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Healing the Father Wound – Forgiveness, Faith, and Personal Growth

June 17, 2024

The day after Father's Day can bring up a complex mix of emotions for many of us. For those grappling with the "father wound," this time can be particularly challenging. The father wound refers to the psychological, emotional, and sometimes spiritual damage inflicted by a father, whether through absence, neglect, or harmful behaviors. This wound can deeply influence one's mental health and relationships throughout life.


A Glimpse of My Personal Story


Scarce but cherished memories of my father fill my heart with happiness. Growing up in a dysfunctional home, my father was my playmate and source of laughter during his brief appearances. As a child, I didn't understand his struggles with mental illness. Most of my life was spent with my single immigrant mother, who tirelessly worked two jobs, leaving me to fend for myself on the streets of New York. My father's family took me one year when I visited my grandmother here in Florida, and during that time, he was present but soon disappeared again. His gambling problem and moments of distance and sadness were evident, but he was never cruel to me like others in my family.


Some said he was autistic; others believed he had schizophrenia. I think he had cPTSD from being raised by a narcissistic mother without a father himself. When I married and had children, I allowed him back into my life. He found Jesus and lived a few hours away, and when we were together, it was pleasant. He was a grown man with a childlike spirit, always making people laugh.


A tragic memory of him on a stretcher, while I was being yelled at by family members, flooded back to me during a hot yoga class when I was 47. That was when I started EMDR therapy, realizing how long my brain had stored that and other traumatic memories. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in November 2002, I stayed by his side in a government hospice until the last day I was with him, December 24th. Despite his passing when I was 31 on December 25, 2002, I still love and forgive him. Our relationship was far from healthy or close, but I cherish those moments and see his goofiness in myself and my son to this day.


Without that pain and turmoil, I wouldn't be the therapist I am today. Many of us in the helping field have stories like mine—we seek to understand why adults can be so cruel or abandon children. My healing journey through the father wound, and ongoing work on the mother wound, provides me with lived experience that helps my clients.


Tips for Dealing with the Father Wound

  1. Acknowledge Your Pain: The first step is to recognize and accept the pain caused by the father wound. Denial only prolongs the healing process. It is ok to hold two emotions at the same time. I hate that my dad and mom did not get the help they needed to be healthy enough to raise me, but I love them.

  2. Seek Professional Help: Therapy, such as EMDR, can help process and heal deep-seated trauma. A qualified therapist can provide the support and tools needed for recovery.

  3. Connect with Others: Sharing your experiences with trusted friends or support groups can alleviate feelings of isolation and offer new perspectives.

  4. Set Healthy Boundaries: If your father is still in your life, establish boundaries to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Remember it is a choice. You have the right to not have a relationship. You can still honor thy father from afar. It is ok to stand up for yourself and say "no".

  5. Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Regular exercise, meditation, prayer, and hobbies can be therapeutic.

  6. Forgiveness: Forgiving your father doesn't mean condoning his actions but freeing yourself from the burden of anger and resentment. In my opinion, it's a crucial step in healing.

  7. Reflect on Positive Memories: Cherish the good times and acknowledge the positive traits you inherited from your father. If you don't have any, that is ok too. According to what I read in the Bible we have a Heavenly Father who loves us so much. This can help in creating a balanced view of your relationship.

  8. Reframe Your View of God: As a therapist who has helped many deal with church hurt, spiritual abuse, and other relationship issues, I have noticed a pattern: many people see God the way they see their earthly father. It's crucial to realize that the God of the Bible is our heavenly Father who disciplines us with love and affection and wants the best for us. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. I help many disentangle this so they can grow in their faith and learn to truly forgive.

Bible Verse

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." - Colossians 3:13 (NIV)



Quote on Forgiveness

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." - Lewis B. Smedes


Prayer for Healing

Heavenly Father, we come before You with hearts burdened by the pain of the father wound. We ask for Your healing touch to mend our broken hearts and bind up our wounds. Grant us the strength to forgive and the wisdom to set healthy boundaries. Help us to see Your hand at work in our lives. We thank You for the fathers who strive to be the best they can be, and we pray for Your continued guidance and blessings upon them. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.


In Service, Faith Hope and Love,

Diana


P.S. If you haven't yet come listen to The Holistic Counselor Podcast



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