How I Went From Fatherlessness to Fearless

Denna BabulFrom fatherless to forgiveness and from forgiveness to fearless is how I would personally describe my survival story. My father was murdered when I was 13-years-old. We have no idea who was responsible for his death or even why someone would have committed such a heinous act of violence.

I will never forget hearing my mother murmur to me and my brother those four life-altering words, “Your father is dead.” The weight of that statement sank like a heavy stone settling in the pit of my stomach, resulting in a life filled with anxiety, fear and painful ulcerations. I feared we would never have enough money to “make it.” I worried someone would harm me or the rest of my family with my father gone. I was scared my mom would not be able to handle the stress and would have a nervous breakdown. I made myself sick constantly wondering what would happen to me if something were to happen to her. But deep down there was something more deeply painful lurking.

The last conversation I had with my father kept replaying in my mind. The words played over and over like a song on repeat. I had told him to get out of my house.

“Leave! I don’t want to see you again until you’re sober!” I declared with juvenile conviction. I wanted him to know how much his actions were tearing our family apart. I wanted to show him that I could live without him. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he promised he would try. He said it would get better.

Only, it would never get better. My father was taken from my life before I would get to see him again. I never had the chance to say good-bye and, as a young child, I feared I had broken his heart.

Forgiveness

I carried all of the fear and unresolved abandonment issues straight into my adult relationships, running anytime I felt threatened by my old childhood fears. When I had finally managed to run away from everyone, I realized my self-fulfilled prophecy of “ending up alone” had beaten me to the finish line. Defeated and exhausted, I quit running. I was alone for the first time in my life and scared to death.

I began trying to quiet the noise in my head and found a therapist who was willing to help me sort through it all. I poured myself into understanding what had happened to me as a result of losing my father. I swallowed my pride and embarrassment and called upon family members near and far to share in my healing. I asked friends to support me in the daylight and let self-help books teach me at night. Nothing was off limits in my healing process. For the first time in my life, I was leaning into the pain instead of running away from it. As I unloaded the fear and anxiety that had plagued my entire life, I made room for something bigger: forgiveness. This forgiveness was for myself and for my father. Forgiveness granted me the room to explore my life and its beautiful possibilities.

With newfound freedom, my true spirit was open to bloom, and she was fearless! Through the countless reverberations of my fatherless story, I started to get aligned with my true calling. I remembered God spoke to me all of those years ago revealing why this happened to me. In a moment of divine clarity, I heard my life’s calling was to be the voice for fatherless daughters. Although I was too young to understand what was being bestowed upon me, deep down I knew it was something special. I was chosen years ago, and now I had the experience to forge ahead with my life’s work.

In 2013, my friend, Karin Luise, and I co-founded The Fatherless Daughter Project: A book. A non-profit. A movement. Our organization focuses on raising awareness, providing education and resources, and encouraging empowerment through mentorship for girls and women who have lost the bond with their fathers through a number of circumstances including — but not limited to — divorce, death, abandonment, detachment, incarceration, abuse, and addiction. Our book, “The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives” is out now. I wrote the book I wish I had, had going through this journey.

I’m now 45. Survival is defined differently for everyone. For some, it is just continuing to live or exist after a very difficult circumstance. For others, it is finding a way to thrive in spite of, or because of, an accident. For me, survival is defined as living my life’s purpose by bringing light to the very silent epidemic of fatherlessness in order to make room for forgiveness and healing. It is through healing that our true spirits can be set free to do our life’s true work.

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