I recently dove headfirst into The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives, a book written by two women who both had lost their fathers in very different ways.
This work explores the many ways a woman is impacted by the loss of a relationship with her father. Some of the themes that I found most valuable were how a young girl is impacted psychologically. The authors Deanna Babul and Karin Luise name a phenomenon all too common: girls and women do not learn how to take care of themselves in the wake of a father’s loss, an imperative skill for a woman to have. When we do not learn how to take care of ourselves, we tend to attract partners who do not take care of us, either.
Abandonment becomes a core psychological pattern or schema and the pain of rejection, a normal part of every human life, becomes a devastating and shattering experience. It triggers the initial loss which likely has not fully healed in childhood. This healing, or the lack of it, becomes a central and defining feature of a woman’s life.
There are ruptures in basic trust, identity, autonomy, and initiative. These all profoundly impact the ability to start and maintain healthy relationships and endure the vulnerability that true intimacy requires. Thus, healthy long-term committed relationships can often be out of reach.
Additionally, women in these situations can develop other core beliefs including feeling that they need to sacrifice their own needs for others, or inhibiting themselves emotionally and not talking about what they are feeling or needing with their loved ones. As a result, girls tend to isolate themselves and depression often ensues.
Babul and Luise take a closer look at the age of a girl when her father loss occurred, the unhealthy ways she may end up coping with the psychological fall-out, as well as the fundamental differences in women who lost their father to death versus women who lost their fathers to emotional withdrawal or neglect.
Having a father who is alive yet choosing to live his life without you can be the ultimate emotional abandonment.
Emphasizing the importance of the grief process and the very individual choice of going No Contact with one’s father are also briefly explored. There are a few helpful healing strategies are offered in the last chapter.
A few criticisms of this book:
- It was only written a few years ago in 2016, but there is a strong emphasis on adult women as looking for male partners; there is no effort toward inclusivity for the LGBTQIA community.
- There are many examples throughout the book taken from their own work as a coach and counselor as well as interviews they conducted with women for this book. Several of them were unethical, or questionable at a minimum. One example was given in which a religious counselor betrayed the confidence of a young woman to her mother, something that is a huge offense and can be incredibly damaging for anyone in a counseling relationship. hello, trust issues!
- In offering suggestions to heal the idea of ‘praying to feel safe and protected’ caught me off guard as I was not anticipating nor was I seeking a religious perspective on this work.
Despite these minor criticisms, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with, or attempting to understand fatherless daughters. You can pick it up here.
If you read it too, let me know what you think!