I heard the term “daddyless daughter” being used to describe women like me many years ago, and I didn’t like it. I thought, “Why in the heck would someone want to categorize themselves in that way?” At the time, it seemed like a sad and victimizing label that I wanted to distance myself from. Mainly because I hadn’t healed from the impact that my father’s absence had on my life. I wasn’t just distancing myself from a label, I was distancing myself from my pain.
But today, I’m okay with the term “daddlyless daughter,” and I embrace the experiences that I have grown through as a result of not having a man in my life to call “daddy.”
As a daddyless daughter, I experienced emotional turmoil throughout the years and struggled to make peace with my abandonment issues. It really didn’t matter why my father wasn’t a part of my life, because I always imagined that it must have been something about me. That I wasn’t important enough for him to move heaven and earth to be a part of my life. Because of this story that I told myself over and over again, I suffered from feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. I saw myself as less worthy of love because if my father could discard me so easily, “how would anyone else see me as valuable?”
As a young child, I would sometimes imagine what having a daddy would feel like.
To this day, it feels odd picturing myself calling someone “daddy” because that word doesn’t fit into my lived experience. I knew who my father was. I saw pictures of him, met him once as a teenager, had a handful of phone conversations, and stories from my mother.
But that was the extent of my father-daughter experience, and none of it filled the void of his absence and my feelings of abandonment.
The mental and emotional impact of my father’s absence ran deep and took deliberate action and support to heal. I covered my pain so well that I didn’t discover how deeply I was wounded until I was in my early thirties and planning my wedding. The excitement of marrying the love of my life was overshadowed by the void of not having a father to share in the experience with me. I had no father figure that would walk me down the aisle and proudly say “I am,” when the pastor asked, “Who is giving this woman away to be married?”
A heaviness was on my heart as I considered being a daddyless bride.
I had never allowed this type of ache for my father to emerge because I pretended like I didn’t need him for so many years. But during that wedding season of my life, the truth was revealed. I needed my father. Not just in that season, but I had always longed for and needed him in my life.
For too long I had used denial to shield me from the pain of disappointment. I kept my anger toward his absence fresh so that I wouldn’t have to face the sadness. But, like all experiences that shape us, the time had come where I had to face it in order to heal it.
The bandage of denial that had covered my pain over the years was ripped off, and my wounds were exposed. I was mentally and emotionally inflamed and in the midst of my pain, I made a decision to find my father and reconcile.
I went on social media and Google to find out as much information as possible. With the help of my older brother, I started to search for the man that I always wanted a chance to call daddy. My child-like imagination about having a relationship with my father began to bubble up again.
I was optimistic that he and I could start fresh and figure out a way to connect as father and daughter.
That optimism soon turned to grief and disappointment after the social media connection with my half-siblings revealed that my father had passed away years prior. My hopes were crushed, my spirit was weary, and my anger was fresh. I once again felt small, insecure, and abandoned. The realization that reconciliation would never happen dealt a harsh blow to my mind and emotions.
It took some time to settle into the new reality that knowing my father and being fathered by him would never be.
Through my healing journey, I discovered ways to progress through the emotional turmoil of my daddyless journey. I allowed my pain and grief to be what they were going to be and found ways to forgive. I forgave myself for blaming my father’s absence on me. I forgave my father for not knowing how much I needed him. I forgave him for being absent, remarrying, being there for his other children, and dying before we could reconcile.
I missed out on the opportunity to hear my father’s side of the story and that’s okay. My side of the story is really what matters the most.
I get to decide how I construct the chapters of my life and the role that my father’s absence plays in it. I get to choose whether being a daddyless daughter is a stumbling block or a stepping stone. I get to orchestrate how the lessons from my parenting weave into the fabric of my growth as a woman. I get to become whatever I set my mind on becoming. And so do you.