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Regrets when it’s too late

Started by Mollyw, February 09, 2021, 06:13:21 PM

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Don't really know where to start 😢
My ex who I left 22 years ago has died and the guilt and regrets have hit me like a train.
I left him when our son was only 1. Our relationship was volatile; at times he was emotionally abusive and controlling and I was anxious and low, mostly looking after our son alone. The police were called when I finally left as he locked me in the flat to try and prevent me leaving.

I moved over an hour away to be near my parents and get support. I felt happy and free for the first time in a while. For the first couple of years I traveled to take my son to see him as I had no concerns about him seeing him but then, and this sounds awful, life just got in the way. He didn't visit us much and when he did, I sometimes felt uncomfortable as he wanted us to get back together but I didn't. He has rarely seen our son over the years.

And now he's died, unexpectedly. My son is 23.

And I am racked with guilt and regret. Why did I not continue encouraging their relationship? Why did I not invite him to childhood events? Why did I hold grudges over the years? Why did I not just get my son to call regularly, even if they didn't see each other? And now it's too late.

I know my son is the one who needs support now, not me. But these questions are in my head 24/7 and I am crying all the time. I am thrashing over everything in my head and I feel I've let my son down and shut his dad out. I don't have anyone I feel I can share this with. I don't know what I want people to say, because I know it can't be put right. My son says it wasn't my fault but he would say that, because he loves me. Thank you for listening.


 :hug: :hug: :hug:its difficult to answer not knowing  you but i do know about the damage that kind of controlling relationship can do - so firstly if you had not got out when you did  think how much damage could staying have done to your son - your ex could have extended that behavior towards him as well and even if he had not directly done that  your son would have learned that behavior and your acceptance of it and think its OK - maybe carried it forward into his future relationships as well -so in my opinion you did the best for your son by leaving.

Secondly there were two adults involved - you were not solely responsible for ensuring the relationship between them continued - your ex could have made the efforts that you now feel was all up to you to make but it was up to him as well.
From my experience of people who behaves like that, it is  possible he tried to use contact with your son initially to continue to control you and stopped making any effort or initiative to see him when it didn't work the way he wanted.
Those family events may have been much less happy occasions for your son to look back on if your ex  was there and creating family tensions that at best your son could have been aware of and stressed by , and at worst could have ended up in a brawl ruining it all .
Also any invitation to attend them by you  might have been seen by your ex as a sign you wanted him back  - in his mind, because there is often a focus just on self that goes along with this kind of behaviour,  any invitation you made on behalf of your son could be seen by him as something more than that.

That doesn't take away from your grief and of course no one wants to see their child suffer it,  but i wonder whether it is not that alone but your grief too - not for what was, but for what could have been if he had behaved differently - and it might seem that it is so much later to reflect on that now -  you would have done that grieving for what could have been when you left,  but maybe this has caused you to re-visit those emotions again now.
He was your sons father and that doesnt change and at some point you had a good relationship with him - sadly his behavior  blew the relationship and familly life that could have come from that out of the water -that wasnt your fault and i still think what you did was not only very brave but the best thing for both you and your son.

I have no idea about how much your son knows about any of this but of course he will grieve his father if not for what was, but for what could have been -he may even be blaming himself for not initiating contact as an adult when he could have done.
I had only met my dad 3 times before he died and  what i grieved for was the future, the time he could have spent with his grandchildren the time i could have spent getting to know him - they split for a very different reason - but i did not in any way start to blame my mum i knew why things had been as they were and was the same age as your son at the time.It isnt your fault  and i am sure he understands that with you as i did with mine and isnt just saying it because he loves you, but if he does have questions over the coming months answer them honestly and if he doesn't yet know why you left  look for a way to answer as gently as you can  -maybe along the lines of "your dad did these things i dont know why he did but  maybe it was because he had a mental health issue and couldn't manage it or it was never diagnosed, or maybe because he had grown up in a house where this happened and didn't know and couldn't understand it was not acceptable behavior,  but i could not live like that any longer and i didnt want you too be living in those circumstances either so i had to make the decisions i did."


Karena, I cannot thank you enough for your very considered and kind reply which gives me another perspective to reflect on. My son does not know about the history as I never wanted to deny his dad contact but I did always think I'd be honest about our difficult relationship if he ever asked as an adult (gently as you said). I think all the things you pick up on were probably how I saw things at that time but the passage of time has reduced my memory. I think the reason I'm beating myself up now is that I keep saying to myself that i never tried, so it could have been ok, but I never tried. I have to say that even though they rarely saw each other, they had some contact by messaging as adults which offers a little comfort that it was not completely cut off.

I am grateful for you sharing your own story of grief and I agree there is grief about the lost future too. I know I will re-visit your reply when I'm struggling with my thoughts. There's a reason why they say that nothing can torture you more than your own thoughts. I just thought also that I hope my post does not seem as though I am speaking ill of someone who has passed as he was a good man ultimately, but our relationship was flawed. Thank you again  :hearts:


Hey Molly,

Karena is good isn't she? I agree with it all.

You are showing compassion and your son is seeing that. You are a good person. You may not be realising this but are you angry because you never had the opportunity to really tell your ex how you really felt (in the past)? Calling the police in my opinion was the best thing. You know that, and don't be guilty of it.

You clearly became a better mother moving out. You removed yourself from a hostile environment. You became "free". So good on you.



Thank you Pep, also for your kind words. I'm struggling with the fact that although I made the right decision to leave, I now feel like that should have been the end of it. I moved away and made a good life, so why was that not the end of it? Why did I not forgive and at various times, ask my son if he wanted to see his dad more regularly? I know I'm second guessing myself. And I know none of you can answer that either! But I'm so grateful for having kind people like yourselves give me your time.  :hearts:


Your son is right, Molly. It wasn't your fault. From what you have said, it is clear that your partner drove you to leave and that that was clearly for the best for both you and your son, so you don't need to question your actions and Karena has a point too. It takes two to tango, as they say. Your son's father could have made more effort to keep in touch with your son, but it seems life got in the way for him too. Nonetheless, he had that choice and chose not to stay in regular contact.

Guilt, regret, anger, self-doubt and self recrimination are all part of the grief process. I assure you, there is no one who, after the event, can honestly look back and say they did everything right and have no regrets. We all find something to blame ourselves for. That's just the nature of grief. The shock brings back memories of the last days we spent with the person we have lost and we invariably find ourselves and our actions wanting! It is easy to find fault with ourselves with the benefit of hindsight, but life is lived in the present and we don't have the benefit of hindsight at the time.  So please don't feel guilty or blame yourself for anything. As Karena says, you did what was best for you and your son and acted bravely and wisely at the time  and I am sure you have both had better lives as a result.

The shock of grief always leaves you crying most days and takes a long time to come to terms with. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Your son still needs you and you have not let him down at all. On the contrary, you put him first when you understood that your partner was a threat to you both and you should give yourself credit for that. It was the best thing to do. Just because someone has passed away, does not change who they were when they were here and relationships suspended can be much healthier than those maintained with some individuals sometimes. We all do the best we can in present we find ourselves in. You have nothing to feel guilty about.  :hug:


Sandra - thank you so much also  :hearts:
I've been struggling today, and I know I'm no help to my son when I can't hold it together so I need to get myself in order. He keeps telling me that I can't change the past and not to feel bad; I know it's selfish of me to try to chat to him about it. I don't know what I want to hear! Do I want to hear him say, 'yes mum, you made the right decision' just to make me feel better? I feel very selfish in my grief. I wonder what memories he has and whether he views his childhood as happy or just as lacking his dad who his mum didn't really welcome?

What I wouldn't give to turn the clock back 😥 I know everyone grieving thinks that thought. Thanks all who have given me their time on here. My ex wasn't a bad person; he just had flaws as we all do, and my own are feeling very exposed right now.Wish I'd had more compassion in the past. Hugs to all those are struggling right now xx