Being fatherless left a hole in me that I couldn’t even begin to process until nearly two decades later. I had recited the words “My father passed away when I was young” more times than I can count to strangers, new friends, potential love interests and anyone who innocently asked about my parents. I hated it – repeating words that I was completely detached from and ultimately waiting for the look of pity coming from the person I was engaging in conversation with. This was generally followed by a “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that” or “That must have been so tough.” To which I would always give the cliché (and honestly, totally bullshit answer) of “It’s ok, he’s in a better place.”
I get it. No one wants to talk about death and no one knows what to say when you bring it up. Even I, as someone who has sat in a room as death took someone I loved, do not know what to say to someone when they mention their loss. So, we avoid it and have a semi comfortable version of the conversation where the person who experienced the loss is almost always forced into making the other person feel better. But, what if we didn’t do that? Especially in relationships that mean so much. What if one time someone had asked me what it was like to be fatherless and then chose to engage in a conversation about how it affected my life?
Honestly, it would have changed everything. You see, the thing that shook me to my core wasn’t actually my dad’s death. Yes, it was shocking, confusing and hurtful and I miss him like hell. But ultimately, I know that was his path and he had to walk it. The cancer had taken over his body and all that was left in his last days was the shell of the man he had once been. My faith and trust in God and the loving vibration of the Universe made his death a comfortable event years before I was able to deal with what I actually experienced as a result of his death.
When he died, my family fell apart from the inside out and many of those relationships were never able to be healed. Dad was the force that kept our family together and once he was gone, no one could see eye to eye. I went back to school shortly after his death and many of the kids reacted differently to me. They didn’t know what to say so they just said nothing and I felt alone and isolated. I got my heart broken for the first time in high school and I couldn’t come home and tell my dad so I didn’t tell anyone. I stopped eating and started down a path of on and off anorexia that would continue for a few years because I hated the way I looked. My dad had never been there to tell me I was beautiful.
I fought constantly with my mother in high school because I couldn’t articulate the pain that I was in. She wanted to protect me since she had already lost so much and I wanted to run away from all the memories as quickly as possible. I moved in with a boyfriend when I was 17 years old- desperately wanting someone to replace the love I had missed from my dad. He was a cheater who was also verbally and physically abusive but I came back time after time begging for a place in his life. Begging to be chosen. Begging for him to stay. Truthfully, it only ended when he decided to walk away. I would have never been strong enough in the moment to choose that path. It was the kindest thing he ever did for me.
I compromised my belief systems more times that I’m proud to admit – constantly bargaining with myself and promising that this time would be different. It never was. I dropped out of college because I was “in love” with someone who wanted to move away and I only went back because I was “in love” with someone else who could never accept what a failure it might be if I never went back. I moved 400 miles away from home to chase him, found him cheating on me three short weeks later and again, I begged to be chosen. I was then lucky enough to date and (truly) love a good man who treated me differently than anyone had before. He was my best friend and I was incredibly thankful for him. But, I eventually ruined it because I thought our relationship had become mundane and truthfully, I had no idea what a healthy relationship looked like so I ran.
Yet again, I moved another 400 miles to run from a life that I had created. And of course, nothing had changed. I kept doing it – dating the guys who were emotionally unavailable, trying to save them, begging them to pick me and sticking around for way too long when they had made it clear they wouldn’t. Until one of them finally broke me. It wasn’t because I loved him so much I couldn’t live without him but rather I had made it to the end of my rope in this pattern and cycle and I knew something had to change. Amazingly, I still didn’t have the courage or insight to recognize that all of this had come from being a fatherless daughter. But, it was then that I could begin to heal and the Universe finally made sure that I came across The Fatherless Daughter Project.
My truth about being fatherless is that it affected me far beyond the grief of losing my dad. For the most part, my grief had been worked through years ago but my emotional hangups had never been touched. Fatherless daughters tend to have a hard outside shell that makes everyone who only knows them on the surface think that they’re a total badass (and, for the most part we are). But, we often battle with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and general feelings of worthlessness. We try to be independent and ensure the world that we don’t need them but break down when anyone tries to leave our lives. The fear of abandonment is at the very top of our list and as I reflect on my life and share my story, it becomes painfully obvious that I spent nearly two decades living in this fear.
Don’t get me wrong, we also harbored some really great qualities from this experience as well. We are resilient beyond belief, strong, courageous and loyal to a fault. If you’re lucky enough to be friends with or love a fatherless daughter, you may describe her as the mother hen – noticing that she was always take care of others needs before her own. No matter what capacity she exists in your life, know that she loves you beyond your comprehension and she has carefully chosen to let you into her world. If you are a fatherless daughter reading this, know that you’re not alone. None of the feelings you have are different than anything the rest of us are experiencing. If no one has asked you how being fatherless has affected your life, consider this the Universe gently nudging you to answer this question and start your healing process. I can tell you from experience, healing is possible – you just have to let the Universe know you’re willing to try.