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Sadness,grief and regret over sons incarceration

Community Member

Hi, I am new to this but  need to talk to someone, anyone, I am a mother of 4 children , three adults ages 25, 29,32 and a 10 year old son from from second marriage. My eldest son was convicted of  a crime and is now in prison,he is 32 and the whole experience has devastated me , sitting through the trial I cried the whole two days everyone was looking at me  obviously knowing I was the mother ,then his sentencing was a day I shall never forget I had to write a letter to the judge about my son, about his drug use, about his father not being in his life since we divorced and his downfall, I also wrote about  how I loved him would stand by him, I'm sorry I failed him  and he turned to drugs too take away his pain, but underneath all that was a wonderful creative boy who just took a wrong turn, the judge  starting reading my letter word for word out to the court room, I looked at my beautiful boy and there were tears running down his face, I think he finally realised what he has done not only to himself but to me as his mother, that image is burned into my memory ,for once in my life I could not protect my child and it killed me, his sentence was given and they took him away, he will be released about september. I cannot tell  anyone and the stress is unbearable,I have to lie to people to excuse his absence , he is clean and sober now and has turned this life around he is doing all the courses to correct his life while in prison and is deeply regretful of his choices, I do not excuse his behaviour  but I am his mother and I have to stand by him, I look at all the other families visiting in prison and it is so sad it affects the whole family. This is the first time I have said this out aloud it is so hard to live with this "secret",I just don't know how to live with this.

570 Replies 570

Hi Anne,

Oh your life sounds just like mine and it is so comforting to know there is someone who completely understands, what a relief just to talk about it and you know that another person is feeling in their heart the same, trying to comprehend how things got so far and out of control, it is a living nightmare no doubt and it hurts you to the core of your being.

Of course I am nervous and concerned about his release, to learnt trust again is hard especially as he will be living in my home, but he will have rules in my home to and I think it will be a anxious time for him and me , but I have had discussions about his release and I think if we are both honest and upfront with what is expected of him, it should go ok, I am not naive to think there will be no hiccups as that would be unrealistic , but I also need to support and encourage his sobriety and guide him till he gets on his feet.

I hope he does not let me....or himself down, as I told him this is a huge wake up call, I think prison has shown him you can have a life without drugs and alcohol and there are people in there who have wasted their whole life...and what for? It is a sad reality of the world we live in, I was talking to a mother outside the prison on mothers day when I was visiting we didn't say why our sons where in there, but we could empathise with each other for those brief moments , I asked my son about that other young man and he told me that he was in for murder, I felt such sadness for his mother knowing she will have to live that for another 20 years or so and he had wasted his young life because of drugs.

I am going to counselling every two weeks to sort myself out and prepare for  his release, I cry a lot of the time but I am also learning to deal with my own childhood issues and problems, as I need to be strong for me and him , and I should have gone a lot earlier than this.

Funny isn't it, I have a happy marriage, a nice home, and it looks all great from the outside until the depression grabs you, and makes everything  unimportant, the sadness, the tears, the feeling of emptiness , I know now that happiness does come from the inside and making myself better will in turn help my son,and it was very hard for me to reach out for help ,because I thought I would appear weak, but actually its is the bravest and strongest thing you can do and  I'm so glad I did.

Take care, and so glad you reached out for the "both "of us.


Hi July

Yes it is comforting to know of someone else who understands. Even my psychiatrist and psychologist try to be empathetic but it is not their child inside, none understands but us. 

I have often thought about P when he was inside the first time how it was a living nightmare that I couldn't wake up from.  Only in my dreams is he the old P and sometimes not even then.  I know intellectually I have lost 'the old P' but inside, the mother in me, doesn't want to acknowledge that. If I did I would totally lose it and break down completely so a small part of me is hoping he is not completely lost. I'm rambling sorry.

I couldn't let P come back to my house, (he fully understood and was ok with it) he had taken money from me, stolen my key card to get money, when he did that all trust was gone.  I couldn't believe my own son would steal from me.  All this has caused a small part of me to die, people don't understand that. I did pick him up from the prison and drive him to the half way house. He said he had to rebuild the trust with me and his brother.

I first saw my shrink in 1993 - 2003 then stopped for  7 years.  Funnily enough that was when I had all the troubles with my son.  When I went back to her my depression PTSD etc.were at an all time low,P was in prison the psychologist (number 2) I was seeing along with my GP wanted to lock me up.  I knew my shrink wouldn't do that so I left both these women and went back to my old shrink and found a new GP.

I fell apart when my son first breached his parole and went back to prison, didn't expect it, but it also hardened me up so I set stronger boundaries with him, hence him saying it was all might fault and taking no responsibility. It is good you are having counselling but it doesn't matter when you have it so don't feel bad about going now and not earlier.

I am working hard on childhood issues, an abusive marriage, my son in jail along with all the mental illness, don't know how I do it sometimes. 

I am getting their and you are too, I wish I was more prepared when P got out the first time, it might have helped, I will never know.

 I have had depression all my life but I am finding strategies to cope.

I am so glad we have connected even if it is just to vent to someone who understands. I am here for you when ever you need me to be.




Hi anne,

I found it so distressing that the drugs/alcohol turned my nice and decent boy into someone I didn't want to know and that is the sad truth, they just become someone desperate,frantic and unstable and do not abide by any boundaries, thats what gets them into trouble,it changes their personality. But I still knew underneath all that poison he was a good boy he has never stolen from me or done anything physicallly, but again I would not let him into my house when I knew he was under the influence of any narcotics, and yes that hurt him but I had to be cruel to be kind and I think he deep down understood and its only now while he's in prison that he said to me he completely understands why I did that and he knows the drugs change people into monsters.

He knows  this is the worst thing I have had to go through and I don't cover up my heartbreak and pain over what he's done, he needs to accept and realise the deep distress he's caused me and himself .

His own father has moved back to america to live, that was 2 years ago and even while living here never supported him and rarely ever saw him, so he has only me and his step dad who has known him since he was 12, and he is 33 next month.Its been hard for my husband to watch me crumble over all this , the tears and pain, feeling I have let my son down and could I have done anything different ? I will never know but I can only go forward now.

But I to sometimes sit and wonder how am I going to get through all this and I answer myself by saying I have 4 children I brought into this world and its my responsibility and duty to care and love them unconditionally, I am not a bad mum, and my son is not a bad boy, just life has taken us down this dark path and I hope we will walk into the brightness again one day.

Don't be hard on yourself we can only do our best in the moment, sometimes trying to forgive yourself is harder than forgiving someone else and we are only human to and our hearts are not made of stone, one crack cannot make us crumble .

Take care of yourself


white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi July,   what wonderful mums you all are, that have children in jail andyou care and love so much. Sometimes I wonder what us men would do without you to take up the bulk of the nurturing. We love our kids just as much of course but in different ways.

I've spoken in these pages before about the importance of diversion mind. How you can caress your mind ....feed it....to give it another direction even for a short time.

July- if you dont have a dog get one. I had a dog as a child then no dog for many years until prior to my first marriage failing. I had to leave my dog with my ex as I went to live in a caravan park. Each time I dropped my kids off every fortnight I'd walk 4 metres to a gate and pat him. Then one day my ex yelled "I dont want you to pat the dog anymore". End of that. Sad how soem can break your heart.

Three years ago my wife and I bought a mini fox terrier pup. She eats our food, sleeps between us under the doona and rides on out motorcycle.. She has been responsible for diverting my mind more than any other source.

In your case July, you will have more of this if you buy a pup, even if you already have a dog. And it could be an important conversation topic between you and your son???

Anyway, my main reason for posting here was that I was so impressed by your attitude.

Tony WK

Hi Tony, nice to see you again.

Hi July

You called your son desperate, frantic and unstable, yes that was my son, the drugs did change his personality he became someone who I didn't want to know and because I love him so it broke my heart.

He said to me that at the height of his addiction he became obsessed with where his next hit was coming from, that was all he could think of, not how he was hurting me or anyone else just where he was going to get the money for drugs.  I believe deep down he wasn't lost completely as he never hurt any individual physically but emotionally he hurt all his friends.  In fact he lost them all, some being childhood friends, how sad.

The first paragraph you wrote I have said that many times, the only thing different is even though he did acknowledge the pain it caused me it wasn't enough to change him.

I did cover up the heart ache as I still wanted him to love me and I knew I was loosing him but it was nothing I did so now I am being strong and putting in strong boundaries but it is bitting me in the butt. 

Hopefully one day he will see the reasons why and take responsibility for his actions.  In the mean time I am getting on with my life, not that the pain ever goes away.

My son's father disowned him when he first went to prison, he said and I quote 'I can't go and see him because it will tarnish my reputation'.  I was disgusted in him.  He has never had much to do with the boys since he left and now has no contact at all.

I also sit and wonder how I am going to get through this.  It is a shame we do not know each other in person as I am sure we would be able to comfort each other enormously and help ease each others burden and pain.

All I can say is I am doing the best I can but with the depression being as bad as it is that is not much.  I try to find the good and fun in my life and helping others with my volunteer work does help.

Hang in there July



Hi Tony,

Thanks for your post yes, I am doing my best under the circumstances and with counselling I am finding my strength and my voice , I saw my counsellor yesterday and she is recommending me someone for my son to see when he is released as she said he needs to get to the real reason for his addiction or he could relapse,I completely agree he has deep issues and when he gets out he has one chance to make it and I am going to give it one hell of a chance.

About the dog..sorry I am a cat person we have three now, cause in december we got two kittens from a rescue shelter, and I agree animals are life savers they are there for you and seem to understand when you are down, and my son loves cats to so they will give him great comfort and its funny they are sleeping on his bed in his room all the time, I even took pictures of them on his bed and sent them to him he laughed like mad and said he can't wait to be home.

I have everything ready at home for him and hope we have a smooth transition but I can't predict everything so its a day by day thing I guess, and I am doing my best  and when he comes home it will be his turn to "do his best".

Thanks again


Hi anne,

Hope you are well, yes it would be nice if we knew each other in "real life" as we both have such similar histories.

Its hard dealing with someone with an addiction, you can never predict what they will do , one day it works the next day it doesn't and above all, as a mother  you never want to lose their love and I truly hope for you, your precious boy comes around and confronts his demons, I think we all have "demons" of some kind we are dealing with, but the drugs are evil.

The absent father,  yes I can relate, you feel like everything is up to you and you know it,  so I cannot change anyone else, so I have to  get on with it  and to me they are your kids and both parents should support them but life doesn't  always work out the way you want it. Of course it upsets me that my ex husband literally abandoned his children but you know what, thats on him, and I'm not going to waste precious time on him when I need to focus on my sons own well being and at least he has one parent that has his back.

Don't worry about your ex, in the mean time carry on with your life and when your son needs you, you will be there for him it might take months or years but our love never dies, and I feel your pain, you carry it everyday and you are right helping others does help, just put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

We are now the "protective mother lions" and we will make it, that mothering instinct is in built and when the times get tough we get tougher.

Take care, thinking of you.


Morning July

It is so comforting to know someone else that knows what I am going through and how i feel.

Yes I have my demons, my addiction is food, and something I just can not get a handle on as my weight will testify to.

I did over compensate my children, to make up for their abusive father and then no father, worst thing I could have done on reflection.  Never mind i did the best I could under the circustances.

Yes I am a protective lion, over protective but I am trying not to be. My son called my bossy but it was because I could see where he was going wrong and was trying to stear him in the right direction.

I try not to dwell on my son as when I do I become so emotional, I thought he had changed and was going on the straight and narrow when he first went to prision, he was saying all the right things but when he got out it didn't help.

I found my son walked a great deal when he first got out as that was something he couldn't do in prison, he walked for miles just becasue he could.  Also my son had trouble adjusting to a metal knife and fork as inside they use plastic,  he nearly chipped his front teeth a couple of times getting use to a metal fork again.

He also had trouble socialising agian and fitting in.  Just little things that may help you and your son. If I can think of anything else that will help you and your son I will let you know.

I think of you and your son all the time. 

Bye for now


Hi Anne,

I could feel your pain when you said thinking of your son makes you emotional, yes it does, and I to am a very over protective mother, I always want to mother them and I forget my older three kids are adults , so I have  to mind myself sometimes, but my mother was an abusive alcoholic , she never in her life told me she loved me or showed any compassion to me, if fact she always said to me that she never wanted a daughter, so this is why I am so mothering to my kids as I don't want them to ever feel like I did, my mother died two years ago and went to her grave never saying sorry or anything to me, when your  own mother rejects you it scars you forever.

Thankyou for the little things your son did ,it helps me to try to adjust to when he comes out, I guess its all the little things we don't think about that they need to re- adjust to , it is going to be so strange.

I am going to see him for a visit tomorrow, its very stressful going there as you well know, trying to put on a happy face, and it takes well over an hour to get there and the visit and then back home, so your whole day is gone, but thats part of my duty, part of my "mothering job" right now.

But its funny visiting the prison, I at least think we are all in the same "sad boat", I just look around at all the other families and we all have that same look  on our faces, sadness, despair and fear for our loved ones, cause prison or not ,they are your children, and I had the same hopes and dreams for my little boy just like anyone else.

Take care, catch up soon,



Hi July

I have been thinking a lot about you today because you are visiting your son and I know how horrid that can be.  I use to totally focus on my son and the pleasure I got in seeing him, that was the only way I got through.  I hope your visit went well.

Yes thinking of my son is emotional but when you try to explain to others it means nothing to them.  I know you understand that deep hole inside you, the feeling of loss and pain. This in itself helps me.

We have so much in common, my mother wasn't physically abusive but emotionally she wasn't there for me. she said once that she couldn't relate to me as I was female, I have four brothers and she had no trouble relating to them. She didn't protect me from sexual abuse from one of my brothers, she said when I told her as an adult she did know.   I do try and put all this aside when I see her. She loves me I know she does but was not sure how to show it when I was growing up.  She does now but the damage is done.

I use to feel it was my duty to visit my son, my duty as a mother, I don't now as I realise the damage to me is far worse.  He knows I love him but that is not enough, for now.

You nailed it, I had hopes and dreams for both my sons and they didn't come true.  Prison never entered my head and their is so much shame attached.  I hear others joke about criminals and people in prison, feel like saying 'that is my son you are talking about' but don't, again the shame.

My oldest son works hard as a kitchen hand, he is happy.  He is intelligent so I expected more but he also has anxiety issues so I try and be thankful that he is working and supporting himself.  He rents a one bedroom flat and is happy and contented.  I don't know if he will ever earn enough money to buy and that is sad but he is doing the best he can and I am happy for him.

I would love to visit my son but said to him if he did go back to prison I wouldn't visit him and  I feel I have to stick to this.  I often wonder which would be more painful, visiting him or not.

Sending my love and positive vibes to you and your son.