Missing Daddy



“I sad you and Daddy no same house. I want cry. I so sad. I want cry, Mommy.

But I can’t. I weally-weally want cry. I try. I try but I can’t. But I weally want to.”

~Ana Lu

(Ana Lu said this twice in a five day span.)

Last summer Ana Lu and I were at the park with her mini-soul mate, Matthew. It was one of those rare days when they were both super grouchy with one other. While standing in a sea of branches, the goofballs were fighting over two random branches. Ana Lu shrieked, “I want that branch!” The two went back and forth, banter of an elderly couple inhabiting two 3-year-olds. Frustrated by their disagreement, Ana Lu’s faucet turned on. Tears flowed and flowed.

After a minute of her crying about branches, it turned into sobs, “I miss MY Daddy!”… “I miss Daddy!” … “I miss Daddy!”  … “I miss Daddy!” … “I miss Daddy!” … shouting her desperate declaration over and over. It overwhelmed her. It was all she could say, at least 2 dozen times.

She was completely consumed by sorrow.

I swooped her up in my arms, hugged her tight and walked to a private part of the park. No mother should ever have to hear her child moan like this.  Ana Lu’s pain was excruciatingly raw. Her sobs far exceeded that of a normal 3-year-old. She wept like an adult; her sorrow palpable.  I was completely thrown off guard.  I could not believe the depth of the place from where she wept.

I carried her, holding her so close to my chest our hearts felt as though they were side by side. My heart tried to get her pain, yet I couldn’t absorb it into mine. It was as if my heart was a magnet, I pulled her pain to me, but when close enough for my heart to grab it; it sprang back to her pint-sized heart.

Each time she howled, “I miss Daddy!” I’d pull her closer to soak in her sadness. I tried to grasp it. I want it. I can handle it. But it was far beyond my reach. After a handful of tries, I concede.

There is not a single thing I can do to lift her out of her grief. It does not matter that I am her Mommy. I cannot save her. I cannot override the effects divorce has on children. Ugh. I have no choice but to become still. I hug her. I envision quicksand tugging her downward, deeper into her heartache. I’m devastated, my eyes filled with tears.

“No! Mommy! No!” she screeched upon seeing my tears.  Oh my gosh, she’s right, this isn’t about my pain, this is about her pain. I pushed the tears back; embarrassed that even in this intense moment my preschooler showed more wisdom than me. My distress in seeing her this way was a raindrop compared to Ana Lu’s internal torrential storm. She knew this. I knew this. It was about her storm, not my raindrop.  I learn it, then I accept it and continue to hold her close. She howled and howled.

I closed my eyes. I’m furious that Ana Lu–regardless of the fact that she is only 30 pounds, soaking wet with rocks in her pocket– is human.  I don’t care how much pain is a part of existence; I don’t want my 3-year-old to have to feel it. Damn it! She’s a baby for Heaven’s sake! A baby! God, are you listening to this child?!

In the same breath I heard myself whisper, Thank you, thank you for helping my sweet girl cry the way she wanted. The way she needed.

I hate to see my sweet Ana Lu consumed by suffering so significant that even as her mom I cannot fit my arms around it. But I am so grateful she knew she needed to cry and she found a way to release. Her delicate 3-year-old heart knew the sadness was lurking in her little body and she needed to expel it in order to heal. So she found a way, a safe place with her favorite little buddy and me to let it go.

Ana Lu dove headfirst into the pain Charles and my divorce caused her. That night she was visibly more peaceful; light on her feet and joyful in her dimples, it was as if she were floating. Hopefully diving into it means she’s one step closer to stepping out of it.

Something we can all learn from. Even from a three-year-old.


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  1. 1

    Arnebya says

    I feel this to the bottom of my toes, I do. And I’m sorry she’s hurting, that you’re hurting that’s she’s hurting. I wish I had some magic words, some great thing to offer. I got nothin’. But I feel this. For so many reasons that I won’t share because it’s not about me.

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  2. 2

    Mary P says

    I have 4 children who have had to deal with the pain that follows divorce. My youngest the least because I was pregnant with him when my husband and I separated but the fact that they were young helped a lot, it will also help her, you cannot remove the pain. I believe letting my children talk about it as much as they wanted to and always listening was very important. Especially since their Dad decided to be completely absent in their lives. But I was the best Mom I could be and today as young adults they thank me and that makes me happy. I was not a perfect Mom but I did the best I knew how. And I am proud who they have grown up to be.

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  3. 3

    Heather says

    Tore me up. Have a 10 week old who is going to grow up thinking a broken home is normal…we split up before she was even born. But I still worry about this exact moment. I can’t even handle watching her pain when she gets her shots. How will I handle something like this?

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  4. 5

    Stacy says

    My daughter does this, but for my parents and father-in-law. My dad and my father-in-law passed away 3 days apart when my daughter was 2. This past July my mom passed. It bothers me knowing how much pain and death a 5 year old has dealt with.

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  5. 6


    “Hopefully diving into it means she’s one step closer to stepping out of it.” So much wisdom and truth in this line for all of us. Having the courage to be vulnerable opens our hearts to so much more. Thank you for this, Gretchen.

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  6. 10

    Heather says

    My two just started the we miss daddys in the last week. I havent had a single message from him asking about the kids since august and it is now november. they havent seen him since we left in july and went to shelter. i am trying to be strong for them. i am trying but it is hard. dear lord is it hard. thank you for this. i needed it as i think this will be coming soon.

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