DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letter from "Lost Mother in the Midwest," who suddenly left her family because she was overwhelmed with personal problems and felt unneeded and alone. I know what it's like to be one of the children left behind, and I cannot be silent.
Following are some suggestions I would like to offer for "Lost Mother": First, get professional counseling so you understand what led you to do such a thing. Everyone has problems -- that's part of life. However, you must have the courage to face up to what you've done so you can forgive yourself.
Second, when you're stable enough, contact your children to let them know that you're OK and that you realize you mishandled the situation. They need to know that you are seeking help and that you love them. They will be angry, but they are entitled to their feelings. It will begin the healing process. No matter how painful it may be, it is easier than carrying around a lifetime of guilt and pain.
Third, give your family time to sort out their feelings. At first, they may be reluctant to reconcile with you. It will take time and understanding, and may not produce the kind of relationship you are immediately hoping for.
Last, don't delay! Your doubts and fears might cause you to chicken out. You left your family, so it's your responsibility to make the first move. Every day you wait causes more pain and suffering. Life is too short to prolong this separation. It will be worth it in the end. I wish you and your children well.
I speak from experience. Our mom left us when we were very young. It has been 30 years since we've had any contact with her. We've done everything we know to find her, with no luck.
If I could somehow communicate a message to our mom, it would be this: Everyone makes mistakes, but we can try to make up for them. Love and forgiveness can go a long way. The few memories and mementos we have of you suggest that you were a very loving mother. Your children are well-adjusted, happy people, and we hope this will bring you some comfort. We have forgiven you and want you to know we love you. We still live in the same state where you left us. Life is getting shorter, and we would love to have the opportunity to spend the rest of it with you. So what do you say, Mom? It's your move. -- THE SECOND OF THREE IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR SECOND: I pray your mother sees your letter and realizes how much a reunion would mean to her children. Where there is life, there is hope.