When I lost my father at the age of 13, a calling was placed in my heart on the way home from his funeral. I felt a voice tell me that I would one day not only heal myself, but help to heal other fatherless daughters.
For decades that call stayed inside of me, beckoning me to keep my ears and heart open for other women’s fatherless stories. I was realized that my calling was to be the voice for fatherless daughters. For years, I immersed myself in my calling, keeping notebooks full of stories and articles. Ultimately, I could not find so many of the answers I sought, and the research seemed dated. I called in my close friend and co-author, Dr. Karin Luise, and with her clinical expertise and my experience in research as an RN, and we launched our own studies.
We had become friends at the age of 30 and both done so much growing over the years, including becoming wives and mothers. Life changed in many ways, and as time went on, we soon realized that having daughters – little images of ourselves –completely changed how we saw our own childhoods. This became truer by the year, especially when those daughters became the ages we were when we suffered the first wave of father loss as young girls. We also realized we were mothering our sons differently because of what we had gone through.
I could see myself in my daughter, Sophie Bleu. I watched and studied the interactions between my daughter and husband and found myself mourning my own childhood. I realized through my daughter’s eyes just how much I had lost and what an integral part a father plays throughout a daughter’s life. I found peace and great love in seeing my husband as the wonderful, present father to our two children.
Karin realized she was extremely protective of her children’s wellbeing – especially her daughter’s – because of the abuse that she suffered as a girl and the lack of safety she remembered feeling. Both of us were also able to understand the mother’s role as a single parent and just how difficult it had to have been for her to rear children alone while being the sole financial and emotional provider. I gained a fuller appreciation for how my Mom went at it alone, and Karin started to have a clearer understanding of the challenges that occurred when her mother remarried, introducing a step-family into the mix.
I have so much respect for my mother. She taught me to stand up tall, face life head on, and never give up. I also see my father for who he was. Addiction took him away from us, but now I am able to forgive him and understand that he did the best he could. I learned resiliency and determination by seeing what I did not want in my own adult life. My father and I have a better relationship now that he is on the Other Side. Life is just as it is supposed to be.
Karin came onto the project as the clinical expert, her own history of fatherlessness started surfacing and affecting her on multiple levels. She began to have a broader understanding of how her life unfolded, and as a mother, I saw her childhood in a new way. She had to come to terms with severing the dysfunctional relationship with her step-father after being estranged for decades, and with therapy, was able to forgive and release old, childhood pain. At the same time, she deepened the relationship with her natural father and embraced him gratefully as her children’s grandfather. They both went from a life of fear to one of greater power and peace during this process.
Fatherlessness is a silent epidemic. Studies have shown that one in three women in the U.S. are fatherless. In fact, when we looked at emotional father loss as well as physical father loss in our own study, one in two women identified as fatherless. This is mind blowing.
We define fatherlessness as the loss of the bond with the father from a range or combination of circumstances, including death, divorce, desertion, incarceration, abuse, addiction and emotional absence. There has been a significant lack of awareness regarding the impact that father loss can have on a woman’s life, from childhood through adulthood. We wrote this book to shed light on the impact of father loss so that women can be understood and healed, but also so that families can have a better understanding of how to prevent some of the negative fall-out when fathers disappear.
The Fatherless Daughter Project was formed to help girls and women see that they no longer have to fall into the statistics of their stories, but that they can rise with a new awareness of their strength and follow their calling, turning their pain into power and their story into purpose. We felt deep down that it was time for the conversation about father loss to be voiced and explored for all of the daughters who before did not know how to express and heal their pain. We believed there would be great power in forming a sisterhood of support for women to help them along their journeys, so we wrote the book, “The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Out Losses and Recliaming Our Lives” and filmed the documentary, forming the tribe that we wished we’d had in our twenties. Women responded by the thousands.
Fatherless daughters need a community of like-minded women with whom they could share stories and build empowerment. It’s time for daughters of all ages to better understand themselves, map out their journeys for healing and discover new ways to turn their sadness into strength.
* * * * *
Pre-Order The New Book: The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives
Denna D. Babul, RN, is a successful life coach, Huffington Post blogger, motivational speaker, writer, medical expert, and co-founder of the Fatherless Daughter Project. She has been featured on the Today Show and Atlanta and Company. A fatherless daughter since age thirteen, Denna has found her calling in creating a community and support system for fellow fatherless women of all ages. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Visit the Fatherless Daughter Project online- http://fatherlessdaughterproject.com