Even Though I Don't Have A Relationship With My Dad, I Am Not Fatherless

I have finally come to a place in my life where I forgive you.

woman sitting on dock Ervin-Edward / Shutterstock

Each year, I spend Father's Day without any man to call my dad. I always wished for some sort of a replacement. Anyone. A stepdad, an uncle, and a male mentor. But no one ever seemed willing to take me under his wing in some way, and after a while, I gave up. I accepted that life without a father figure was the life I would always have.

RELATED: What Having A Cheating Father Taught Me About Men

What happens to an adult woman who grows up without a father? Emptiness. Shame and blame. For many years, the emptiness bothered me, but there came a time in my life when I had to decide to choose a different path and it lead to a place of healing.


Logically, I knew he was too toxic of a man to have in my life. Emotionally, it took time to let go of a dream that I could one day be a normal 'daddy's little girl'.

Realizing that that day could not, would not ever happen because of choices he made that I had no control over made each Father's Day painful, to say the least.

It was confusing that a man who was supposed to love and protect me would be the one to hurt me the worst of all. The identity of all men in a sense is shaped by the role a man plays in the life of his daughter. His breach of trust hindered my ability to feel safe with anyone who was male. 


Since God is often considered masculine, I didn't trust the idea of a divine being either.

Certainly, I had heard that God is a father to the fatherless, but how dare he allow what happened to me to take place with all of his power and might? I was angry at God the most and wasn't ready to let any man, even a spiritual one come close to my heart.

RELATED: 1 In 100 People Are Psychopaths — The 3 Personality Traits That Give Them Away

Until I had male children and love for them started to make me want to change. I decided I didn't want my own growing up in a fatherless home, not for myself, but for them.

In 2001, on the edge of the ocean in Key Biscayne, I sat with my two boys, ages 6 and 7. The breeze was mild. The sky was filled with night stars. The light of a full moon glistened along the water's waves like a shimmering blanket.


It was Father's Day, but all three of us were the equivalent of fatherless children. My own background of a broken home became the living legacy I had passed down to my children. For years my father had abused me, and although I asked for him to make it right, he refused to accept responsibility.

I decided to forgive him after a confrontation with no apology. But, to keep my sanity, I cut all ties. The emotional baggage I carried into my first marriage led to a divorce. I became a single mom of two wonderful children. Without intention, my children now faced their own form of parental estrangement.

Divorce changed an intact family into separate homes, single parents, and distant states with lives that rarely intersected. 

Earlier that morning at church, the reminder of our fatherlessness was heightened wrapped in the cloak of good intentions.


"Give thanks to all the dads here today! If you're a dad, please stand up so we can acknowledge all your hard work and dedication," the preacher said in the church to the congregation.

As dads stood up next to their wives and children, my boys glanced around the sanctuary.

My eldest leaned into my arm and nestled his head to my side. His younger brother sat stone-faced, eyes and mouth emotionless.

Next to each son on the bench was a craft they had made with a Polaroid photograph of their face. "Happy Father's Day, Dad," they wrote on the bottom in marker. The white border was decorated with half-torn stickers and scribbles. 

RELATED: In Defense Of The Benignly Neglectful Parent


But their dad wasn't there, and they didn't have anyone else to accept their pictures. 

We went home with their labors of love unclaimed and placed on the fridge. They sat down to watch television. For me, the day felt longer than any Sunday before.

I had no one I could talk to, so I turn to my faith. I prayed in silence. "God, what do I do with these kids?" my heart cried. "Look at them. I can see that they are hurting."

I recalled memories past when as a child I looked for a dad, anyone's dad, to be a father figure in my life. I always turned up empty-handed. "I don't want them to search as I did." I prayed. "I don't want them convinced no man will ever be there." 


In that heartbroken state, God's voice spoke into my spirit. "Wasn't I always there beside you? Didn't I claim you? Aren't I your heavenly Father? Put your cares on me."

The experience stunned me and left me speechless. There was plenty of evidence that God was like a father to me in my life.

Was the lack my children felt any different? I didn't want them to suffer, but maybe there was an opportunity in this moment of male absence for us to grow in our faith together.

I knew God had filled the gaps in my broken spirit. My faith became a pathway to a new definition of fatherhood.

Through belief, I accepted that God was a dad I could depend on. Believing this created opportunities for a broken legacy to be less painful as I moved on into adulthood.


I wondered if there was a way for them to do the same. But where could we go to feel closer to God than here? I had an idea. 

"Grab your sandals," I told my children. 

One child's trance broke from watching cartoons. His gaze turned to me. "Where are we going?"

Although I insisted on not telling them, an hour later the three of us sat, sandy bottoms, papers, pencils, and matches on the familiar Key Biscayne sand. The sound of the rolling waves touched my heart.

As my boys watched the sunset beneath the watery horizon, I handed each a piece of paper. "Write down 'Happy Father's Day,'" I said

RELATED: Being An Only Child Affected My Most Important Parenting Choice


"Why?" my oldest asked. "No one is here but us."

"Trust me," I assured him. "It will all make sense."

They scribbled. I scribed. The three of us wrote in large letters. "Now, write down what you wish your dad would do for you but he's not here to do. If you feel sad or mad, write that word beneath what you wrote."

One wrote, "Play with me." The other wrote, "Watch TV." I wrote down, "Say sorry."


When we finished writing, I instructed, "Now, tear up the paper into tiny pieces. We're going to burn them and put the ashes into the water."

"Why, Mommy?" My oldest son asked scrunching his nose in confusion. 

"The Bible says to cast all cares on Jesus."

Smiles formed across their tiny faces. Their eyes shined in the moonlight. Their tiny hands tore the paper. We set the pieces on a rock in the center of the circle where we sat.

"Here it is. A new beginning for us." I said. "Let's ask Jesus to take these hurts and make them better. Holding their hands, we prayed aloud, "Father, God. We know you love us. That you made us, that we are your children. Take these broken pieces and remember us. We love you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen."


Then, I lit a match. We watched the flame burn each small piece until the last ember was gone.

"Grab a handful and throw it into the water," I said. "Remember, no matter what, you have a Father in heaven. No matter what happens — better or worse — Jesus is always with us."

Then the three of us, a human trinity, stood beside the edge of the ocean with ashes, dirt, and stones in our hands. We tossed the ashes like troubles into the depths of the ocean. Believing God hears. Asking, "Jesus. Catch us like fish."

Aria Gmitter, M.S, M.F.A., is an editor for Yourtango.com who covers spirituality, love, and relationship topics.

This article first appeared in Encountering Jesus: Modern-Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power.