the doctor, to sports coaches. We can't do it all. You needed help that some people don't need, to be sure. But you also succeeded. That's what good parents do.

    I hope that you will realize that your guilt is misplaced. Talk to someone about it if you need to, because you and your daughter deserve to be happy. Both of you.

  20. hearthope

    hearthope New Member

    GG ~ I struggled with guilt to the point I became 'numb'.

    I had searched for help with my son's coaches and our church pastor. It made me lose something inside from the very beginning just sharing with them that I couldn't stop my son's behavior on my own.

    When it progressed to the point of me calling the police and having him arrested I thought I was going to die. I could not handle the fact that I made the call.

    Thru the yrs I made many decisions for placements (hospital,grouphome,jail) Each time I was left second guessing myself. But I believe every mother second guesses her child rearing decisions. You have such a responsibility and you only want what is best and regardless of the child and the outcome I think everyone wonders if the right decisions were made.

    I believe it is a process we all have to endure to come to terms with our families. Each of us works thru it in different ways and at our own pace.

    I know I can see a small child and think of my son at that age and how I never dreamed he would be in jail today.

    Looking back, I had lots of guilt but, I had much more heartache from watching my son destroy his future and regardless of what I did he still continued downward.

    Today is much better. I can let go of the guilt and know that I did everything I could to help him. Every decision was not the right decision but, every decision was made out of love to save my son.

    I hope you find peace with this. I can only say that prayer and this board has allowed me to come to terms with how my family unit is now.