RECENTLY, I participated in an exciting and lively panel discussion sponsored by the Black Female Fatherhood Scholars Network. Among other things, the conversation focused on whether the statement “She Has Daddy Issues” is somehow limiting, negative and fails to properly contextualize the relationship between daughters—Black daughters—and their fathers—Black fathers.
As someone who wrote one of the first books—Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl? The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women--in the country that assessed the impact of father absence on black women, I certainly did not share the view that acknowledging the adverse effects is a bad thing. I am also not bothered by the short-hand conclusion that a woman has daddy issues. Sometimes, we do.
I know far too many women and girls who have spent many years in their lives attempting to heal from the trauma of fatherlessness, including myself. Consequently, to suggest that their truth, their experience is not worth validating only exacerbates the pain many of them carry with them daily—into their relationship with themselves, their relationship with their romantic partner, their relationship with their children, even their relationship with their professional colleagues.
The wound of father absence can be intrusive and pervasive, which is why healing is important. Many people may think that divorce or parental abandonment is something children automatically get over. However, a person’s interior emotional environment is as fragile as any glass; it can be shattered. And once shattered, it may take years to repair the damage.
Between 1995 and 1997, Kaiser Permanente and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted examinations and a survey of 17,000 HMO members from Southern California. When the data was reviewed and analyzed, the survey disclosed that large numbers of adults had childhood experiences that tracked them like wild animals throughout their lives; those past occurrences also affected their health, according to the study.
Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, mental illness, substance abuse and divorce were among the highlighted and dangerous childhood experiences. You may be one of those persons affected by such experiences early in your life, and there is nothing of which you should be ashamed.
More than 20 million children in America are growing up without the presence and active involvement of their biological fathers in their lives. Truth be told, father absence has become a marked feature in American society. It crosses all races, economic classes, and age groups.
Before my book was released, I met a choir of wounded women. After it was released and I toured this country and parts of Europe, I came to realize the choir is larger than I had imagined. And in the last 15 years, serving as the founding director of Esther Productions Inc, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering girls and women, I have come to understand the generational aspect of that choir.
We in the U.S. are not alone, however. Just before the panel discussion, speaking with David Miller, an author and creator of Dare to Be King? What if the Prince Lives: A Survival Workbook, I learned that father absence is prevalent and real in various countries in Africa, including South Africa. Miller has collaborative relationships with several organizations in Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa. Nic Hardy, who was the third panel member, is psychotherapist who runs his own counseling and coaching service in Houston, Texas. He also has seen his share of fatherless women hoping to heal from the effects of that trauma.
And don’t think it isn’t a traumatic experience. In the past three years, Esther Productions Inc, has sponsored an essay contest for young ladies between the ages of 14 and 17 to share how they have faced the challenge of father absence and how facing those obstacles have helped them develop resilience. From my research, I concluded that many girls and women growing up fatherless display the 5 Factors of the Fatherless Daughter Syndrome, as codified in my book: Un Factor ( feeling unlovable and unworthy of love), Triple Fear Factor (fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of commitment; Sexual Healing Factor (looking for love in all the wrong places), Over Factor (overcompensating for the absence with the intent to prove the absent father that he made a big mistake leaving his daughter) and the R.A.D Factor (rage, anger and depression).
Interestingly, one of the members of the scholars group said that she knows fatherless women who don’t display any of those factors. I asked whether she had known those individuals all their lives.
Father absence may impact us at various stages in our lives. Then, we work to heal ourselves. Later, however, it can intrude again, focusing us to go even deeper into our emotion landscape to see what is hiding in the under-brush; what did we shove into a closet, hoping never to see or hear again; what did we try to smother with affirmations without acknowledging that yes, I have daddy issues.
As with the seven stages of grieving, healing from the trauma of father absence takes time. Often it happens in phrases, in steps. Healing is not an accidental thing, however, it requires an acknowledgment of the pain and then a deliberate decision to heal, to grow and to keep healing.
If you are a fatherless daughter and you want help healing, Esther Productions Inc. is here for you. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or signup for our members only Soaring Sisters Circle, which launches in January 2022. Membership is free if you sign up before January 31, 2022. After that, an annual fee will apply. So don’t wait.
And here’s to your healing!