Wil Dubois

Welcome back! We're happy to have you stopping by our weekly diabetes column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and educator Wil Dubois.

If you've got questions about life with diabetes, this is the place to be.

Last week, Sharon from Texas, a grandmother trying to navigate diabetes care for her young grandson in the wake of a messy divorce, wrote to us for advice on stress, diabetes, and insulin. This week, Wil tackles the "unspoken" topic behind Sharon's query: how to handle diabetes care for kids splitting their time between divorced parents. He shares some thoughts on how to handle necessary conversations with people you’d rather choke than talk to...


{Do you have your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}


Wil responds: Let’s talk divorce. Divorces happen. It’s a fact of modern life. More than 800,000 happily-ever-afters end every year in our country. Well, 800,000 excluding California, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, and Minnesota -- all states which for some reason either don’t track their data, or don't share it with the CDC’s National Vital Statistics database.

But it’s not like anyone in California ever gets divorced, so I doubt that would skew the data much (NOT).

Still, regardless of the exact number, I’m sure even the bitterest of exes would agree that there are a lot of divorces out there. And this matters to us D-folk more than you might expect because there’s some anecdotal evidence that divorces are more common in families with diabetic children than amongst “normal” families. The theory is that the extra stress diabetes places on time, money, and husband-and-wife relations can sink a leaking ship.

Yep, divorces have proven medical and psychological side effects that are not always good things. Especially on children. And not just the ones who already have diabetes. It’s a bit sickening to note, but not only do divorces mess up kids with diabetes, but it seems that divorces may actually trigger new cases of diabetes. One UK study published last Spring shows that children of divorce have a three-fold increased risk of developing type 1 in the wake of a family breakup.

Now, not to meddle where I’m not qualified, Sharon, but you said that your voicing concerns over your grandson’s stress and blood sugar problems “has become a major problem with interactions with his dad.” Clearly there’s more bad blood than bad blood sugar in this complicated square (I say square because it can’t be a triangle with four of you involved). But I have an approach to communication that might be helpful. I’d like to share it with you and our other readers.

My idea is based on my belief that most people love their children, even when they no longer love their spouses. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that beyond the lawyers and the courts, the moves, the stress… despite whatever bad feelings, raw emotions, frayed nerves, and anger—way at the bottom of it all—the vast majority of people still love their children.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that plenty of kids get messed up as we eff’d-up adults try to navigate through our messy lives with them in tow, but that doesn’t make the love less. My point is that you and your ex-son-in-law, if nothing else, have one thing in common: You both love the little type 1 in the middle of this drama.

So if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion, I find that honesty is an effective medicine. I think you could sit down with the boy’s father (when your grandson is out of earshot) and be honest. Tell him you hate his guts. You hate his guts for what he did to your daughter. You hate his guts for what he did to your grandson. And you hate his guts for what he did to you. You can also tell him you hate the way his socks never match his pants, too, and that you think he should really stop trying to comb his hair over his bald spot…. BUT

And here we need to take a detour to talk about magic butts.

Uhhh… I mean magic buts. With one “t.” The conjunction, not the anatomical feature on the south end of a northbound stripper.

What? You didn’t know that “but” is a magic word? Oh yes. It’s no ordinary conjunction. It’s a canceling conjunction. It eliminates all that comes before it in a sentence—either positive or negative.

Consider the job performance review: We love the work you do here, you are always on time, you act professional, and you have a great attitude, but we’re going to have to let you go.

What just happened? Yeah. The but cancelled out the praise, didn’t it?Diabetes and Divorce

Or consider the divorce: You know I’ll always love you, you’re a great wife and mother, you take great care of the house, but

So our buts have a way of scorching the earth before them and searing the words that follow them into our brains. Generally people use their buts wrong and wipe out what good things they are trying to say, but the opposite is true too. You can use a but to get a few things off your chest and then repair the damage with positive thoughts after the but.

Where was I? Oh yes. Your ex-son-in-law’s bald spot. So after venting for your own mental health, you use the magic but, saying, “BUT, I know you love your son. I can see that by how hard you fought for him. So on this one issue can’t we just set aside our differences and work together for his good health? I’m worried about his blood sugar and I think all the family drama might be causing these highs. I’m not blaming you. It’s just the situation, and I’d like us to work together as a team on just this one thing. For your son’s sake.”

And without blaming him for not stepping up, or reminding him that he didn’t, find a way to insert that you’ve been working this diabetes thing since day one and view it as your purpose in life. You’ve been doing this for 4 years. That gives you a bachelor’s degree in one boy’s diabetes. That’s not a knowledge base that should be sacrificed. It’s a vein of gold to be mined, to enrich everyone involved.

I think in this case, and maybe in every case, the diabetes needs to be divorced from the divorce. The wounded parents (and trust me, no matter which “side” you take in any divorce you witness, both people get hurt) need to find a way to swim above the muck and mire of emotion and make sure the diabetes doesn’t end up drowning the child.

So anyway, I hope that helps. We all know the safety and welfare of the child comes first. But getting through the emotional baggage is the hard part. I think the best policy is coming clean by admitting that you might be so wounded you hate the other person, but the welfare of the child (or children) trumps all, and it might be the last piece of common ground any exes can recognize.

And you, Sharon, you have an additional advantage. As his mother-in-law (not his ex-wife), he probably never really loved you anyway. That means he won’t hate you as much either. There is less baggage to carry. I think you can communicate your way to a common ground.

And for any parent of a T1 who’s reading this and is in the middle of a divorce, be sure to go read my friend and D-Dad Tom Karlya’s letter to you. There's also a great post by D-Mom Sharon at She, Her D and Me that deals with this very issue. And check out the #DivorcedDOC hashtag on Twitter, too.


This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.


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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.