When You Let Out That Kernel Of Truth – Kids And Divorce

My homesick college kid woke me this morning just before 6am.  The phone rang and all I heard was crying on the other end with the words, “Mom, it’s me.”  I sat up in bed, not fully awake, but aware that it was my homesick kid calling way too early in the morning.  Immediately my spidey senses were on alert because we hadn’t talked yesterday.

“Honey, what’s going on?  Are you ok?”

Through the sobs he told me that he hadn’t slept all night.  He’s got anxiety and waited until just before 6am to call me because he didn’t want to wake me in the middle of the night.  He was sitting outside of his dorm in the dark because he didn’t want to wake his roommate.

What unfolded over the next 1.5 hours, painfully slowly with much fishing from me and with breaks because many times he couldn’t stop crying, was that he hadn’t slept because he has what he calls anxiety.  Or what the therapist at university called anxiety.  Which I had a tough time accepting for a kid who hadn’t had anxiety before going to college, but I’m just a mom and not a professional.

Piece by piece with patience and his willingness to finally express what he meant by anxiety, (because he’s maybe hit rock bottom) I think we finally found the kernel of truth and maybe the source.  I’ll admit it was a slow process and I kept praying that I was asking him the right questions and not putting words in his mouth that he’d just parrot back to me in order to be done with my questioning.

He’s been telling me he’s having a hard time adjusting to college because even though he wants to trust people, he feels like it’s hard to make friends.  So we worked with that for a bit until finally, four years after his father left, the kid sobbingly said the words:

“I hate Dad.  I hate what he did and I don’t think I can ever forgive him.”

What he’s referring to is that when he was 14 years old, his dad (my former husband) told the kids that he wanted a divorce and was moving out in a few weeks.  While he said that he loved them, they never heard it because all they heard was divorce.  I clearly remember both kids being shocked and sad, but this one sobbed uncontrollably for the longest time because he was younger and hadn’t been aware (or didn’t want to see the changes).  Oh hell, who am I kidding?  My kids and I cried.  We were all shocked that he was leaving (I knew a month beforehand).  It was the sudden end to our family life.  It was unthinkable.  It was the rug being pulled out from under you – where everything you thought you knew for certain is now not and maybe it’s even been a lie.  It’s the broken trust and it sent us all, in varying degrees, into a tailspin of emotion.

It was the first time he had said those words out-loud and as much as it grieved me to hear how he felt, I understood.  And as quietly as I could, I cried along with him.  Because that’s never what I wanted for my kids and their dad.  But, it is also, completely understandable how he feels about his absent dad.

And it is most likely, the key to his anxiety at school, his lack of making friends, his not eating, his interminable playing of video games.  All ways in which he avoids those feelings, and therefore the festering continues.

“I don’t want to hate him Mom, but I can’t forgive him.”

I wanted to climb through the phone and just hold him in my lap as if he were a little child again.  Because I know how that feels myself as the former wife and I can only imagine how it feels as the son.  Because here’s the blessing…

I know in his heart, he still loves his Dad, but he’s incredibly hurt.  He’s having trust issues and anxiety because he’s never allowed himself to verbalize how he feels.  Deep down my kids are sensitive like me (their dad was that way long ago too).  They love with their whole hearts and when their hearts break to the core, they don’t want to hate.  They want to love.  They want to forgive, but they can’t figure out a way to accept what happened with the divorce and all the disconnected behavior from their dad because they’re hurt beyond words.  They’ve been suffering for so long and it’s manifested into this anxiety, homesickness and depression.

He’s gone back to sleep for now which is good.  He’s not suicidal for which I’m grateful.  When he wakes up in a bit, he’s off to the health center to meet with his counselor and to be excused from classes today.

We’ve agreed that we are in this together to heal him.  I’m saddened by his reveal and I know how hard it was for him to say it.  But I’m really proud of him.  I wish I had the relationship with his dad where I could ask him to relate more with his sons, but I do not.  So we will heal together.  One step at a time.


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33 Responses to When You Let Out That Kernel Of Truth – Kids And Divorce

  1. I am so so sorry. My heart is breaking right now. I know you are the best mom to help him start his healing journey. I’m angry too, because he shouldn’t have to endure the pain from someone else’s selfish actions.


    • janieleeds says:

      It’s a part of life I think, but not a part I would want my kids to experience from their dad. But it’s happened and we have to deal with it the best way we know how. It breaks my heart too Princess, but perhaps there’s a lesson here that couldn’t have been taught any other way. I am glad that I’ve been able to forgive their dad and be grateful for what we had and not be bitter. Now I can hopefully lead the way to healing for them too….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry. You are an awesome mom and did all the right things!


  3. Create Space says:

    My heart and thoughts are with you and your son Janie. With time he will see that you are moving forward with your life and that you have “been able to forgive their dad and be grateful for what we had and not be bitter” and he will follow your lead!! You have his back…that’s all that matters! Xx


  4. Sending hugs. I worry about this same thing. =/


  5. Anxiety, regrets, depression, fear are all amplified in the middle of the night. Good for all of us to recognize this and have a strategy for dealing with it, like getting up to read or listening to calming music. It seems to me that your son’s job is more of acceptance than forgiveness. That can come later with time and maturity. We don’t understand our parents very well when we’re young and for some of us, we may never understand. They are human and flawed.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. stormieday says:

    Positive thoughts for you and your son. I know how tough anxiety and depression can be, but at least he did reach out for help and support. This is my biggest fear for my daughter – that one day she is going to break. Of course, I hope that is not the case. But I worry.


  7. LA says:

    Sending you hugs!!


  8. TJ Fox says:

    Hugs! I understand how hard this must be for both of you. I’m hoping this is the breakthrough he needed to get on track to finding healing.


  9. L. Rorschach says:

    This is heartbreaking, and must have been so tough for you to hear whole being so far away. I’m so sorry.

    I’m thinking positive thoughts for your son. Hopefully verbalizing this was his first step toward healing.


  10. I feel so much for you all Janie, trust in the knowledge that all he is going through will make him a much stronger person. My youngest daughter suffered with anxiety in her final years and it was a nightmare time for her. She had medication which helped enormously and sat all her exams and came out with great results.

    Are there any other places of learning closer to you Janie where he could come home!


    • janieleeds says:

      I am glad your daughter triumphed Elaine! YAY! There are other places nearby, but his brother is there with him so that’s a solace for me and for him. I think it takes a village to raise good men and things are looking better today. So fingers crossed…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Note….. that should have read ……. Final years at school 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Ainsobriety says:

    I’m afraid this will be my son in a few years.
    My ex was caught cheating in November, immediately moved out, and by June had moved to another city to live with his now pregnant girlfriend. 25 years together. He was my best friend and fun partner until the affair came out. My 14d discovered the affair and told me.

    My kids 16s and 14d have very little contact with him. He texts, they ignore.

    Ex says he is giving space…I say he has abandoned us.

    And while we are ok, the 3 of us, and he sends his child support that I don’t need, but happily accept, I’m devastated that the father of my kids could be so heartless and callous.

    How do I help them? How did you stop wondering why?



    • janieleeds says:

      I wrote a post today with what happened with us. I’m so sorry your 14 yr old discovered the affair. I have 2 sons ages 19/21 now but they were your kids’ ages when the ex left so I understand. It feels like abandonment for us and for them. Giving space is one way to look at it, but then how do you traverse the space when it’s become too wide with time? Not so easy to make up lost time in a relationship. It’s not easy to navigate this, I understand. But most important is that you keep lines of communication open with the kids and you. The ex and the kids have to figure out their own relationship together or not. But it’s not yours to fix. Believe me because I tried and tried. Be supportive. Be loving to the kids. Listen. Maybe get them a therapist? The kids are allowed to feel how they feel under the circumstances. I tried to make it so that they kept in communication with their dad and it stunted their healing because they needed to be angry and feel the emotions instead of pretending it was ok. I finally gave up wondering why he left because it stunted my healing when I was focused on why he did or didn’t do whatever. Instead I changed my thoughts to my healing and told myself it doesn’t matter why he left anymore or what he was doing as long as the kids and I were healing. He is a separate person now and not part of the trio that we made after he abruptly left us. And I’m ever grateful that the kids and I have bonded in ways we may never have if he’d stayed. And while it makes me sad sometimes, I choose to see how it enriched our relationship and made us appreciate each other even more. I hope this helps Anne. You can contact/email me through the blog if you need a friend. I’m here.


      • Ainsobriety says:

        Thank you so much for all of this.
        I am trying to do what you write, making us a stronger family of 3.
        We have a good therapist that we like. My son isn’t interested in it right now…but he knows it’s available. My daughter goes regularly.
        I see flashes of how much better off we are. I think as the pain dulls I will realize more and more how much better off I am.
        I just wish it hadn’t hurt the kids…


      • janieleeds says:

        Anne, we all wish it hadn’t hurt the kids…believe me. You are not alone and unfortunately, it’s not unusual for everyone to hurt when a family unit breaks up. But I love that your daughter, your son and you are bonding and growing stronger. Take it day by day…with much love xx


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