Sunday, June 16, 2013

To All the Fatherless Women on Father's Day

You know who you are.  Those of us who begin to feel a deep kind of sadness surface as Father's Day approaches, who realize that the sadness is always there, deep within, every day of our lives. 

He can be alive somewhere, or he can be gone, but he was never really there.  At least not for you.  You were invisible.  Or disappointing.  Or simply too unimportant.  He's the reason, the therapists tell you, that your relationships with men are largely and often completely fucked.  Why you chase the unavailable man, or the man who judges and shames you, the one who disregards you, and tells you it's all your fault. 

He's the reason you find it hard to trust anyone, or believe in yourself.  He's the reason you are too easily swayed by external judgments about your beauty, your intellect, your worthiness.  He's the reason you have Superwoman syndrome and a drive to be perfect, coupled with the crippling fear of your own deep and abiding imperfection. 

There are millions of us, you know.  In fact, despite all those "Happy Father's Day, Daddy" messages that clog social media,  the women who had loving, supportive, proud fathers are in the minority.  We are an army of wounded women - carrying the fatherless wound into our adult lives.  It doesn't matter how old you are, either.  Inside of you there is a deeply wounded, mournful little girl who needs to be acknowledged and loved. 

And since the reality is that your father will never heal the wound he left you with, it falls to you, yourself to begin a process of healing so that you don't expect anyone else to be responsible for fixing that gaping hole in your psyche. 

There is writing about this, of course, since there is writing about every subject.  H. Norman Wright's book, Healing the Father Wound is one.  The book talks about "father-shaped holes" and different unhealthy ways in which fatherless girls respond to their wounding.  Some become promiscuous, confusing sex with love; others go in the opposite direction and become asexual, never able to trust intimacy.  There is the superwoman syndrome -- always pushing yourself to have the 4.0 GPA, or the most billable hours, or the most perfect body - and sometimes ALL of those things and more.  There is anger management difficulty, and boundary issues, on-going depression, the wreckage of failed relationships.  A full review of the book can be read here:  Healing the Father Wound

Other books include Pamela Thomas's Book Fatherless Daughters: Turning Power to Forgiveness. 
To tell you the truth, the sentiment leaves me cold.  I like the idea of drawing our own power from the terrible wounding of childhood; I do not like the idea of forgiveness.  To hell with forgiveness. 
Jonetta Rose Barras provides a racial focus, talking about the black woman's struggle with fatherlessness in  Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl  A review of Barras's book can be read here.

So, it's probably a good idea to check out the advice available.  Become aware of those fairly typical behaviors found in the fatherless daughter.  Work to heal them, and to correct any behaviors that can be causing you further harm.   Get help if you need it.  You are worthy of being happy, whatever that takes. 

And when Father's Day comes around, celebrate yourself instead.  Celebrate your strength, your beauty, your unique abilities.  Realize that your father's imperfections and inabilities, your father's failures are in your past, and don't have to define anything about you or your life now. 
Then, resolve to make that true. 

We are an army of wounded women, but we are also survivors.  We might carry our wounds like shrapnel, but we can move through these experiences and gain a lot of strength and wisdom.  Shift your perspective away from what you didn't get, try seeing how your own strengths developed to make you unique and strong.  Be proud of the strength that rose up within you as a guide; be compassionate about the frailties you carry as you work to heal them.   As for gratitude or forgiveness for the father who created the wound -- no way.  I'm not grateful that my father was too much of a narcissist to care for anyone beside himself.  I don't forgive his cruelty or coldness, his judgmental perfectionism, his emotional absence.  Fathers like this don't deserve anything but condemnation and shame, not just on Father's Day, but every day of their lives.