A letter to the fatherless

Father’s Day is not a joyous celebration for everyone. For many, it is a bittersweet, mostly painful reminder of what’s missing in their lives.

As people scroll through all the dad love on social media, there are many silent observers reflecting on what they wish they had. If Father’s Day causes you to feel numb, caused by years of disappointment and regret, then I wrote this letter for you. The effects of fatherlessness is scary (http://bit.ly/1D6Fi45 ) but it doesn’t have to wreck your life completely. (And it’s not just a local phenomenon: http://bit.ly/2rNadTc )

You don’t have to remain stuck in a place where you feel “less than” because you’ve never had a positive fatherly influence in your life. The parts of your heart that have become hardened needs to become soft again. It’s not serving you to pretend the void is not there, or that you’re “fine” because it’s been years and “you’re so over it”.

If nothing else, you need to acknowledge that your relationship (or lack of one) with your father has played a role in how you view authority figures, even in the workplace.

If you never received the nurture, care and acceptance you needed as a child, you will crave it as an adult. That’s just the way we’re wired. We’re wired for love. We’re wired for connection. Sometimes, when the internal wires gets crossed, or short circuited, we can’t function at our optimal level.

We will always be frustrated if we never fix the wiring.

 

 

Absent fathers

There is a pandemic of absent fathers in South Africa (http://bit.ly/2tEYqHM). If you’ve grown up in poverty and your father was never around to be a support, research shows that the odds are against you winning in life. This does not have to mean a death sentence. You can be one of the many exceptions and triumph over the adversity you have faced.

It does mean however that children who grew up with absent fathers have experienced the pain of abandonment. The silent (and imprisoning) message that you may have received is: “I am not valuable”, “I am not worthy of being protected or taken care of” or “I’m all alone”. Even if your dad was absent because of premature death, not choice, the reality of living without a father in the home has the potential to manifest the same psycho social effects of fatherlessness.

These subliminal messages led to inner beliefs and you may never make the connection that these long term feelings are linked to why you’re trying so hard to make your manager like you, or why you get so upset when you feel ignored by your boss. It is not their role to correct the historical context of your life’s circumstances. If you’ve identified that you might be dealing with the pain of abandonment, seeking help from a counsellor or mentor will help you heal and become whole in this area.

(If you’re a person of faith, you can lean on the truth of God being an ever-present help. He is a good Father who will never reject you or abandon you).

Let us not forget that fathers who have never been fathered don’t know how to father. Unforgiveness leads to bitterness that keeps you trapped in a cave of defeat. The only way you can move forward is to make peace with what was so that you can fully embrace the potential available to you in your present.

There are many good people in the world, who are willing to help and support others in need. Just because one person, who has pivotal to your growth and development, failed you, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. You past may have shaped you but don’t allow it to define you.

Abusive fathers

Depending on the situation, having a father who is present in your life – but extremely abusive, could be worse than dealing with the consequences of an absent father. The long term effects of post traumatic disorder on someone who has grown up in a home rife with domestic violence has deep seated wounds that will only heal once that person is a safe environment and embarks on a journey of healing.

Trying to participate in “normal life” can feel impossible for those who have experienced the terror of watching their father (the man that is supposed to care and protect), threaten the lives of the people they love the most. Children from abusive homes live in a private hell – and are often unable to ask for the help they need because the fear of speaking up has becoming ingrained.

If you have experienced long term domestic violence in your childhood, unfortunately it will take longer for you to adjust to the workplace in healthy ways. You might find yourself prone to workaholism, as the office becomes a place where you can prove your worth. Yet we know that a life off balance can never produce healthy fruit and sooner or later, you will have to deal with the core issues.

You will also need to learn how to establish healthy boundaries, so that the abusive and manipulative parent no longer has a hold over you as an adult. Seek the help you need to learn how to speak up, how to work from a place of identity and not for identity. Also, remember to give yourself time. Sometimes it will feel like you are dealing with the same things over and over again – but as you mature and grow, you will need to overcome old demons in new areas. It doesn’t mean that you’re stuck again – it just means that you are moving up levels emotional and developing deeper maturity levels.

Children who’ve had abusive fathers live with a sense of obligation and duty, but not much affection and closeness. In many ways, you live with the shadow of the father you wish you had. If we are serious about not repeating the mistakes of our parents, then we have to learn to make different choices in life.

There is hope for you.

Even if you’re never been told that you’re worthless, that you’re nothing… that is NOT the truth about you. Seek a second or third (or 20th even) opinion about what your strengths are. The are others that see the positive aspects of your character that you’ve been trained to ignore because you’re not used to focusing on the negative. You can live a healthy, whole and free life – no matter what you’ve experienced in the past.

Present (but imperfect) fathers

No dad in this world is perfect. No human on this planet is perfect. So if you’ve been privileged to grow up with a dad who was not only present but trying to play a positive role in your life, chances are you’re much more well-balanced and stable in the workplace than your ‘fatherless’ colleagues. You are reaping benefits in your life that will take them a while to grow. If you have a great dad, then appreciate and cherish him. If you can, share him with someone you know could benefit from a fatherly figure in their own lives.

Using your father (absent, abusive or imperfect) as a scapegoat for the current state of your life is also not the answer. In order to fully own your life, you need to acknowledge the factors that have led to your current reality – and then own the ways in which you will move forward. I know that this is not an easy process (or a quick one). There are things that you may have blocked out for years and prefer not to deal with, hoping they will just stay locked away deep down in the hidden chambers of your heart.

The pesky thing about unresolved pain is that they tend to build into volcanic masses if suppressed for too long. So you are going to have to deal with them at some point – whether you like it or not. And how much better to deal with it on your own terms, instead of having to cope with the results of an unpredictable volcanic eruption that makes you want to quit your job or fall into deep despair at the myriad of ways you’ve succeeded in sabotaging your own life.

{Please leave a comment below – I would love to hear how you’ve overcome the challenges of your past… or how you’re dealing with them now.}

 

 

 

Special shoutout to the real dads loving in the real world

To all the men who have stepped into the role of fatherhood (biological or not): thank you.  Good men often have to fight the stigma that those who reject fatherhood have caused. Our families need you. They need your strength, your support, your love, your presence. Whenever I see an amazing dad who has his arms wrapped around his kid and is taking obvious joy from that encounter, it fills my heart with hope. An active and engaged father today builds secure and confident adults of the future. You’ve embraced fatherhood every day of the year, not just on the one day when the world decides to notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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