Are You Wrestling With Father’s Day?

A father is neither an anchor to hold us back nor a sail to take us there but a guiding light whose love shows us the way. Unknown

With Father’s Day approaching, my guess is you’re either delighted to have a chance to celebrate your father (dead or alive) OR you’re anxious that the day will dredge up your dreadful dad-memories from the past. 

I was a motherless, only child with few relatives. Fortunately, I had a great dad—a life-changing kind of dad. I took my fortunate circumstance for granted until, as an adult, I participated in two motherless daughter therapy groups. This is when I first understood the enormous role (positive and negative) fathers play in the lives of motherless daughters. 

When I interviewed over fifty daughters of loss for my book I again became profoundly aware of the heartache and emotional damage many motherless daughters experience at the hands of their fathers (and step-fathers). 

From these interviews, I learned a few things about managing trigger-days that occur in our lives. Here are a few tips to help you manage Father’s Day. 

  1. Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiveness is for you and your mental health; not for your father’s well-being. Forgiving a person doesn’t mean you’re condoning their bad behavior. It means you’re strong enough to let go of the negativity you’re feeling and move on.
  2. Get out of the guilt trap. If you experienced early mother loss, you were at the mercy of your primary care-giver. Your neglect, or worse, wasn’t a reflection on you and the child you were. Stop blaming yourself—you were just a kid.  
  3. Embrace empathy. Perhaps you were emotionally neglected because of the profound grief your father experienced. This is not an excuse, but as an adult you might better understand the circumstances. This also applies to fathers who remarried quickly to the disappointment (or horror) of their young, motherless, grieving daughters. 
  4. Seek help. Emotional damage may have been done to you as a child. A professional can help you move forward. Even if your mother died years ago, it’s never too late to seek help with the issues her death caused. 
  5. It’s just a day. Father’s Day is only one day out of 365. Plan something fun to take your mind off of the day’s significance, celebrate fathers you love (uncles, brothers, sons), don’t give power to the day!

Affirmation: It’s just a day.

Coaching question: How was/is your life impacted by your dad? 

Happy Father’s Day to my dad, Leon Horn – (1917-2008)

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