The term “daddy issues” may be on the tacky side, but they are definitely a thing—and it turns out a lot of people have them: Statistics show that roughly one-third of children live in homes without their biological father present, and many other dads are essentially absent due to issues like addiction or abuse. In plenty of cases, mothers, stepfathers, grandparents and other key adults in a child’s life often go above and beyond to fill the gap, and many children who grow up without fathers turn out perfectly fine. However, researchers have found that fatherless kids have a higher risk of negative outcomes, including poverty, behavioral problems and lower educational success.
The emotional impact of an absentee dad can be long-lasting and has the potential to interfere with healthy relationships in adulthood. Females are, of course, affected in unique ways, since many go on to have relationships with men as adults—and that can trigger unresolved issues.
Karin Luise, PhD, an integrative therapist, spiritual teacher and inspirational speaker, and Denna Babul, RN, a life coach, motivational speaker, and relationship and medical expert—two women who have dealt with these very challenges in their own lives—felt the call to help others who have struggled with the loss of a father in one way or another. The result is their transformative new book, The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives (Avery, June 2016), which draws on their personal experiences and those of more than 5,000 other fatherless women. We chatted with authors, about their labor of love.
Q: What inspired you to write this book, and why is there a need for it?
K & D: In our research we found that at least one in three women see themselves as fatherless. The majority of them felt that losing the bond with their fathers deeply affected multiple areas of their lives, including their emotional and physical health. Their number one fear was being abandoned again, and their main coping mechanism was isolation. We have both been there, and we wanted to open up the conversation about the effects of fatherlessness on female development and the steps toward healing.
We define fatherless as the lack of an emotional bond between a daughter and her father due to, but not limited to: death, divorce, abuse, addiction, incarceration or abandonment. Often, the daughter experiences a combination of these, and she is not taught how to manage the trauma of her losses until later in life when she re-experiences her pain and realizes she has unresolved issues. That is where this book comes in to guide her from her dysfunctional relationship cycles and damaged self-esteem to a life filled with confidence, power and amazing resilience.
“We want women to see how their negative experiences can produce extremely positive qualities.”
Women need to know that they are not alone going down these roads of emotional struggle—in the book, we meet them where they are. The main thread throughout, and the place where we felt the most passionate, is helping women understand why they have been picking unhealthy relationships, give themselves grace and find the way back to their authentic, wise selves.
We wanted to write a book that helps fatherless women feel normal in a life where they experience isolation, pain and confusion about so many things. Mostly, we want women to see how their negative experiences can produce extremely positive qualities, like leadership abilities, resilience, empathy for others, strength in a crisis and unshakable survival skills.
Q: What are some of the more common issues that fatherless daughters tend to experience?
K & D: The hallmark characteristic of a fatherless daughter is fear of abandonment. Because they never got the direction needed from a father figure, they learn to make up their own survival playbook. This can lead to negative coping skills such as sexual promiscuity, total avoidance of intimacy, isolation, substance abuse, anxiety and depression.
Fatherless daughters report having difficulty in relationships and in the workplace interacting with men because they were never taught how to feel comfortable with a man in their father’s absence. They can also carry into adulthood conflicting issues with their mothers from becoming her caretaker for a time or witnessing so much chaos in the home. Financial distress or poverty often follows father loss, and this can have a significant impact in every area of a girl’s upbringing.
“Fatherless daughters often develop determined spirits and survival very early on.”
On the flip side, daughters also reported having a great respect for their mothers as they grew up, gaining a greater realization of the difficulties she faced and being grateful for all she did to raise her.
On another positive note, fatherless daughters often develop determined spirits and survival very early on. They are loyal friends and can love like no other–ultimately, they just want to give love and be loved. Because their playbook may be a bit rusty or confusing, they can fall into relationship traps by picking the wrong partners. They may go after men who are similar to their fathers or decide to stay away from men altogether.
They learn subconsciously to accept less in relationships due to diminished self-esteem. They usually believe they must work for love or may not be worthy of it at all, and as a result, they go down the wrong path in love until they finally realize their “picker” is off. This usually happens after a heartbreaking loss of love that resembles the loss they felt from their fathers. This is when they are ready to make a change–resilience, determination and leadership skills kick in and they decide to get help once and for all.
Q: Beyond reading the book, what do you recommend for fatherless daughters who feel they still need deeper healing?
K&D: Recognize that it may be time to incorporate any or all of the following: therapy or life coaching, writing your story, participation in a small group of women with similar issues or forming a tribe of your own. And remember that developmental steps in your life might trigger some painful emotions. If so, ask for love and support from those who care about you–then accept it. Days like your wedding day, Father’s Day, and the birth of your first child can cause old emotions to bubble up. Feel the way you are feeling and grieve in any way that feels right to you.
“Ask for love and support from those who care about you–then accept it.”
Claim your own journey, your own voice and your own strength as you keep going and move into the stronger chapters of your life. Although you have learned to help yourself and put on a tough-as-nails exterior, take a deep breath and realize that sometimes it is okay to soften your shell and ask for others to support and understand you. This does not make you weak, it makes you strong beyond belief. We are here for you and would love to hear your stories.
Karin & Denna’s Top 5 Tips for Fatherless Daughters
- Understand that you are not alone or abnormal. You have understanding, a home and sisterhood in The Fatherless Daughter Project, our website which features resources, activism opportunities and stories of other women who consider themselves fatherless.
- All you need to move forward is the desire for growth and the openness for help. With faith, healing will show up for you in surprising places! If you do the work needed to get “unstuck,” you are immediately on your way to a happy, successful life full of love.
- Know that it is okay for you to still experience pain, father hunger, and conflicting emotions such as anger, confusion and neediness. It is normal to want to yell at and hug your father at the same time. We are here to help you through to the other side.
- One of the best things you can do to promote healing is to find a purpose in your pain and a way to become involved in a mission bigger than yourself. We offer that through The Fatherless Daughter Project and would love for you to be involved in your community.
- Understand that father loss is a journey that will grow and change throughout your life just as you will. Be patient with your emotions on milestone days and know that through it all you are growing in wisdom and resilience.
Get The Fatherless Daughter Project on Amazon.