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Fatherless Daughters: How Growing Up Without a Dad Affects Women

Ms. Meyers grew up with a dad who was physically present but emotionally absent. She numbed her pain with food and anti-depressants.

What happens to a daughter if her father doesn't love her?

What happens to a daughter if her father doesn't love her?

Growing Up Without a Dad Shapes Who You Are

It took six decades, but I can finally utter a huge truth that caused me tremendous shame and sadness: My father didn't love me. I never spoke that deep, dark secret, but it was always festering inside of me. It manifested itself in many ways throughout my life as I struggled with a food obsession, low self-esteem, social anxiety, and depression.

Whether a dad was present but rejecting like mine or walked away from his fatherly duties entirely, his absence leaves an indelible mark on a daughter's psyche as she grows into adulthood. What does the research say about woman who grew up with fathers who didn't love them—daughters who were never daddy's little girl?

Below, you'll find six ways a daughter may be affected by an uninvolved dad.

Fathers provide their daughters with a masculine example. They teach their children about respect and boundaries and help put daughters at ease with other men throughout their lives. [...] So if she didn't grow up with a proper example, she will have less insight and she'll be more likely to go for a man that will replicate the abandonment of her father.

— Caitlin Marvaso, AMFT, a grief counselor and therapist in Oakland, CA

1. Fatherless Daughters Have Self-Esteem Issues

According to Deborah Moskovitch, an author and divorce consultant, kids often blame themselves when dad leaves the home and becomes less involved in their lives. When they aren't given an explanation about why dad left, they make up their own scenario and jump to the conclusion that it's their fault and that they're unlovable.

This is especially true for daughters. Countless studies have shown that fatherlessness has an extremely negative impact on daughters' self esteem. Her confidence in her own abilities and value as a human being can be greatly diminished if her father isn't there. Academically, personally, professionally, physically, socially, and romantically, a woman's self esteem is diminished in every setting if she did not form a healthy relationship with her father.

As a child, I watched television shows like The Brady Bunch and Happy Days in which the fathers showered their daughters with tremendous amounts of attention and affection. Because I never got that from my dad, I convinced myself it was because I wasn't cute enough. I thought if I had blond hair and talked with a lisp like Cindy Brady I would have my dad's devotion. I hated the way I looked because I thought it caused my father's lack of interest in me. As I got older, my self-esteem plummeted and I was sure no man would ever find me attractive.

Countless studies have shown that a father's abandonment has an extremely negative impact on daughters' self esteem.

Countless studies have shown that a father's abandonment has an extremely negative impact on daughters' self esteem.

2. Daughters With Absent Fathers Struggle to Build and Maintain Relationships

According to Pamela Thomas, author of Fatherless Daughters (a book that examines how women cope with the loss of a father via death or divorce), women who grew up with absent dads find it difficult to form lasting relationships. Because they were scarred by their dad's rejection of them, they don't want to risk getting hurt again. Consciously or unconsciously, they avoid getting close to people. They may form superficial relationships in which they reveal little of themselves and put very little effort into getting to know others. They may become promiscuous as a way of getting male attention without becoming too emotionally involved.

Ever since childhood, I've built walls around myself. I didn't open up to people. I didn't ask questions about others' families, jobs, or hobbies. I kept my life private, and I remained socially isolated. These were all self-protective measures so I wouldn't experience rejection like I did with my dad. Knowing this intellectually did nothing to help me change my behavior because my fear of rejection was more powerful than my desire to make connections.

3. Women With Absent Fathers Are More Likely to Have Eating Disorders

In their book The Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders, the authors Marcia Herrin and Nancy Matsumoto write eloquently about the fact that girls with physically or emotionally absent fathers are at greater risk of developing eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, binge-eating, body dysmorphia, unhealthy preoccupations with food or body weight, and other eating disorders are all more likely if a girl does not have a father figure as she's growing up. Daughters without dads are also twice as likely to be obese. Because her longing to have a close relationship with her dad is denied, she may develop what Margo Maine (author of Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters, & Food) calls “father hunger,” a deep emptiness and a profound insecurity. Daughters are left wondering: What's so wrong with me that my own father doesn't love me? If I looked different—if I were thin—would I earn daddy's love?

I've struggled with "father hunger" throughout my life—stuffing my face to fill the void, dieting to get model-thin, and always obsessing about food. My days have been filled with thoughts of eating—either doing it or struggling mightily not to. When I accepted that my dad didn't love me and that he was an unhappy man with deep-rooted problems, I finally started eating normally and began maintaining a healthy weight. I began treating myself in a loving way by exercising, gardening, reading, walking in the woods, and spending time with family. For the first time in my life, I only thought about food when I was hungry. This freed me to enjoy my life in so many wonderful ways.

Eating disorders are more likely in daughters who don't have fathers.

Eating disorders are more likely in daughters who don't have fathers.

4. Daughters of Absent Fathers Are More Prone to Depression

Not surprisingly, girls who grew up with dads who were emotionally or physically absent are more likely to struggle with depression as adults. Because they fear abandonment and rejection, these women often isolate themselves emotionally. They avoid healthy romantic relationships because they don't feel deserving and fear getting hurt, but they might jump into unhealthy relationships that ultimately lead to heartbreak. In either scenario, the women are in emotional peril and frequently become depressed. If they don't deal with the cause of their sadness—an absent dad—they may never be able to develop healthy relationships with men.

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To top it all off, data suggests that children without fathers are more than twice as likely to commit suicide.

According to Denna Babul and Karin Louise, authors of The Fatherless Daughter Project, it's helpful to simply realize that we're not alone. In fact, one in three women see themselves as fatherless and struggle with feelings of abandonment. Knowing this helps us see that there's a whole sisterhood out there who share a common pain and a need to connect. When we open up and share our journey, we help both ourselves and each other. Whether we feel the loss of a dad through death, divorce, drug addiction, estrangement, or emotional neglect, we must grieve in order to move forward. Read How a Fatherless Daughter Can Recover From Her Dad's Rejection for ideas on how to avoid falling into depression. A gifted therapist can be key to helping us do just that and becoming happier people.

5. Dadless Daughters Are More Likely to Become Sexually Active Earlier

Studies have shown the many benefits that come from a strong father-daughter bond. Most notably, girls who are close to their dads are less likely to get pregnant as teens. They delay engaging in sexual relationships, wait longer to get married and have children, and when they do find a husband, their marriages are more emotionally satisfying, stable, and long-lasting.

Countless studies also show that women who have unstable or absent paternal relationships are more likely to start having sex earlier and engage risky sexual behaviors. Daughters are four times more likely to get pregnant as a teen if dad isn't in the picture. Studies show that more than 70% of unplanned teenage pregnancies occur in homes where there is no father.

My older sister (who, like me, did not have a relationship with our father) met her future husband when she was just 18 and married him when she turned 22, straight out of college. He was the only guy she ever dated. Without a doubt, she was looking for the love and validation she never got from our dad. She was looking for an alternative to a man who never said "I love you" or "you're pretty" and never gave the unconditional acceptance one craves from a parent. Although she is still married, her union has been a difficult one, and she discourages her own daughters from marrying young.

6. Abandoned Daughters Are Susceptible to Addiction

As with depression, eating disorders, and low self esteem, the absence of a father can trap a daughter in a negative repetitive pattern she can't easily break out of and turn to drugs to self-medicate and help numb the pain. She is more likely to find herself trapped in a cycle of substance abuse, for example. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse. Not only are kids in father-absent households about four times more likely to be poor (which can trigger many negative cycles), fatherless adolescents were found to be 69% more likely to use drugs and 76% more likely to commit crimes.

Can a Daughter Survive Without a Father?

Try as I might, I was never been able to get any traction, always making a mess of this or that and never able to form long-lasting friendships. I rejected happiness because I never felt worthy of it. I did so much to sabotage my life and make myself miserable.

Then last year my older sister revealed to me that she, too, had felt unloved by him. I immediately felt enormous relief and then great euphoria. I realized it had never been about me—that I was bad, ugly, stupid and undeserving. It had always been about him—his unhappy childhood, his cold mother, his negative nature, and his dissatisfaction with being a husband and father. It had never been about me...never.

I could finally shout: “You were a piece of crap and now I'm done with you! I'm not your prisoner any more!" From that day forward, I practiced radical acceptance about my dad. I stopped thinking about the way I wished things had been. I stopped wishing that they could have been different. I ended a lifetime of suffering by saying the painful truth: "I never had a warm, loving father and I never would."

According to Caitlin Marvaso, AMFT, a grief counselor and therapist, to recover from a father's abandonment, a woman "must learn how to father herself, hold herself, and receive the type of love a father provides. It is a lifelong process, but with the proper support, tools, and patience, it is totally possible. That being said, the grief and pain never goes away, it just changes."

A daughter whose father abandoned her can grow, thrive, learn, excel, succeed, love and be loved, and live a wonderful life when she realizes that the problem isn't her, it's him. This is the first step toward healing.

Self-mutilation comes in the form of promiscuity and [...] it's violence against yourself. I never thought of it that way before!

— Oprah Winfrey

What Is Fatherless Daughter Syndrome?

"Fatherless Daughter Syndrome" (colloquially known as "daddy issues") is an emotional disorder that stems from issues with trust and lack of self esteem that leads to a cycle of repeated dysfunctional decisions in relationships with men. It can last a woman's entire lifetime if the symptoms go unacknowledged and ignored.

Does the Reason Affect the Result of Fatherlessness?

Half of the daughters in the US self-identify as having no father in their lives, but the reasons for that fatherlessness vary. Approximately 28% lost their connection to their dads via divorce or separation, while 26% cite emotional absence as the reason for the estrangement. 19% lost their fathers to death, 13% to abandonment, 13% to addiction, 12% to abuse, and 4% to incarceration. 6% say they never met their father.

Certainly, a daughter whose loving dad passed away when she was 15 will be affected differently than a daughter whose father abandoned her when she was born. Unfortunately, many studies do not account for the reasons for fatherlessness.

The effects of fatherlessness can be mitigated by many factors. Daughters who were brought up in households with two moms, a loving and very-involved step parent, or participating grandparents or other extended family members will probably not experience the same lasting wounds and negative impact of a father's abandonment.

What about you?

What Are the Emotional Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father?

Compared to those with healthy paternal relationships, fatherless women report...

  • feeling less happiness and lower levels of well-being,
  • higher levels of frustration, anger, and anger-related depression,
  • difficulty navigating the emotions of intimate relationships, and
  • overwhelming fears of abandonment.

The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives gave me the necessary insight that helped me heal. It made me realize that I was living a shut-down existence. Because of my childhood without an involved dad, I had become an emotionally numb adult.

Like many fatherless daughters, I grew up with a mom who was overwhelmed and struggling. Because she was shouldering all the responsibilities of parenting by herself (except the financial), she felt alone. As such, she turned to me for comfort and support.

Dr. Karin Luise, the book's co-author, says that a daughter who tends to her mom's emotions often neglects her own. As a result, she might bottle up her feelings. As an adult, that can lead to both psychological and physical distress. Once I understood this, I was able to get healthier by embracing my feelings: writing about them, talking about them, and using them to heal.

What Are the Psychological Effects of an Absent Father?

To summarize, depression, suicide, eating disorders, obesity (and its effects), early sexual activity, addiction-formation, and difficulty building and holding on to loving relationships are all side-effects of an absent father.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: My father was a good man who struggled with depression and alcoholism (so he was emotionally unavailable). How can I address my emotional issues without putting the blame on him?

Answer: I'm so impressed with you based on your question. It shows great insight, compassion, and desire to move forward with your life. So many of us (myself included) get stuck in the blame game, keep recycling our past, and don't enjoy the here-and-now. Since you already understand your dad was emotionally absent and why, you're doing great and are ready for the next step to jump-start a happy future.

My 80-year-old mother was recently reminiscing about her mom who died from alcoholism and said, “She chose booze over me.” I was immediately struck my how tragic (and untrue) that comment was and how my mom had no understanding of addiction and depression. I knew this ill-conceived belief of hers had negatively shaped her life and the lives of my siblings and me. I wished she had attended Al-Anon meetings, read books about alcoholism, and gone to therapy before getting married and having children. It would have saved us all a lot of heartache.

I hope you will avail yourself of the resources my mother didn't. By putting in the effort now, you'll have a happier life in the future. By talking with others, you'll realize you're not alone, find camaraderie in your shared pain, and learn how others have moved forward. There are so many of us women who identify as fatherless (I in 3), and 10 percent of U.S. adults say they grew up with an alcohol-abusing parent. Janet Woititz wrote Adult Children of Alcoholics, an excellent book in which she discusses the common traits that people with alcoholic parents share.

I found a lot of relief, support, and peace of mind by being vulnerable and sharing my experiences as a fatherless daughter. When you open up and reveal your pain, you meet so many people who will do the same, and an instant connection is formed. For too long, I lived a life where I seemed strong and put together. In reality, though, I was numbing my emotions by taking anti-depressants. The seven years I remained on those were the worst of my life, “my lost years,” because I lived like a zombie. While I felt no pain and never cried, I also felt no joy. My doctor did me a great disservice by prescribing drugs to me instead of urging me to do the hard work needed to get better. I do that now: meditating, writing in a journal, focusing on gratitude, spending time in nature, exercising, eating healthy foods and, most importantly, dealing with my feelings instead of stuffing them.

I wish you the very best as you move forward. I think you will have a lot to offer those who are on a similar journey.

Question: How can one heal from growing up without a dad?

Answer: That's the $10,000 question, isn't it? I don't think any of us fatherless daughters ever completely heal from the loss. We'll always feel sad about it from time to time, and that's normal. We'd have to be stoned out of our minds or numbed with anti-depressants (like I once was) to not feel some anguish, but we need to put it in perspective, move forward, and enjoy our lives in the here-and-now. As I've gotten older, this has become much easier to do because I don't want to spend my time feeling bad about my yesterdays (when I didn't have much control) instead of enjoying my todays (when I have all the control).

When I taught preschool, I loved watching dads pick up their daughters from class and sweep them off the floor in a big loving embrace. At the same time, though, I'd feel pain that I never experienced anything like that with my own father. I'd acknowledge my feelings and then think of a mantra to help me work through it. Some of my favorites were: “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become” (Oprah), “failure is dictated by a focus on yesterday,” and “I'd rather be better than bitter.”

I've healed a lot by sharing my journey with others—by writing this article but also talking with friends and acquaintances. When you open up and become vulnerable, others will do the same. One in three of us identify as fatherless so there's a lot of women to whom we can relate and form an instant bond.

I've also found a lot of healing in taking better care of myself: exercising, eating healthy foods, making time for reading and relaxing. For much of my life, I was my own worst enemy, and it was really starting to catch up with me as I became obese and sedentary. I've also started to speak up more, sharing my experiences, my opinions, and my knowledge. My dad often shushed me as a kid, and now it feels great to reclaim my voice.

Question: My dad is a deadbeat. How do I emotionally get through all the years of tossing thoughts of only having my mother? I have neglected to recognize how truly alone I really am. How do I get through this?

Answer: I believe deep misplaced feelings of shame are at the center of a fatherless daughter's life. The paternal archetype—loving, protecting, advising—has a strong presence in all cultures throughout the world. Fathers portrayed on television risk their lives to save their children, are infinitely patient and giving, and are always warm and kind. When we don't have a dad like that, we blame ourselves when we're kids and even when we're adults.

I grew up watching Pa Ingalls on the “Little House on the Prairie” series. His devotion to his daughters was infinite. At the same time, though, I was a girl with a workaholic father who was rarely at home and, when he was, would call me names and berate my appearance. How does a kid wrap her brain around these disparate fatherly images? She blames herself and feels deep shame for her failures as a daughter. She thinks that if I were cuter, smarter, thinner, more charming, more petite, more athletic, and more talented, my Dad would love me.

Looking back now on my life, I see how it was molded by my feelings of shame, worthlessness, and never feeling good enough. These emotions resulted in my addiction to food, my low self-esteem, my neglect of my appearance and health, my inability to put myself out there to make friends, my willingness to settle for jobs that were below my abilities, and my reliance on anti-depressants. When I finally opened up to my sister about our dad, she confessed that she, too, felt unloved and unaccepted by him. Her admission lifted the weight of shame that I had been carrying on my shoulders, and I experienced a lightness I had never known.

I want you to experience this lightness as well. When you open up to other women about being a fatherless daughter, you'll feel so much better. Since 1 out of 3 of us identifies as such, you won't have a problem finding those who say, “I understand... I feel your pain... You're not alone...I went through the same thing.”

I'm the happiest I've ever been since I let go of the shame, and I never want to be bogged down by it again. Connecting with other women who've had a similar journey is the key.

Question: How can a guy help his girlfriend who didn't grow up with a father? How does he show love to her so she doesn't make a mistake of marrying young?

Answer: It's very sweet and noble that you want to help your girlfriend who's a fatherless daughter. But, let me give you a word of caution that I also give to my teenage sons: “When you rescue a damsel in distress, all you end up with is a distressed damsel.” Some men (kindhearted but foolish) fall into the trap of choosing a woman who needs to be “fixed.” That, however, is an impossible task. The only one who can fix her is herself. She must be highly motivated to change and willing to do the hard work—possibly with the help of a good therapist. Sometimes a fatherless daughter wants to stay in her victimhood and let it define her. It will be her identity throughout her entire life so please proceed with caution!

With that being said, you can encourage your girlfriend to do things that will build her self-esteem. With a healthier self-image, she won't be wallowing in the pain of being a fatherless daughter or wanting to fill the hole in her heart by getting married at a young age. Building her self-esteem is not some airy-fairy notion but involves taking concrete steps. You and she, for example, could tackle some goals together that involve getting in shape and learning new physical skills: training for a marathon, taking ballroom dancing classes, hiking to the top of a mountain, learning to ice skate, or pumping iron. You and she can tackle some ways to improve your mental well-being and career prospects by taking college classes together, joining a book club, or attending events at your local library. You and she can look outside yourselves and help others by volunteering at a homeless shelter, the SPCA, or a local elementary school. You and she can find peace through meditation, praying, attending religious services, and being in nature. By pushing herself and achieving goals, she will become stronger in body, mind, and spirit.

You sound like a caring boyfriend, and I wish you much luck in your relationship. Since one in three women identifies as a fatherless daughter, there are a lot of us damaged souls out there. If your girlfriend is motivated to move forward in her life, I think the two of you will be just fine. If she keeps slipping back into the hurts of the past, then that's a serious issue. You may need to end the relationship and ask yourself why you're attracted to a woman who needs fixing. You don't want it to become a pattern.

Question: My dad usually only in the summer, but he hasn't since 2015. I just can’t take it anymore. Does he not have any interest in me?

Answer: I'm sorry your dad is being neglectful and uncaring. No matter what's going on in his life (a new wife or girlfriend, deadlines at work, duties at home), he has a parental responsibility to see you regularly so a loving bond can be created and maintained. Unfortunately, some fathers are too self-involved to comprehend the hurt they cause their kids. My dad called me degrading names such as “Buffalo Butt” and “Rhino Rump” when I was a girl, damaging my self-esteem and causing me tremendous embarrassment. Now, as an adult and mother, I see how incredibly immature that was of him and I've let go of the misplaced shame I felt. But it took many years.

Your mother probably has some insight that would be helpful about your father's poor character. Perhaps, she hasn't wanted to disparage him in your eyes, but you need to know the truth. His behavior reflects badly on him, not you, and you need to know his past so you can understand why he's acting this way in the present.

If he doesn't see you in person, he should be staying in contact via phone, e-mail, or Skype. If he's not, you and your mom should set up a regular day and time for him to communicate with you. If he doesn't follow through with that, you have a tough decision to make. Do you want to stay connected with him even though it's sporadic, unpredictable, and only on his terms or do you want to take control, limit contact, or possibly even terminate the relationship? Talking with a counselor at school would be beneficial before making such a big decision.

In the meantime, focus on the positive things in your life. Keep a gratitude journal and write down five things you are thankful for each day (Oprah does this). Open up to your friends and family about your dad and get the love and support you need. Set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them. Develop a rich spiritual life by meditating and spending time in nature. Be good to yourself by eating nutritious foods and exercising. Don't define yourself by your father's neglectful behavior. You are so much more than that.

I wish you the best. I know how painful it is to be shunned by a dad and have so little control over the situation. I'm glad you're reaching out. Please continue to do so. Many girls and women can relate to what you're feeling and experiencing, and we truly do care.

Question: I’m still a teenager. My father is a drug addict so my parents are divorced. My father tries to be a good dad, but I just don’t let him in because I’ve seen him high a number of times. I feel bad for him because he cares but, then again, if he cared he wouldn’t be doing drugs and hurting us. What should I do in response to my addict father's friendly overtures?

Answer: Just as there are support groups for loved ones of alcoholics (Al-Anon), there are ones for family members of drug users called Nar-Anon. I recommend that you read about this organization on-line and attend a meeting in your community. Perhaps, your mother would go with you for moral support.

The purpose of these groups is to provide a safe space for attendees to share common concerns about the addicts in their lives. They get support and advice from those who've traveled a similar path. Most importantly, they see that they're not alone. They realize that they need to change themselves and stop trying to change the addict.

At Nar-Anon meetings, addiction is presented as a disease. Therefore, when an addict chooses drugs over them, family members know not to take it personally. Instead of continuing to fight this problem, family members learn to practice acceptance and, from that acceptance, they find serenity.

It's only natural that you'd put up walls with your dad to protect yourself. It's extremely difficult (mostly, impossible) to have a decent relationship with an addict. They're thinking about their next fix so they're not emotionally available. They're often untrustworthy and unreliable. They disappoint you again and again. It's far wiser to spend your time and energy on healthy people who can have a reciprocal relationship with you.

My 82-year-mother had an alcoholic mother who died from cirrhosis of the liver when she was 8. Sadly, she never took the time to learn about addiction at any point during her life. To this day, she continues to say “my mom chose booze over me.” This deeply-rooted belief greatly damaged her self-esteem. She then passed this lack of confidence on to her four children, including me, who have all suffered because of it.

I hope that you'll learn about addiction now so you'll have a bright future and not interpret your dad's behavior as a rejection of you.

Question: My dad had depression and decided to leave us as he couldn't handle it. Meanwhile, my mom was working in another country. I can't say I am facing troubles or I miss him or something. For sure I had depression, anxiety, and problems connecting with people. The older I get, the harder it becomes. As a young girl, I used to live life to the fullest. Now I'm becoming more and more distant. How can I know that all of this is due to my dad's absence and how can I overcome it?

Answer: You'll probably never know how much these issues are directly connected to your dad's absence or if other factors are to blame. You experienced a lot of loss at an early age with both parents being gone. You missed out on the love and attention they could have provided. Now, you may not know how to give those to yourself.

Many fatherless daughters are terrible at nurturing themselves. Their lack of self-care can have horrible consequences if they don't reverse course. You also have a family history of depression. These are all factors that can make you feel sad, hopeless, and numb.

I suggest you go to therapy to talk about these issues and get in touch with your feelings. It sounds like you've shut them down as I did. By doing that, I caused myself great damage, both physically and psychologically, and led a zombie-like existence for many years. I was prescribed anti-depressants that made me flat and did nothing to address the root cause of my grief.

When I gradually weaned myself off the drugs after many years, I was back to square one. If it is recommended that you take anti-depressants, please do so for a limited period of time. While on them, work with a professional to address the source of your sadness and how to move forward from it. Looking backward is valuable but looking forward is better!

To get well, I needed to stop running from my feelings and embrace them. Since I wanted to build connections with other people, I needed to show my vulnerability and let them get closer to the real me. I had been hiding for far too long. I had to stop being afraid of getting hurt and being rejected. I had to take risks.

As fatherless daughters, many of us didn't have our inner-world tended to as kids. It was largely ignored. Now, as adults, we need to make it a priority, realizing it's what makes us who we are and what makes our lives worth living.

Please get the help and support you need so you're happier, and your relationships are richer. Best to you!

Question: I’ve only seen my dad twice when I was younger. I’m his second oldest child. He has other kids from another woman and he’s in their lives but why not mine?

Answer: I know that this sounds incredibly difficult, but please don’t take his lack of involvement in your life personally. Your father is behaving in a selfish and irresponsible way. I imagine that he’s still involved with the younger children’s mother and considers them his family. He may think that his resources--his time, his energy, his love, his money-- are too scarce to care for all the kids he has fathered.

He may be in denial about the tremendous emotional pain that he’s causing you. He may be too weak of a man to deal with your mother so he ran from his obligations. None of these reasons, though, are an excuse for his abominable actions.

So many fatherless daughters, myself included, ask ourselves: “Why doesn’t my dad love me? Why am I not good enough?” Yet, these questions are not the right ones to ask. They’re based on the false belief that our dad’s rejection is about us when, in all reality, it’s about him and his limitations as a human being. The important question to ask yourself is: “How am I going to take this heartache, find meaning in it, and transcend it?”

One way you could do this is by vowing never to hurt a child. For the rest of your life, you’ll know how valuable it is for a youngster to have an involved dad and you can share that with others. Perhaps, you’ll find your purpose in life by becoming a social worker, a teacher, a pediatrician, or some other kind of advocate for kids. Before starting a family, you will choose a reliable, loving man to marry and build a proper nest.

Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, said: “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.” Figure out what your dad’s bad behavior taught you and set out to do better in the world. I wish you all the best on your journey to lead a life of intention. Take good care of yourself!

Question: My dad stopped contacting me when he married his wife. He now has another two sons and one other daughter. He barely speaks of his sons but often about the daughter. “Daddy’s girl” she’s 19 I’m 30. He stopped seeing me from age 7-22, where he wants to be present in my own children’s lives. But I don’t know how to deal with the other daughter. The resentment/ anger I feel that I wasn’t good enough to treat like his daughter? I feel like he’s never wanted me or loved me.

Answer: Your father has earned the resentment and anger you feel toward him. He abandoned his responsibilities as a dad and gutted you emotionally. He left you thinking you weren't good enough, you weren't lovable, and you weren't wanted. You can't trust him with your heart but, yet, you still have him in your life and the lives of your children. You must ask yourself: why?

Sometimes we need to love ourselves enough to let go. It's time you seize control of the situation and decide what's best for you and your family. Does your dad add joy to your life or is he just a reminder of a painful past that keeps you from enjoying the present? Has he ever apologized for his actions and tried to repair the damage?

The spiritual life coach and author, Iyanla Vanzant, says: “You don't get to tell people how to love you or how to love. You get to choose whether or not to participate in the way they love you.” You have the option to pass on this relationship with your dad if it's not serving you. You're not the helpless little girl any more whose daddy left her. You're the mature adult who has all the power. The fact that your father often speaks of his other daughter shows that he's either clueless or insensitive to the hurt he's inflicted upon you.

Whether you decide to keep your dad around or not is not nearly as important as how you treat yourself. It's time to heal. Give yourself and your children what your father didn't give you: love, commitment, constancy, and self-confidence. Nurture yourself and your kids in ways your dad didn't nurture you. Enjoy your kids and don't let anything distract from the family you've created.

Question: I have always looked and found older men to be with. Is it due to my dad’s death when I was a 12-year-old girl?

Answer: I can't say for sure, but it sounds like a safe bet. When we step back and look at the patterns in our lives, we learn so much and gain tremendous insight. If your pattern is seeking out older men as romantic partners, it's time to examine that and whether or not you want to make a change. There's nothing about it that's right or wrong, good or bad, but just a matter of what you want to have in your life.

There's no doubt losing your dad at 12 had a huge impact. You may have felt insecure about your situation and worried whether you and your mom would be okay. Because they have more life experiences and are financially stable, older men represent security and safety—something you would find highly attractive after losing your father. Older men are more confident and that, too, would be appealing to a fatherless daughter. Older men might shower you with attention, affection, and gifts, making you feel important and valued. You didn't get that from a man after your dad died so it's understandable you would crave it now.

Understanding your motivation for being with older men may or may not help you make a change. Do these older men treat you well? Do you enjoy their company? If the answer is yes, I see no problem with you being with them. If the answer is no, however, you may want to see a therapist to help you stop this destructive pattern and move in another direction. Dr. Robin Smith said: “Adulthood is to finish the unfinished business of childhood.” You may have been doing just that but are now ready to move away from it.

Question: My father was physically abusive to me, I swore (at age 14) that I would never love a man like my mam loved my dad because I saw how badly he treated her and she stayed with him! What harm did I do to myself? How can I repair it?

Answer: You need to give yourself a break and tell yourself a different story. You didn't harm yourself. You had harm done to you. You were physically abused by your father and further abused by a mother who didn't protect you. You were betrayed by the two people in your life who should have taken care of you. That is a huge mountain to climb, and you should congratulate yourself for having survived it.

How about re-framing your narrative? It could be something such as: I survived a terrible and traumatic childhood and so I naturally wanted to protect myself from more pain. Now, though, I want to open myself up to the possibility of love. Unlike other women who re-live their past and try to fix it by picking a guy like their abusive fathers, I know that a man like my dad is the last thing I want in my life. I'm healthy enough to see that.

I recommend you work with a therapist (cognitive therapists are goal oriented and strive to get results in a reasonable amount of time). It will probably be very scary for you (rightfully so) to move into romantic relationships. It may be a slow process for you to trust someone and be vulnerable. In the meantime, take good care of yourself. Find meaning and joy in your work, with your hobbies, and through your friends. Don't make finding a partner the sole focus of your existence because it may be extremely hard to do.

I'm so sorry you had to endure such a damaging childhood. What happened to you should never befall a kid. I wish you peace and joy as you move forward. I hope you'll be kinder, gentler, and more admiring of yourself.

Question: How do I deal with the death of my father?

Answer: Some of us fatherless daughters mistakenly think that our dad's death won't hit us hard. Because he wasn't around much or at all, we're got off guard by our grief and confused by our intense emotional reaction. This was true when my father passed as I certainly didn't anticipate crying for weeks and then plunging into depression.

Yet, when we step back and look at the situation objectively, our sadness is quite understandable. We're mourning not only the death of our dad but the death of hope. For most of our lives, we longed for a loving father-daughter bond and now it's an impossibility. The finality of that is hard to accept and can cause us much sorrow.

With the passing of your dad, your feelings are raw and complicated. This is an excellent time to write in a journal about your thoughts and emotions. It's also a wonderful time to reach out to trusted friends for an open, honest, and vulnerable conversation about your father.

When I did that after my dad died, I was amazed how many women shared their troubled father-daughter relationships with me. For all those who claim to have been their “daddy's little princess,” there are many more with fathers who were physically or emotionally absent. Sharing our stories helps us understand that we're not alone.

As you journey through the grief process, be especially kind and patient with yourself. I wish you the best.

Question: My father left me when I was 2 years old and I've never met him which led me to getting all of the symptoms above. How can I let go of it and stop blaming my father?

Answer: So many of us fatherless daughters have this same question, hoping there's a magic pill, an aha moment, or some spiritual revelation that will wash away the hurt, allow us to forgive our dads, and finally grant us peace. I've searched for this fix by going to therapy, taking anti-depressants, and reading lots of self-help books, but they didn't stop the ache. It was only after my father was long gone and buried (but still tormenting me) that I got fed up and finally became determined to build a meaningful life.

It's my wish for you and all fatherless daughters that you can get to this place much sooner than I did. Our time on earth is so damn precious and weren't not going to get it back. Imagine yourself as a little old lady about to take your last breath. Do you want to curse yourself for all the hours you wasted on this man who was nothing more than a sperm donor? Do you want to regret how you turned over so much power to him when he wasn't even decent enough to fulfill his parental obligations?

Stop waiting for that magical moment to come because it won't. Instead make a choice every single day to move forward, do the hard work, and become a better a person. Realize that blaming our dads keeps us frozen in despair and serves as a ready excuse for not doing more with our lives. It's so easy to play the blame game and so much harder to take responsibility for ourselves. When we finally do, though, we experience profound liberation.

Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” That's why seeing a good cognitive therapist can be so incredibly beneficial, helping us see things through a whole new prism. In a short amount of time, our narrow, distorted thoughts can be replaced with positive ones that open up new possibilities and give us hope. Whether you utilize therapy or not, though, it all comes down to you making a choice to live in the moment and make the most of every day. Best to you!

Question: My father left before I was born. Then he reached out and we kind of had a relationship but it was lousy. As a teenager, I rejected him and now I’m almost 20 and feel so lost. He occasionally texts me, but I don’t know how and what I feel. I just cry. What do I do about my relationship with my absent father?

Answer: It sounds like you’re feeling sad because you never had a daddy and never will. However, you’re causing yourself needless suffering by not accepting this reality. The desperate little girl in you is still holding out hope that you can turn this man into a decent father. While that’s understandable, it’s not doing you any favors and is damaging your emotional well-being. Moreover, it’s keeping you stuck instead of moving forward to create your own beautiful life.

At 20, this is the time to focus on yourself: getting an education, building a career, making strong friendships, and planning your future. While it’s an exciting time, filled with hopes and dreams, it can also be scary. Unfortunately, some fatherless daughters retreat from challenges at this stage by ruminating about the past and longing for what they didn’t have.

It’s important to ask yourself: What is the payoff for me to be dwelling on this man now? Is it an easy excuse for not doing more with my life? Is it a way of staying a child instead of moving forward into adulthood?

Your 20’s are an amazing time of self-discovery. If you feel lost and immobilized, work with a cognitive therapist online or in person. A good one can help you with your thinking so your thoughts work for you, not against you. As Oprah Winfrey said: “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become.” When you think about the future, not the past, you’ll feel empowered and hopeful.

Question: My parents have been separated since I was 8. My dad has this girlfriend. He does everything with her, which includes going on expensive holidays. When he has my sister and me every second weekend, though, all we do is sit at his house and watch movies while he's on his phone. How do I approach him about how I feel?

Answer: The relationship with your dad (or anyone, for that matter) won’t improve unless you communicate. Before speaking to him, sit down with your sister and brainstorm things that the three of you would enjoy doing together. Make a list of 50 that are reasonable and affordable. They may include activities such as hiking in the woods, rollerskating in the park, playing Monopoly, doing miniature golf, learning to kayak, and going on a picnic.

Then approach your dad in a friendly, enthusiastic way and show him the list. Have you ever heard the saying: “You attract more flies with honey than vinegar?” If you’re accusatory with your father (“you always take your girlfriend on fantastic trips but only fiddle on your phone when you’re with us”), you'll probably cause him to become defensive.

Instead, frame it in a positive light. Saying something such as: “Dad, we’re getting older and want to create some special memories with you before it’s too late. We want to make a photo album of all the fun things we do together.”

If he’s unmotivated to spend quality time with you, talk with your mother. Some states allow teens to decide whether or not they want to continue visitations. You’re at an age when friends, studies, extracurricular activities, and part-time jobs are an ever-expanding part of your life. It’s understandable that you don’t want to be stuck at your father’s place watching movies when you could be engaging in pursuits that are fun and constructive.

Finally, know that you’re not alone. More and more young people today are complaining about their parents being on their devices instead of spending time with them. This is a sad state of affairs and shows how addictive and destructive technology can be. I wish you well in having this conversation with your dad and admire you for taking a proactive stand. Take care!

Question: I've been watching a lot of coverage about the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter. He loved her so much and was so connected to her. It makes me feel bad that I never had that with a dad. Is it wrong of me to regret not having a good relationship with my dad?

Answer: Our feelings are neither good nor bad, right nor wrong; they just are. Growing up as fatherless daughters, many of us suppressed our painful emotions rather than acknowledging them. As a result, we never learned to deal with them in healthy, constructive ways. By keeping our feelings underground, we may have struggled with drugs, alcohol, food addictions, problems in our relationships, and struggles with our careers as adults.

Therefore, you're doing everything right by acknowledging the sadness that you're experiencing now. It's perfectly normal and to be expected. What you're doing wrong, though, is watching too much of this coverage and spiraling into depression because of it. Acknowledging your emotions is a healthy first step. The next step is to respond to what you need at this time and practice self-care.

Talk to yourself in kind, nurturing ways: “I'm feeling down and need to do something nice for myself. I think that I'll take a walk, hang out with friends, dance to some music, or soak in a hot bath.” It would also be helpful to write about your feelings in a journal or talk about them with someone who can relate to your pain—perhaps, a friend who's also a fatherless daughter.

The images of Kobe and Gigi Bryant are beautiful, and it appears that they shared an enviable father-daughter bond. However, the photos we see of them (or anyone on social media) are just happy times. They don't reflect the complexity of human relationships with all their ups and downs.

I'm sure that you're not the only fatherless daughters who felt distressed while looking at those images. I'm glad that you recognize how they're negatively impacting you. Now, please step away and start taking care of yourself.

Question: My father has hardly ever participated in the lives of me and my sisters. He missed major events in our lives such as high school graduation. How can I stop crying whenever I think of him?

Answer: From my personal history as a fatherless daughter, I would never tell you to stop crying, to bottle up your emotions, or to “just move on” from this painful situation. In fact, I recommend just the opposite. You have every reason in the world to feel sad about your dad's neglect of you and your sisters. Crying is a healthy way to release your tension, express your emotions, and grieve your loss. Showing your feelings is a beautiful thing: human, vulnerable, and raw.

My biggest mistake as a fatherless daughter was not dealing with my emotions but stuffing them with food and anti-depressants. I felt such shame, thinking I was too ugly, dumb, unlovable, and unworthy of my dad's time and attention. I lived in the shadows and didn't talk about my hurt. I became very closed off from others because I was wounded and couldn't trust.

I wasted many years numbing myself because I couldn't face my anguish. At a young age, I began putting on a suit of armor each morning before entering a world that I saw as cold and indifferent. I eschewed friendships and romantic relationships because I didn't want to get hurt again. I avoided heartache but missed out on love, happiness, and fun times.

You're lucky to have sisters, so you aren't going through this experience alone and isolated. You know not to take your dad's rejection personally because he did the same nonsense to them. Share your emotions rather than suffer in silence. When you're feeling weak, let them be strong for you; when they're weak, be strong for them. Champion one another as you build your lives and take risks with your hearts. Help each other avoid falling into a victim mindset.

Echart Tolle, the spiritual teacher and author, wrote: “The main cause of stress and anxiety is wanting things to be different than they currently are. When you bring acceptance to all situations, despite your expectations, you instantly remove the need for stress and worry.” As a fatherless daughter, I find so much comfort in these words.

For many years (and even decades), I longed for my dad to be somebody he wasn't. Even after he died, I blamed my unhappiness on not having had an involved father. It was a ready excuse for not creating my own peace and joy. Tolle's words helped me realize how much power I was handing over to someone who didn't matter and discounting those who did: my husband, my sons, and my friends.

Please find comfort and support from your sisters and other fatherless daughters. Make a blissful life for yourself. Yes, be sad about your dad and grieve that loss, but push yourself forward and live in the here-and-now. Take good care of yourself!

Question: My father hasn't been participating in my life ever since he broke up with my mother (divorced). I have insecurity and trust issues when it comes to men, causing me to doubt my worth as a woman. I always suck up to men because I desire a man's love, which I've never felt. How do go about fixing myself and my daddy issues?

Answer: Unlike many fatherless daughters who engage in destructive behaviors with little insight, you see what you're doing wrong. Most significantly, you realize that the only way to make it better is by changing yourself. With that goal in mind, you now need to put in the hard work to get it done.

Men are an easy distraction from achieving our goals. What if you resolved to take romantic relationships off your agenda for one year to focus on yourself? That would be an amazing gift and would set you up for more happiness and tranquility in the years to come.

The only way to build your self-worth is to become proud of yourself by setting and achieving goals. Take a hard look at your life and make a list of 10 aims for the year. They could include activities such as signing up for some classes at the community college, looking for a new job, going to the gym, writing daily in a journal, joining a church, reading one book per week, learning ballroom dancing, taking vegan cooking classes, building friendships, volunteering in your community or whatever you feel is necessary to make yourself more self-assured. What specific goals could you accomplish that would make you say to yourself, “Wow, I can't believe I stuck with that and made it a reality. I'm awesome!”

When you feel more confident about yourself, you'll attract a higher quality of men. You won't need guys to make you feel good about yourself because you already will. You won't be looking for a father figure to take care of you because you'll already be taking care of yourself.

The spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, said: “When life removes something from you, it's not helpful to go chase it down and get it back. “ Instead, accept the fact that your dad was absent in your life and no man will ever replace him. Grieve that loss but don't make being a fatherless daughter your identity. Use positive self-talk to encourage and comfort yourself. I wish you well.

Question: I was in a relationship with a man my dad's age and when we broke up, it was catastrophic. I feel like I'm missing a huge part of me. Can I get over this? How do I learn to stop self-sabotaging?

Answer: I'm so sorry you're in despair over your breakup. Please slow down, take care of yourself, and mourn the loss of that relationship. Yes, you'll get over it, but it takes time and effort. That's normal. Rushing back to an ex-boyfriend is not the solution. You can be alone and be okay. You aren't defined by who you're with; you're so much more than that, but you need to prove it to yourself!

Since my article is about fatherless daughters, I assume you identify as such and are tracing current problems back to having an absent dad. Certainly, dating a man your father's age would be connected to that. You may have been trying to fix the relationship with your dad through that man. When the relationship failed, you felt that you failed...with both your romantic partner and your father. You may have felt rejected yet again.

When we jump from one relationship to another, we don't take the time to examine ourselves and the patterns that control our lives. The drama of our relationships consume our days and distract us from asking the bigger questions: What are my long-range goals for relationships, family, career? What's my life all about and what makes it meaningful? Where do I want to be in five years/ten years/20 years? How am I bringing spirituality into my daily existence? What am I doing to help others?

It's easy for us fatherless daughters to become prisoners of our dad's early rejection without knowing it. As I look back on my life, I see how his absence led to my self-destructive behaviors: bottling up my emotions, over-eating, becoming socially isolated, and falling into depression. Now, I lead my life for myself and never want a man to define my destiny. A good therapist could help you see the patterns in your life and help you stop the self-sabotage and set goals for the future. Working with someone would be a positive step forward and a wonderful gift to yourself.

I wish you the best during this hard time. Please take things slowly. Focus on yourself, spend time in nature, talk with friends, write in a journal, exercise, pray, and meditate. The pain you feel now is just something you must endure. There's no quick fix...with an old boyfriend, a new boyfriend, or any guy at all. You'll get through it. Take care!

Question: When I was 13, my dad told me that he would never allow me to affect "his family." He had to protect them so I was never to call his home again. If he were a regular man, I would get it. But, as a man of God who was unable to love his firstborn, it messed me up on so many levels. When I have relationship issues, I tell myself that your own dad doesn't like you so get over it. I'm 38 years old and about to be married. My fiancee knows the story. It still hurts. Is thinking about my bad relationship with my father healthy?

Answer: Your upcoming marriage provides the perfect opportunity to confront this and, perhaps, that's why you're thinking about it now. Your fiancee deserves a wife who's focused on building a life with him, not one who's mired in the past with a father's rejection. I think the healthy part of you is saying that you need to deal with this before the wedding.

By working with a cognitive therapist (online or in-person), you'll learn how to think about your dad in a different way. You'll come to see him clearly with all his failings and limitations. Unlike other forms of therapy, cognitive therapy is typically short-term and focused on getting speedy results.

You've struggled with this for decades so it's time to get some relief. Albert Einstein said: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Therefore, you need a professional's help to look at this situation in fresh, constructive ways.

I'd also recommend that you and fiancee attend pre-marital classes at your place of worship or a counselor's office. These classes will serve as a springboard for critical conversations that you should have about finances, sex, extended family, parenting, and so on before getting married. These are tough things to discuss so it helps to have someone else orchestrate it.

I've spoken with many wonderful men who wish to help their girlfriends and wives overcome their histories as fatherless daughters. Unfortunately, there's not much that they can do. These women need to be motivated to change and willing to put in the hard work to do so. The men often suffer terribly in these relationships, always feeling like they can't compete with the absent dads who caused their daughters so much heartache.

Dealing with this now would be a huge investment in your marriage and your future. I wish you much success with it. Blessings for a beautiful life together!

Question: I started knowing my father at age eleven. I thought he would be excited to have us as part of his life, but he has phases. We don't talk much, and we only do so when I initiate the conversation. He claims that he cares about us, but he barely does anything for me, my brother, or my mother. Am I pushing too hard?

Answer: If you want your father in your life, you must accept him in “as is” condition. He's who he is and isn't going to change. That means you make a choice. Do you want to keep him, realizing his limitations and enjoying the little bit he has to offer, or would you instead let him go because his indifference is causing you too much hurt? Only you can decide what's right for you.

I'd stop pushing and focus on other areas of your life: friendships, education, career, hobbies, volunteer opportunities, exercise, and nature. It's easy for us fatherless daughters to become obsessed with what we don't have—our dad's love and attention—and not enjoy all the marvelous things we do have. It's ironic that in their absence our fathers' presence can loom so large in our lives. Our longing for them can blind us to the abundance of love, beauty, and opportunity in the world.

Most importantly, build a strong relationship with yourself and enjoy your own company. Don't think anyone—your dad, a boyfriend, a child—is necessary to make you happy and complete. When you're ready to have a romantic partner, you don't want to repeat the pattern you're now experiencing with your dad: pursuing a reluctant guy. If you feel confident and happy in your skin, you'll attract a partner who can give and receive love wholeheartedly and not be stingy like your father. Investing in yourself now will pay off in the future with healthy, balanced relationships.

Don't think your dad's behavior makes you unlovable. That's certainly not the case. He has demons from his past that keep him from being a caring and involved father today. A person can't give away what they don't have, and it seems your father doesn't have much love to spare.

Focus on yourself and all that you have, not what you lack. Value yourself and all you have to offer.

Question: I have never met my dad at all. I constantly make my boyfriend beg me for my love and show anger at him for no reason. Do I have issues because of my father?

Answer: I can't definitively say these problems stem from being a fatherless daughter, but it's a good bet they do. It seems like you're testing your boyfriend to see if he'll abandon you like your dad did. This is a dangerous game to play because, even if he's a good and loyal guy, he'll probably get fed up with it and eventually leave. Then, you might say: “I knew he was going to go. All men do.” In reality, though, your actions will have pushed him away.

You may want to consider why you have chosen a man who puts up with this kind of behavior from you. Does he feel safe to you? Do you feel in control because he's weak? Why are you both in a relationship that's unhealthy and unbalanced?

Anger is a tricky emotion, especially for us females who are taught that it's unladylike and unattractive. It's good that you're able to express your rage but unfair to place it on your boyfriend who's not the cause of it. It's important to discover why you're so angry. Studies show that feelings of powerlessness are a major cause of women's fury. We fatherless daughters had no control over our dad's abandonment of us, and that can lead to our ire.

For years, I ran away from the anger I felt at being a fatherless daughter. Unlike you, I couldn't express it and, therefore, I fell into a deep despair followed by years of taking anti-depressants. It was only when I started dealing with my angry (and sad) feelings about my dad's emotional neglect that I experienced relief. I had to let those emotions out that I had bottled up for decades.

I suggest you go into therapy to discuss your father's abandonment and how it affects you today. You'll learn a lot about what motivates you to act the way you do. It will help you avoid unhealthy patterns that can sabotage your relationships and make your life miserable. If you value what you have with your boyfriend and want to make it work for the long haul, you need to explore these issues for your sake and his. Your therapist may invite him into the sessions as well.

Question: My father raised me and was in my life for twenty years, then my parents divorced. Year by year he becomes more distant. Now at twenty-nine, he is completely out my life and not interested in coming back. I feel my issue is opposite of most, but I'm starting to feel unloved because of it. How can I handle this?

Answer: The phenomenon of fathers distancing themselves (or disconnecting completely) from their adult children most definitely deserves an article of its own. Not much has been written on this topic, but many of us know someone in our circle who's experienced this painful situation. While knowing the cause of the estrangement may help us make sense of it cognitively, it doesn't stop the pain from this perceived rejection. You may want to deal with your feelings in therapy, so they don't hold you back from enjoying your life and forming relationships with other men. Here are three key reasons why dads distance themselves from their adult kids:

1. His new wife or girlfriend is setting the social calendar.

When a man pairs up with a new woman, he typically lets her handle their social calendar as a couple. She makes plans for them: where they'll travel, how they'll spend the holidays, and with whom they'll spend their time. Naturally, she'll put her own children, relatives, and friends ahead of his. Feeling threatened by his previous marriage, she may intentionally marginalize his first family. Wanting to keep her happy since they share a bed, he goes along with her decisions.

This happened in my own family when my 65-year-old grandfather married a wealthy and well-connected woman. Even though my mother was his only child, he distanced himself from her and us four grandchildren throughout his marriage. He got swept up in his new wife's social world with her rich friends and their exotic adventures. It hurt my mother terribly, but nothing she said made him change his ways. He didn't connect with us again until his wife died but, by then, the damage was already done.

2. He saw his role as a father in a very narrow way--as a provider and little more.

Sadly, many dads even today see their parental role as merely to provide for their children financially. When they're done fulfilling that obligation, they no longer feel needed and move on with their own lives. They don't recognize the important emotional role they should play in their adult children's lives: listening, guiding, empathizing, and providing the unconditional love that only a parent can.

My father was a workaholic and didn't know how to relate to my siblings and me on an emotional level. When we were adults, he didn't see a role for himself in our lives and the lives of our children. He was too stiff, serious, and formal to enjoy being silly and playful with his grand-kids.

3. They see their divorce as a failure and are ashamed by it.

Some men are ashamed by their divorce and see it as a failing on their part, especially when it was instigated by their wives. They choose to disconnect because their adult children remind them of this failure and of that difficult period in their lives. They'd rather forget the past and move forward.

Many men feel incompetent and powerless when their marriages falter. They blame themselves for not being able to fix the problem. Because they're solution-oriented, they feel frustrated that they couldn't do something to prevent a divorce.

I'm so sorry your dad has chosen to disconnect from you. Please see a therapist if you feel stuck in your suffering.

Question: My family got separated in 2016. My family doesn't let me meet my dad or talk to him. They don't understand the importance of him in my life. What do I do?

Answer: You need to sit down with your family and have an open, honest conversation about your dad. They might be keeping him away to protect you. However, if that's the case, you deserve to know why. Is he a felon, a drug abuser, an alcoholic, mentally unstable, physically abusive, or irresponsible? You need to know the truth in order to effectively cope with this situation.

Sadly, many families hide the truth from children in an attempt to shelter them from harsh realities. It can backfire, though. Because youngsters are naturally egocentric, they fill the void with negative messages about themselves: “I was too much of a bother. He didn't love me. I cost too much.” Without adequate information, they blame themselves for their parent's absence.

If this is too much for you to handle on your own, please talk to a counselor at school, a teacher, or other trusted adult. Ask that person to help you communicate with your family about your desire to see your dad. Sometimes it takes an objective person to mediate these disputes. Perhaps, this individual can help establish guidelines for you to contact your father, whether it's through texts, e-mails, phone calls, etc. and set up a regular schedule to do so.

If you read my article along with its questions and comments, you know that being a fatherless daughter can leave a long and lasting negative impact on a woman's life. It's a hurt I wouldn't wish on anyone. If your dad isn't destructive, you deserve to have him in your life. Please find someone who can help you advocate for that.

Question: How can my child's father go years without seeing his kids? I just don’t understand how a parent can go that long without their kids and be fine.

Answer: A father who goes that long without seeing his kids is not fine, and suffers from profound flaws in his character. He may be staying away because he thinks his children are better off without him. He could be drinking, abusing drugs, gambling, womanizing, overworking, or overspending. He may be staying away because he's suffering from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. He could be staying away because he's a narcissist who's focusing on his own needs and not those of anyone else.

There's a popular adage that goes: “ You can't keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” As fatherless daughters, we need to stop focusing on why our fathers abandoned us and start focusing on our lives in the here-and-now. We will never get an adequate explanation that relinquishes our dads of their parental responsibilities or absolves them for all the pain they've caused us.

Unfortunately, having a child doesn't automatically turn people into warm and loving parents. It doesn't erase the lives they had before a baby came—a time when they may have been abused, neglected, or made to feel worthless. Those early years may have left them without the foundation necessary to be competent and caring parents. Most certainly, not everyone has it in them to be a mom or dad. Parenting is a job that requires tremendous selflessness and sacrifice, and not everyone is up to the task.

When we weren't given the straight scoop as to why our dads were absent during our childhoods, we filled in the gaps with horrible stories in which we blamed ourselves: I was unlovable... I was too much trouble...I got on his nerves...As adults, we may make the stories even worse: I wasn't even worth a visit once a month...He found time for fishing, but he never found time for me...I must have been so disgusting to him that he wouldn't even introduce me to his new wife.

We grow up with a false narrative running through our heads, creating tremendous shame and sadness. We think our dad rejected us because we were flawed when, in fact, he was the deeply flawed one who couldn't handle his responsibilities and was incapable of being a loving parent. We can get stuck, ruminating about why our dads weren't with there for us. When we do this, though, we don't enjoy the beautiful folks in our lives now who deserve more of our time, energy, and appreciation than that guy who left. As adults, it's our opportunity to write a new story for our lives, and we have the power to make it a positive one.

I feel your pain in the question you asked. I certainly identify with it as do so many other women. Take good care of yourself. I wish you much peace and joy.

Question: How can I heal from growing up without my dad?

Answer: As a fellow fatherless daughter, I hope you can learn from my many failed attempts to heal from having an absent dad. I've been in therapy. I've taken anti-depressants, and I've worked on my inner-child. What I've learned from all that is I'll never completely mend from my hurt. There will never be a magical moment when I say, “Hurrah! It's all behind me and I'm perfectly fine. I'm cured.” It's just not going to happen. You just need to take one day at a time, be grateful for all you have, and look to the future, not the past. Every day is an opportunity to be good to yourself by exercising, eating healthy foods, being in nature, meditating, praying, writing in a journal, and being open with friends.

It's only when I reached my 50's that I became sick and tired of spending so much time and energy on the heartache I felt as a fatherless daughter. My dad was long gone, but I still ruminated about him every day and blamed him for everything that went wrong in my life. I made the conscious choice at that time to not waste one more precious minute thinking about him and wishing things had been different. My mantra became: “You will never have peace until you accept reality.”

What helped me is discovering the term “fatherless daughter” and realizing it wasn't used just for girls whose dads had died. It also included girls like I was whose dads were present in our homes but emotionally detached for various reasons: alcoholism, drug use, mental illness, marital affairs, or being a workaholic. Claiming this term, I no longer felt so alone, and I became more comfortable opening up about my situation to other women.

I had felt so much shame because my dad had called me degrading names when I was a kid, and I was convinced nobody else had ever experienced that. But I was wrong. Quite a number of women I met had the same experience as I did, and we bonded over that pain and comforted one another. One woman, who's now a good friend of mine, said to me, “No child ever deserves to be called names,” and with those words, my shame was lifted. I had always known that was true in my heart of hearts, but someone else saying it with such conviction made all the difference in the world.

While it's unrealistic to think you'll completely heal from having an absent father, you have the power today to change your life forever. Oprah Winfrey said, “I know for sure what we dwell on is who we become” so focus on the positives in your life. Don't let being a fatherless daughter become your identity. Make the world a better place by volunteering to help people or animals. When you start helping others, you'll feel a lot better. I know I did.

Take good care of yourself and open up to others. You'll be amazed by how many wonderful fatherless daughters you'll meet that way.

Question: What can I do to cope with knowing my father abandoned me?

Answer: You need to acknowledge the hurt his abandonment caused you and grieve the loss of a father. If you don't deal with your sadness, anger, and resentment now, you will regret it down the road. Bottling up our feelings can lead to serious health issues such as obesity, depression, anxiety, headaches, stress, and heart disease. Running from your pain can lead you to make bad choices with men as you try to repair your past with your dad. It can also cause you to numb yourself with drugs or alcohol. Take time to deal with your emotions now, so you don't spend the rest of your life as the wounded little girl whose daddy left her.

Grieve by writing in a journal, writing letters to your father (but not sending them), and talking with women who can empathize with your situation. Our mothers are often the worst people to talk to about this matter. Because they're defensive about picking the wrong guy, they can trivialize our anguish. They might tell us to “buck up” and appreciate all the good people in our lives and not focus on the one who's not there. Minimizing our suffering can make us feel even worse.

You also need to accept that your father was a broken man and forgive him. Right now he has way too much power over your life--this weak guy who ran away from his responsibilities as a parent. By doing so, he took away much of your innocence and hope. Forgive him and don't let him take any more from you. Albert Einstein said there is one essential question we must all ask ourselves: “Do I live in a friendly or hostile universe?”

Don't let your dad's bad behavior blind to all the beauty around you. Don't let it make you hard and bitter. Keep your heart open, stay soft, and remain vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown says vulnerability is our greatest strength and “the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” Too many of us fatherless daughters (myself included) close ourselves off so we won't get hurt again. We miss out on so many opportunities for love, joy, and adventure because we're protecting our hearts.

Resolve at this very moment that you will create a fabulous life for yourself, not defined by your dad's absence. Embrace nature. Embrace spirituality. Embrace your feelings. Embrace quiet times. Embrace your future!

Question: How can I improve? I know in my mind that my father doesn't hate me; he just never connected with me. And ever since mom died, there has been no effort to. He never told me he was going to propose to my stepmother. I found out after. It's like I've never been a part of his life, especially since then. He's involved in my stepmom's family. I'm tired of being around, hoping for a relationship.

Answer: Sometimes we fatherless daughters need to get so thoroughly sick and tired of the situation before we're motivated to make a change. Sometimes that takes years and, sadly, sometimes it takes decades. In your question, you have all the answers you need and show real insight. Now you just need the courage to make some real concrete changes in your life. You need the determination to make the best possible future for yourself instead of wallowing in the past.

“He just never connected with me.” That's exactly right. Through no fault of yours, he didn't take the time and make an effort to form a parent-child bond with you. When that isn't established in the early years, it's nearly impossible to construct it later. The feelings aren't there. He may be dealing with so much shame and guilt from the bad choices he's made that he just wants to forget it all, including you. You are a reminder of how he's failed.

“He's involved in my stepmom's family.” This is a common phenomenon. For the most part, women set up the social life of the couple, and the men go along with it. Your dad is loyal to the woman he shares a bed with and, if she puts her family first, he's fine with it. He gets sex from her, so he's not about to make waves. He's content with the situation. He's not longing to be with you like you're longing to be with him. That's the cold, hard reality staring you in the face. In situations like this, I'm helped by the mantra: “If you don't accept reality, you'll never have peace.”

When I was a kid, my grandfather got remarried in his 60's. He'd been involved in our lives marginally but, once he was with this new woman, we rarely saw him (only on major holidays). He was totally caught up in his new wife's world: her daughter, her grandchildren, her friends, and her interests. My siblings and I didn't care, but my mother was devastated by the rejection and was constantly complaining about it. Instead of enjoying what she had, she obsessed about what she didn't. When my grandfather's wife eventually died, he came back into my mom's life. Then she constantly complained about how thoroughly annoying he was!

The moral of that story is we often want what we can't have. Then, when we get it, we realize it wasn't so great after all. I think there's a good chance you would discover that about your father if you were able to spend a lot of time with him. The idea of him is much more desirable than the reality.

“I get nothing.” That tells you all you need to know. It's time to focus on the future. Make new friends. Start new relationships. Pursue a new hobby. Take classes at the local community college. Learn a new sport. Adopt a pet. Develop a deep spiritual life. Volunteer in your community. Make a difference in the life of a child. You have so much to offer the world. Don't waste any more of your life on your dad. Make a plan and take concrete steps to move forward. Best to you!

Question: My father didn’t want me when my mother told him that she was pregnant. He left her and instead created a family with another woman. He has four other beautiful daughters. How do I get past the pain of feeling ignored and not wanted? How do I trust people without having the fear of one day they will leave me as well?

Answer: We fatherless daughters never totally get over the pain of our dad's neglect, and we must be conscious not to make it our identity. We don't need to marinate in the hurt of that early rejection and become victims of it. We can choose to move away from our suffering and find peace. We can decide to be open, loving, and vulnerable instead of wearing a suit of armor, so we don't get wounded again.

Many of us (myself included) have tried to numb the hurt with alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medication but discovered those solutions were self-destructive and temporary. Acknowledging our agony and dealing with it in constructive ways (writing about it, talking about it, getting angry about it) is the path to healing. Some of us have also confronted the deep (but undeserved) shame we felt from having a dad who didn't love us. That was certainly true in my case.

You're doing a wonderful job of acknowledging your sad feelings, identifying the source of them, and putting them in perspective. This awareness is a valuable asset as you maneuver life and relationships. You have that internal voice that can talk you through difficult situations with cognitive insight: “I'm feeling insecure on this date. I know it's because of my history as a fatherless daughter. That, however, doesn't define who I am. I'm going to enjoy this time and be fully present in the moment. I'm banishing my dad from this date!”

You'll begin to trust others when you build up trust in yourself. When you experience life fully and don't hide from its hardships, you'll inevitably have friendships and romantic relationships that end. You'll discover that you can handle the heartache, and you won't fall apart into a million little pieces. Yes, you'll suffer like we all do, but you'll survive. You'll get over it eventually and be ready to try again. Dr. Brene Brown says this about those of us who risk getting hurt: “The brokenhearted are the bravest among us because they dared to love somebody.”

By getting through these tough times, you'll develop an abiding trust in yourself. You won't be so fearful of what the other person will do because you can handle whatever comes your way. There's a saying that goes “you can't give away what you don't have.” You won't be able to trust others until you've learned to trust yourself.

I know you're on your way to a wonderful life. You'll definitely encounter people who won't deserve your trust as we all do. But, when you trust yourself, you'll be able to cope. Take care!

Question: The last time I saw my dad was when I was two. I now have a step-dad, but he's never home and he acts like everything is fine. He and my mom are on the verge of a divorce. He is absent almost entirely and he always has been this way. I'm struggling with trusting any guy and I don't know what a good man is like. How do I get past this and be able to determine good men from bad men?

Answer: It's fabulous that you're thinking about this now before you get stuck in a life-long pattern of picking the wrong guy and being miserable. These decisions don't exist in a vacuum; they're influenced by our personal histories, fears, and inadequacies. We're drawn to what we've known from childhood. Sometimes we want to fix our past and sometimes we simply want what's familiar, no matter how awful. That's why children of alcoholics may marry a drunk or drug user. That's why we fatherless daughters might marry men who withhold love and affection.

My 80-year-old mother has been in a relationship with a man for the past 18 years. It's uncanny how she picked the exact same model as my deceased dad: emotionally unavailable, critical, and self-centered. Instead of examining her previous bad decisions and re-calibrating, she chose once again what she knew. She never took the time to heal, get stronger, learn about herself, and weigh what what she truly wanted in a guy. It sounds like your mother may have a habit of picking the wrong men as well. Congratulations for being resolute about changing this in your own life!

Like all of us fatherless daughters, you were damaged from the experience and you need to heal. Don't focus on finding a romantic partner but concentrate on yourself. Take the time to grieve the loss of the father you never knew and the stepdad who was largely absent. Forgive them and resolve to build a good life for yourself. Read, study, and learn. Plan for the future. Set goals and work hard to achieve them. Develop a spiritual practice. Exercise, spend time in nature, and cultivate meaningful friendships. Most of all, develop your self-worth by doing challenging things and impressing yourself.

When you become an accomplished person, you'll no longer be that damaged little girl looking for a daddy. You'll no longer be looking for a man to heal your hurt from childhood. You'll be a confident adult women looking for a suitable match—someone who can give and receive love, someone who's trustworthy and responsible, someone who will be there for you and your kids--both physically and emotionally.

So...put looking for a guy on hold and work on yourself. Have a myriad of life experiences and get to know men as friends, teachers, colleagues, and mentors. You'll start to see that there are so many fantastic ones out there, and your vision will be forever expanded from the narrow, jaded one you had as a kid. You'll gain a mature perspective and be ready to choose a partner as an adult woman, not a wounded girl.

Be patient. Believe me, your day will come!

Question: I think my father leaving has affected me more than I realized since most of these points are correct. But how do I move past it? How do I let it go and fix the issues I create for myself?

Answer: Having an awareness that you were negatively impacted by being a fatherless daughter is extremely important. A dad—an early and primal part of a child's life—was absent (for whatever reason) and this shaped the person you became. When you accept that reality, you realize how critical it is that you care for yourself. You must be mindful and avoid the destructive patterns that plague many fatherless daughters: developing eating disorders, marrying too young, suffering from depression, struggling with low self-esteem, dating unsuitable men in a futile attempt to “fix” the relationship with your dad, etc.

Some of the hardest women I've ever met are fatherless daughters who won't admit their dad's absence has hurt them. They have built up a tough exterior and showed no vulnerability, but they're fooling no one. It's a horrible way to go through life—so-self-protected and scared. If only they would open up, express their sadness, grieve their loss, connect with other fatherless daughters, and move forward, they could lead much happier lives. It was only when I accepted how much my dad's neglect had hurt me that I was finally able to lose weight, exercise regularly, go to the doctor and dentist, and take pride in my appearance. Before that, I just didn't care enough about myself to do those things.

We've all heard the expression “you need to mother yourself,” meaning to be kind, gentle, and nurturing. We fatherless daughters need to “father ourselves,” meaning we need to do things that build our self-discipline, strength, and self-esteem. If our dads had been involved in our lives, we probably would have grown up to be more confident women—taking risks, failing, getting up, and trying again. Since we didn't have involved dads, we need to do that for ourselves--pushing ourselves to try new things, experiencing successes, and increasing our self-confidence.

I recently started a self-defense class that helps me feel more powerful. I'm doing it for myself, developing the self-discipline and self-focus that I've never had. I set aside time each day to practice. I keep my uniform clean and ironed. I do mental exercises along with the physical ones. I set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them. I get distracted by other obligations--my kids, my husband, my job, and my 80-year-old mother—but this new discipline helps me stay in the moment. I feel in control and that's something fatherless daughters don't experience often.

Question: My father left my mother and me when I was a baby. We tried to develop a relationship when I was around thirteen, but that ended very badly (due to both sides, not just his) and that was the last I heard from him until now. I am a twenty-five-year-old woman, and we have been texting a lot the last few weeks. I'm confused. I don't think he has a conscious desire to hurt me. What do I say or how do I act at this point?

Answer: It's perfectly natural that you don't know what to say or how to act because you and your dad never established a parent-child bond. He's 100 percent responsible for this lack of connection since he abandoned you as a baby. That was completely irresponsible of him, and now he must live with the consequences.

He's a stranger to you with no shared memories, no shared experiences of good times and bad, and no emotional link. You'll never develop a parent-child bond because it's too late for that. If you're interested, you could form another kind of bond. That's entirely up to you. You don't owe him anything. It's not your job to make him feel okay about the mistakes he's made.

At 25 you want to be looking ahead in your expansive windshield, not behind you in a tiny rear-view mirror. You have your whole life ahead of you—full of possibilities, adventures, and loving, meaningful relationships. Your dad has already proven again and again that he's not a good bet for a significant relationship and you'll probably get hurt again. Do you want to continue this pattern of him coming in and out of your life or do you want to end it? Do you want to be fifty-years-old and still lamenting his flakiness? If you have children of your own, do you trust him to contribute something of value to their lives as a grandfather? Only you can decide.

Please understand that you weren't responsible for the relationship ending badly when you were 13. Again, that's entirely on your dad. He was not there for you during the early years, and no parent-child bond was established. Most daughters are difficult at thirteen. We have our periods and get hormonal and emotional. Good fathers understand this, brace themselves, and are man enough to take what comes.

Your dad ran away from his responsibilities once again and left you feeling like you were to blame in some way. You were not. You were just a kid. Do not shoulder that burden. If you become a mother one day, you will understand that a decent parent stands by their child through it all—even the roller-coaster teen years! It's all part of being a parent.

You have some big decisions to make. It's a good time to talk to your mom, your friends, and other people in your circle whom you respect.

Question: My father died when I was a baby. My stepdad does not want me. He told me to get out. Was I not good enough for either of them? Will I always feel this pain? I am fourteen-years-old. I really want a father, but he does not want me.

Answer: Feeling rejected is one of the most difficult things we humans must endure, and I'm sorry you're going through this. However, please realize that your father's death, while a massive loss in your life, was in no way a rejection of you. You'll always feel the sadness from his absence and wonder what your life would be like if he had lived, but you should never feel unloved by him. What you say to yourself—how you frame your life story—is so incredibly important. Please don't say your father rejected you when he most definitely did not.

As for your stepfather, I don't know the circumstances there. I hope you have a loving mother who's standing by you. As a parent myself, I know how much responsibility it takes to care for children and some people, unfortunately, aren't up to the task. They're too immature, too lazy, too needy, or too irresponsible to handle it. They may be dealing with addiction problems, financial issues, depression, or a midlife crisis. Again, this is not a reflection on you but on your stepdad. You're only 14 so don't take on the burden for the choices adults in your life make.

It would be extremely beneficial for you to talk to a counselor at school. When we talk about heavy issues such as rejection, it lightens our load, and we don't feel so alone and afraid. We get a new and healthier perspective. Reaching out for help is a way to make yourself a priority. You have your whole life ahead of you with so many things to learn and adventures to have. You don't want to stay trapped in this emotional state where you feel unworthy. Take care!

Question: How do I learn to love the child within that my father never did?

Answer: For fatherless daughters like you and me, not treating ourselves well is a common problem that can plague our lives and bring great misery. The unwarranted shame we feel from our dad's rejection often makes us feel unworthy of having fun times, supportive friendships, and loving relationships. The mere fact that you're aware of that and want to change it is huge. Otherwise, you might spend decades engaging in self-destructive behaviors like I did without knowing why.

When we truly accept that our dad's rejection had everything to do with him and nothing to do with us, we can move forward with our lives. There will probably never be a magical moment when we say, “Hey, I love myself and I'm going to start treating myself better.” Instead, we need to just do it, engaging in specific behaviors each and every day and never putting ourselves on the back-burner again. These behaviors, in turn, will generate feelings of self-worth and well-being that become addictive, and we'll want to do more.

Make a list of 50 things that bring you pleasure and peace. When I did this several years ago, I could only think of one: eating. I knew at that moment my life was out of balance and needed a total overhaul. Food had become my answer for dealing with everything—providing relaxation, relieving stress, alleviating boredom and, most of all, numbing my feelings about my dad.

Today, my list includes walking my dog, reading novels, gardening, visiting nurseries, drinking tea, writing in my journal, calling a friend, running on the treadmill, and painting with watercolors. Each day I make a point of doing three things on my list, which is prominently displayed by my work desk. I now start my day by sipping a cup of tea and then meeting a friend for a walk around the neighborhood with our dogs. I have these things to look forward to each day instead of just trudging through my life like I once did.

I finally got sick and tired of how much my father's absence had taken from me—how many hours I spent longing for it to be different and wanting to fix it. Now I don't want to waste any more precious minutes of my life going over it in my head. I want to move forward and enjoy a beautiful existence. The spiritual teacher and author, Eckhart Tolle, says the main cause of stress and anxiety in our lives is caused by wanting things to be different than they are. When I accepted that my dad was not a good dad, I finally had peace, stopped living in the past, and began living in the here-and-now.

Best of everything to you on your journey forward. Every kind thing you do for yourself now will help heal that inner child. She wants you to be happy and so do I!

Question: What are some steps for healing when a father was forced out of a child’s life by mother?

Answer: Since your mother forced your father to be an absent dad, you have a lot of healing to do and may want to consult a therapist. That's a lot of pain to confront on your own, and a professional can guide you through this rough terrain. If you're angry with your mom for keeping you and your dad apart, you may be experiencing profound hurt as if you've lost both parents. If your mom is willing, you could invite her to join you in the therapy. Then the two of you can talk through things, see the other one's perspective, and move forward in your relationship.

The best case scenario would be that your mother forced your father out to protect you from him. Perhaps, he had a drug addiction, a drinking problem, run-ins with the law, or was simply a bad role model for you. If that's the case, you need to accept her decision and not hold it against her. She was acting out of love for you and was concerned about your best interest. She did what she believed was right at the time. Communicate with her and clear the air.

However, if she made your father an absent dad out of spite or revenge, it will be difficult to forgive her. She'll need to show true remorse and acknowledge the pain she's caused you. Otherwise, you may not want her in your life (at least temporarily) while you make sense of things and find peace of mind.

To begin healing, you'll need to forgive your mother—not for her sake but for your own. If you have bitter feelings toward her, they will corrupt all areas of your life. Holding a grudge against your mother will make you a prisoner of the past, preventing you from enjoying the present. You can't change history, but you can relish every day with the ones you love in the here-and-now. Forgiveness doesn't mean you need to keep her in your life. You'll need to make that decision based on the totality of your relationship, not just based on one thing.

Understanding your unique story and putting it in perspective will help you heal as well. When I looked at my family's past, I saw how my mom played a big role in my father's emotional detachment. Her father wasn't involved when she was growing up, so she had always seen dads as non-essential. As long as my father supported us financially, she was okay with it. My mom and dad made a deal that worked for them as a couple but proved extremely deleterious for their kids.

Question: My dad was so nice to me. I don't know the reasons why my parents divorced. Sometimes I feel empty, have low self-esteem, and am depressed. Can you give me some advice or solutions?

Answer: It's not unusual to get depressed when you're in a situation where you feel powerless. This certainly could be the case with you as your parents divorced and you experienced a loss of control over your life. Your powerlessness increased by not receiving an explanation from your mom and dad about why the divorce even happened.

To lift your spirits, you need to take charge. It's important you sit your parents down and discuss why the divorce happened in the first place. While they don't need to reveal all the intimate details, they do need to explain the big picture of why their marriage crumbled. For you to feel optimistic about your future (falling in love, getting married, having children of your own), you need to know that these things don't just happen; there were concrete choices they made that led to the end of their union. They must take responsibility for their actions and how those actions impacted you.

In what other ways is life making you feel powerless? Are you bouncing back and forth between your mom and dad? Are your parents involved with new romantic partners and you must now reluctantly interact with these new folks? Are your grades suffering because you're upset about the divorce?

This would be an excellent time to speak with a counselor at school about your situation and how it's making you feel. Just talking about our sadness and confusion can make us feel better and lighten our load. Opening up to friends who also have divorced parents would help you feel connected and not so alone.

I have struggled with depression most of my life and the thing that helps me the most is exercise. If I don't move my body vigorously every day, I feel down. Eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep are also key. I recently eliminated sugar and meat and felt much better.

Please take back some power in your life and talk to your parents about the divorce. They've probably been so caught up in their drama that they haven't fully realized its effect on you. Make yourself a priority during this difficult time by reading, meditating, and spending time in nature. It will get better, but you have to take control.

Question: Can later contact with an absentee father make up for the early years when the dad was absent?

Answer: If your father was absent during your early years, it's quite possible the two of you will never develop a close parent-child bond. You might enjoy a decent relationship but never see him as a paternal figure. This is quite normal and to be expected since he wasn't there during those crucial early years when you were incredibly vulnerable and dependent. He didn't establish himself as someone who could be trusted and relied upon when you needed him to provide security.

Since a warm, loving attachment wasn't formed in those early years, you may suffer the same negative consequences that other fatherless daughters do. This is true even though your dad eventually re-entered your life. It's important, therefore, that you're aware of these pitfalls and work hard to avoid them.

Since you asked this question, I assume you're struggling with some of the problems fatherless daughters face. Your awareness and insight can help you make healthier choices for your life. Because I grew up with my dad in our home, I never considered the possibility that my relationship with him (or lack, thereof) was the source of my struggles with low self-esteem, negative body image, depression, and anxiety.

It wasn't until I was in my forties and teaching kindergarten that I started to make that connection. I'd see fathers bringing their daughters to and from school: talking with them, hugging and kissing them, and showering them with attention and affection. While it was a beautiful thing to behold, it also made me terribly sad and even tear up at times. I hadn't experienced anything remotely like that with my father. I realized how much I had missed and how it had hurt me.

One in three women identities herself as a fatherless daughter. Some had dads who died. Others lost the connection with their fathers because of divorce, alcoholism, drug dependency, or mental illness. Other had emotionally absent dads as I did. We came to it in different ways but the effects are largely the same.

Question: My dad was a substance abuser and left when I was baby. I saw him on and off as he spent a lot of time in jail. Over the past two years, we became closer than ever. He was clean and things were going well. Sadly, he was diagnosed with C last year and his recovery was rough. He started using again and was found dead. Since then, I have started to doubt my partner's (of fourteen years) loyalty and am convinced he is having a relationship at work. It's like my mind is playing tricks on me. Is this normal?

Answer: First, let me express my condolences on your father's death. That was an especially cruel b