We were 29 when we met and would soon celebrate our 30th birthdays within three days of each other. Over those early years, we were both single, divorced and looking for stability in life and relationships. We did not realize at the time how much our friendship would be the one relationship that would stand the test of trials and revelations that would continue to show up along our paths. The one thing we did have in common was an incredible determination to make our lives work–and work brilliantly–despite the losses we had suffered.
As the years went by, we began to realize how deeply rooted our abandonment issues were, as patterns in relationships repeated themselves. It became evident that we had surrounded ourselves with close girlfriends who were facing so many similar issues. We were celebrating the good times but also starting to recognize cycles of behaviors that we were seeing in each other…and ourselves. We realized how big the issue of fatherlessness was in the lives of these incredible women all around us. We were successes on paper, but in our interpersonal relationships with men, we all seemed to flounder.
Our research on the fall-out of fatherlessness was happening right underneath our noses, and we started taking note. We were each going through our own journey that involved many of the common coping mechanisms of fatherless daughters, and we realized how deeply important our friendships were as mirrors for each other. Inwardly, we could see with each other that the emotions showed up as a combination of depression, anxiety, anger, lack of self-worth, or disabling fear. Outwardly, we saw each other acting out, isolating, partying, seeking male attention, or continuing to give more to others than we thought we deserved ourselves.
During those years, we found ourselves looking for answers in therapy, within books, and often between each other. This opened the door to my friend, Denna, sharing about her father’s tragic death. It was Father’s Day and Denna was not answering her phone. I, Karin, did not realize that Denna was hurting, and I pulled back on calling her– interpreting her lack of response as a rejection (typical fatherless daughter emotion). I had also perceived Denna as one of the strongest women I knew, and did not realize how deep her wounds were around that day, because she carried such a tough-as-nails exterior. We were both caretakers in life and in our professions, so we struggled with asking for help from each other. When Denna finally sat down and opened the floodgates with the rest of her story, I understood her on a much deeper level. I was blown away by the strength she had built around herself to cover her pain.
I was taught not to bring attention to my pain, but to keep going, helping others instead of myself. By talking with Denna about what was happening, I started having a-ha moments. She could clearly see things that I pretended were not there. Through her opening up, Denna taught me that it was vital that I did address those things that I had buried for so many years. They were still causing me pain and needed to be honored instead of hidden.
Denna, recognized that I needed a safe place to trust someone–because she had experienced so much betrayal in her past and was not used to someone listening to her. She had to learn that I would honor her story as real, not as an effort to gain attention, and that I would protect it and not use it against her. I also learned that isolating was not really helping me heal, but it was multiplying my pain as I sat alone, secretly waiting for someone to rescue me.
We were slowly starting to help each other heal and find our way out of the bad relationships that had kept us stuck, and instead became each other’s support, or mutual bullsh*t barometers. For example, I kept taking calls from my now-married ex, so together, we came up with a new contact name for him on my phone: “Lying, Cheating Asshole.” From then on, every time he called, I laughed instead of cried and stopped taking his calls, feeling that boost of support from my sister, even when she was not around.
Whereas, our friend circle made Denna a “Leave Steve” bucket where she had to put a dollar every time she went back on her word and saw her old boyfriend behind our backs. Money and ego caused her behavior to come to a hard stop very quick. These are a few examples of a host of healthier, funnier coping mechanisms that we learned to create between each other to get us to stronger places in our relationships. Together, we let our guards down with our best friends and let the wounds that once buried us in fear, bond us to others in a sisterhood that ended up inspiring us to become better women and write the book to help others do the same. We turned our pain into something powerful.
One of the best gifts through this fatherless journey –the most profound success–has been friendship. Even deeper, the success has been finding solidarity in another woman’s story and vulnerability. It would become clear through our research that women indeed find healing when they surrounded themselves with others who have walked down the same path. We call it The Fatherless Daughter Tribe.
Because we know the significance of sharing, we formed a few places for daughters to do just that. On our website, we have a “Featured Daughter” where we highlight a fatherless daughter’s journey through her own words. We focus not only on her story but also on what has helped her survive. We ask her to tell us where she shines in order for others to recognize their own light. It is in these stories that fatherless daughters can see that it can be done. Your past does not have to define you, but in fact, it can redefine who you want to become.
We encourage people to share both publicly and privately by meeting them where they are in their own personal journeys through fatherlessness. On Facebook we have a private page, “The Fatherless Daughter Tribe” which is through invitation only in order for fatherless daughters to have a safe landing spot to share their stories and garner support from one another. The stories continue to pour in weekly and the support is unwavering. This is the reward that comes from being willing to be vulnerable to each other and realize everything happens for a reason.
Get The Fatherless Daughter Project on Amazon.