Alex’s Journey through Healing and Growth at Mercy Home

Alex’s Journey through Healing and Growth at Mercy Home

The first thing Alex ever saved up his allowance for was a sound machine. It played soothing sounds of the ocean, which helped lull him to sleep each night.

But that beloved sound machine wasn’t simply a way for Alex to relax. Instead, it covered up something much darker going on in Alex’s home.

…it covered up something much darker going on in Alex’s home.

It was an understatement to say that Alex’s parents didn’t get along. In fact, they openly hated one another. Sometimes Alex would try to referee their daily fights. But they often fought late into the night. Long after Alex should have been asleep, he listened to his parents screaming horrible things at each other.

His parents fought about everything. But there was one topic that seemed to come up time after time: Alex. They couldn’t agree on anything, be it his bedtime, what he should be eating, or what after school activities he should participate in. 

It felt like all their problems were 100 percent my fault. I felt bad about it all the time.

– Alex

Their fights were simply a reflection of larger problems in their relationship. But Alex, who was only 12, didn’t see it that way. He felt like if it wasn’t for him, his parents wouldn’t have anything to fight about. He spent most days feeling guilty and responsible for the cracks that threatened the foundation of his family.

You can imagine how Alex felt when his parents announced that, after years of turmoil, they would be getting a divorce. Initially, he was relieved that the fighting would come to an end. But that feeling of relief was soon replaced another familiar emotion, guilt. 

“All I could think was that if I didn’t exist, my parents wouldn’t have anything to fight about,” he said. “It felt like all their problems were 100 percent my fault. I felt bad about it all the time.”

He was angry, sad, guilty, and frustrated.

Before the divorce, things were difficult in Alex’s life. But after, things completely deteriorated. His father moved two hours away from where Alex and his mom were living. Though his parents tried to split custody, traveling between the two houses was stressful. His dad couldn’t drive him the two hours to school, meaning Alex’s school absences began to pile up. 

Alex had been falling behind in school for a while. The constant stress and turmoil at home left him with little motivation or energy to complete his schoolwork. And after his parents split up, his attitude toward school worsened. He was angry, sad, guilty, and frustrated. 

Alex didn’t know how to deal with all the feelings he was having. And they came out at inopportune times, like in school. He began to talk back to his teachers and get into fights with the other students. Eventually, he was skipping classes. His grades plummeted.

“I didn’t really care about school,” he remembered. “If my parents asked how it was going, I said fine. But it wasn’t really.”

Alex’s parents didn’t realize how dire his situation at school was until they received a notice from Alex’s teacher saying that he was at risk of not passing 7th grade. She also explained that Alex had been acting out of character, and she was concerned. She asked to set a meeting with Alex’s parents, Alex, and the school guidance counselor.

Alex didn’t want to attend the meeting. He just knew he would get in trouble for his behavior and cause more difficulties between his parents. But he was surprised by what his teacher had to say. She said that Alex had been struggling in recent months and wasn’t coping well with his parents’ divorce. But she had a possible solution: Mercy Home.

She explained that it would be a place where Alex would have the resources he needed to cope with the stress from the divorce, get back on track in school, and begin to heal. Alex wasn’t so sure about this idea. But for what felt like the first time ever, his parents finally had something to agree on. Alex needed Mercy Home.

Alex agreed to visit our Home and see what it was like before deciding to move in. He was surprised by what he saw. He pictured something rundown and dreary. Instead, he was greeted with bright, clean spaces and smiles from everyone he came across. 

“As we got a tour, I realized that it was somewhere I could picture myself living,” Alex said. “That’s when I decided I could give Mercy a try.”

Alex’s home was never quiet or peaceful. And sometimes Mercy Home wasn’t either, but for an entirely different reason. Instead of fights, it was filled with activity. There was always someone to talk to, to play basketball with, or to eat meals with. It was the kind of environment that helped Alex thrive.

Alex began meeting regularly with his therapist, and soon began sharing details of his parents’ constant fighting and the guilt he felt. When his parents found out that Alex blamed himself for their divorce, they were shocked. Alex and his parents began taking part in family therapy. 

My parents have stopped putting me in the middle of all their fights…It feels like they’re really trying to change.

– Alex

These family therapy sessions made a big difference in Alex’s life. It gave him the tools to help cope with the negative emotions he had been experiencing for so long. It also gave his parents more awareness about how their actions affected Alex and they learned ways they could provide a more supportive environment for him. They also began taking parenting classes offered through Mercy Home, fully committing themselves to making things easier for Alex.

“My parents have stopped putting me in the middle of all their fights,” Alex said. “It feels like they’re really trying to change.”

Alex also received the educational support he desperately needed at our Home. He was matched with a tutor who helped him catch up on his missing assignments. He realized that when he wasn’t bogged down by his parents’ problems, it wasn’t so hard to stay focused. His hard work impressed his teacher and paid off: he is starting 8th grade this fall!

Close-up Vertical Portrait of a teenage boy, Alex, wearing a lab coat and protective lab glasses looking at the camera smiling.

As Alex took more of an interest in school, he also discovered a passion he never knew he had. During summer break, he took a field trip through Mercy Home to a lab where he learned about different careers in science. He was immediately intrigued when a chemist starting talking about his job. On the way home, he told one of our coworkers that he thought he wanted to be a chemist when he grows up.

We were eager to nurture this budding interest, and our coworkers in the Education and Career Resources department provided him with a chemistry set so that he could explore this interest further. He even took a chemistry class at a local library. His love for science has continued to grow, and we plan on supporting his passion every step of the way!

“I really like science because it’s all about constantly learning new things,” Alex said. “I can’t wait to take chemistry class in high school and maybe work in a lab someday.”

When Alex reflects on how things have changed since coming to Mercy Home, he said that there were too many changes to count. But the biggest things that changed for the better were easy to identify: his family and his hope for the future.

“I felt hopeless all the time before coming to Mercy Home,” Alex said. “But now it feels like there are things to look forward to again.”

Teen boy in white and blue stripped shirt, sitting at his school desk with a pencil in his hand. Looking at viewer with a nice smile.

“I felt hopeless all the time before coming to Mercy Home,” Alex said. “But now it feels like there are things to look forward to again.”

It is because of generous friends like you, we are able to provide the support and resource kids like Alex need. Thank you for caring about our kids!

Education gives our kids the opportunity to build a brighter future. Your gift will help them get there.

Please note: Because we care deeply about protecting our children’s privacy, the names and certain identifying details in this story have been changed. 

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