Kathryn TeenScrolling through my Twitter stream today, I come upon a tweet from someone about someone’s dad dying.  I click through and read the post.  I don’t know the person at all, but her post touches me because I can feel that it’s written from a raw place of hurt.  This is the wonder of the internet…how we touch each other with our universal joy and pain, our words spilled out into the ether and the trail of breadcrumbs that leads us to each other.  Strangers, and then, sometimes…not.

What touched me most about her post was a picture she posted at the end of it.  A picture of her with her daddy, when she was a small girl.  I say “touched”, but it was really more like…made my heart clench and a feeling of loss wash over me.  I don’t think I have a single picture of me with my dad, even as a small girl when I know he was there.  The only time he was there, and even then, not really.  I didn’t ever really have a daddy.

My mother would no doubt be hurt by those words, since she remarried when I was 13 or 14, and my stepdad is my dad.  But you can’t just insert a daddy where there wasn’t one, not with a teenager.  Doesn’t work that way.  Especially when the real one is still alive and wreaking his havoc in your life at irregular intervals.  It took me years to call my stepdad “Dad”, and if I’d had my way back then they’d never have got married at all.

“Oh, you see that skin?
It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away
Now she’s left
Cleaning up the mess he made” – John Mayer, “Daughters”

You would think that after 50 years, the pain of that kind of loss would fade.  It does, it isn’t a constant throb the way it was in my teens, my 20s, my 30s.  It’s no longer a thing that sends me down the destructive path of looking for something to wipe out the feelings of being unloved, unworthy…unloved.

It flares up like a wildfire, though, when I see a picture of a girl with her daddy.  Really anything about girls and dads…movies, commercials, cards.  Instant tears, an ache that will always be there in the background, waiting to ambush me at a tender moment’s notice.  Sometimes I don’t even know why, at that moment, I’m so suddenly awash in grief and tears.

I feel bad for the woman who lost her daddy today.  But the thing that I felt the most, when I got to the picture of her and her dad, was this:  God, you are so lucky.  So lucky to have had a daddy to love you, that you are mourning now because you loved him so much.  Because he loved you so much.  I couldn’t even work up a tear at my dad’s funeral, nor could my brother or my sister.  It took years and years but he killed any love we had for him, long before he died.  No mourning for the father who tried to destroy us.

But for the daddy I never had, I think I’ll probably mourn in some way for the rest of my life.


  1. Yes, I get this. I’ve mourned the loss of my prodigal children and am in the process of celebrating their individual returns (one by one they’re establishing new relationships with us). I understand the yearning for relationships that are not….


    1. Fran, I can’t imagine how painful it would be for one of my kids to drift away, or walk away. The waiting for them to come back…don’t know how I’d handle that. You’re a strong woman but here’s a :hug: anyway. We’ll have to do that in real life one day, since we live what, an hour or two from each other???


  2. It seems to make no sense, yet it is incredibly, achingly true how we absolutely can mourn the loss of that which we never had. I think you captured that with heartbreaking beauty. I have a dad. The first half of our relationship was hideous. Full of anger and screaming and tears. The second half of my life, my dad somehow got his shit together and has been great ever since. He will never really understand me, but I know that he loves me and his support is unwavering. Yet — I mourn the childhood I was denied by his anger. By my mother’s inability to defend me against him and his rage and irrational behavior. I mourn the kid I didn’t get to be.

    Today I tried to write a surprise post for my husband as a father’s day gift. I still haven’t gotten the damn thing right, and so… it will not be published tomorrow and will have to wait a few days. Because tomorrow i can’t spend time writing, as the day will be all about the husband and we’ll be doing the family stuff he wants to do. I can’t be sitting at my computer. It’s the first post I’ve really labored over… Not each and every word, but the basic gist of it, my angle on things, what i’m trying to get across. Just when I think it’s finished, I realize I’ve totally missed the real point of what I should’ve been saying. Sigh.

    No matter how old we get, our parents — or lack thereof — remain part of us. Their absences can be felt sometimes even more strongly than their presence. I know, because my husband hasn’t spoken to his own shithead of a father in years; the man doesn’t even know our two children. I live with someone who wrestles with demons similar to yours, who tries not to care about this jerk who neglected him and his sister… who could never call his step-father “dad.”

    Maybe we all mourn something we didn’t have or know we’ll never attain or achieve. Grief is so damn complicated. Loss is something that haunts us forever.


    1. Minka, I think that what happens to us as children stays with us always, and affects our relationships in adulthood. It took me a long time to stop picking men that were just as treacherous as my father; caused myself a lot of pain.


  3. That was a beautifully sad post. I am blessed to have an amazing dad. I can’t imagine not having had him growing up. I have friends with similar stories to yours, and you’re right – no matter how much they care for their step-dad’s, it’s not the same.


    1. Thanks, Jennifer. Actually, now that I’m grown, I’m so much closer to my stepdad than I ever was with my biological father. He’s my dad, I can’t imagine that I ever didn’t call him Dad now that I’m older.


  4. My dad was there every day, every step of the way, until he died. I sometimes take that for granted. I think that’s just the way it’s supposed to be, and perhaps that’s true. It takes hearing stories like yours for me to fully appreciate what a treasure my dad was. I’m sorry for the hole in your heart where your father is supposed to be.

    I’m also a stepfather. I can attest that that is a tough road to travel. Perhaps this is the way it ought to be as well. I have been there every day, every step of the way, because that’s the way my dad showed me. I never asked to be called ‘Dad’, but I never didn’t try to be one.


    1. Jonah, thanks so much for your comment. One thing that really makes me feel glad is hearing about other people who have/had great fathers. It’s the way of the world that children take their parents for granted, and that we don’t realize all they did for us until we’re grown. I agree with you that that is probably how it ought to be.


  5. I think it may be me whose post you saw – my Dad died on June 11th really suddenly, and I did do a post about it with a picture of the two of us when I was small at the end.

    Thank you for your post. We’re reeling with grief and sadness, but mostly I feel a profound sense of gratitude that I had a Dad like him, and I know from the bottom of my heart how lucky I am. We always want more time with the people we love, but I’m so, so grateful for the time I had with him. SO grateful.

    Reading your words helps me keep that grateful perspective; as people have shared their own stories of loss, or how they grew up, it brings home to me how important it is to appreciate all that we do have, even in the fear of losing it.

    Thank you so much. Your blog is amazing, and I’m so glad to have found it.

    -Ellie from One Crafty Mother


    1. Ellie, your comment made my eyes well up with tears. I’m so very sorry for your loss and the grief you’re feeling now. I’m glad if my post helped you deal with that in any way. Peace and healing to you and your family as you walk through coming to terms with the loss of your beloved dad.


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