Healing the Father Wound: My Journey from Rage to Reconciliation

I remember the seething, white-hot rage I felt inside. I wanted to burn shit down or blow it up and leave a trail of ashes behind me. I had finally connected the dots between a father who was emotionally absent and impossible to please and the men I had attracted into my life. Guess what? They were emotionally absent and impossible to please, too.  

When you don’t receive that unconditional love and support from the man who is supposed to teach you how men should treat you, then you’re likely to make poor choices in the relationship department. You keep trying to be good enough. You twist and mold yourself into whatever shape you think he desires. You make too many compromises about where and how you’ll live. You sell yourself out. You get swept away. You bury your dreams. You dismiss your gut feelings. You keep hoping that the next one will really see you, appreciate you, and actually be there for you in body and soul.  

So you try—again—to love someone else, to be open, to get past the scars on your heart. You light up inside when he approves of you and die a little when he doesn’t, because the wound is still there. You’re still hoping to earn his love. You have expectations he can’t possibly fulfill. It’s not even his job to fulfill them, but you don’t know that yet. Every relationship you have with a man is just another opportunity to heal the bleeding, gaping Father Wound, but the problem is that you’re not going to the source. 

Then you get fed up after all the painful goodbyes and starting over for the umpteenth time with your life in cardboard boxes. You want things to change. A light comes on. You start doing the work on yourself, because why not? Nothing else has helped, has it?   

You see the pattern you’ve been repeating. It feels like wading through miles of swamp water and muck. You grieve. You rage some more. You feel disgusted. You kick yourself for not waking up sooner, for not knowing what you think you should have known. Then you kick yourself for kicking yourself. You sit in circles, alone and with others. You tell your story. You listen to their stories. You feel heard and witnessed as you are, raw and unvarnished. You shed holy tears. You forgive. You breathe. You do this work for months or years, however long it takes.         

Gradually, with wobbly legs and new skin, you begin to give yourself the love you never received. It is strange, at first, to walk in worthiness, to know your own power, to have clear boundaries, to not seek validation. Then self-worth becomes your default setting, and those around you either adjust or fall away. You know your triggers quite well; they are old friends by now. You catch yourself long before you are at risk of falling into the same old tar pit. 

Sometimes, your healing ripples outward through your words, your prayers, your offerings.     

I have watched my father go through his own metamorphosis, prompted mostly by terminal illness and the realization of his own mortality. We’ve had many conversations that usually start out with how the weather has been, who is ill, and who died recently. There have been times, though, when we transcended the whole father-daughter relationship to simply be with each other as two souls trying to figure out life. 

I once told him that I never learned how to do marriage very well.   

He paused for a minute and said, “I never did either, honey.” 

Then we laughed! It was one of the most real moments we’ve ever had, both acknowledging that we’ve fucked up and even finding humor in our mutual fucked-up-ness. 

I understand now that I had to go through this whole cycle of healing the Father Wound, because you can’t teach something that you haven’t lived. I didn’t ask for the wound, but the responsibility to heal it was, and always will be, mine. Much of what informs and enlivens my coaching practice is my own journey toward wholeness. It took years for my rage to become compassion, years before I would see my father as the catalyst who set me on my spiritual path, and years before I could have a 360 degree view of it all and feel gratitude.  

Healing the father wound changed how I viewed all men, and maybe that has been the greatest gift in this journey. When I stopped categorizing them as either oppressors or saviors, I began to see into their individual and collective pain. It was just as valid and deep as my own, and that awareness cracked me open. It still does, every single time that a man drops his armor and bares his soul to me. 

My dad has an incredibly sensitive heart—he just had it beaten out of him by a tyrannical, abusive father and an indifferent mother. In another life, he might have been a poet and a dreamer like his only daughter turned out to be. I carry what he wasn’t allowed to carry because of a patriarchal culture that equates sensitivity with weakness. I carry it like a medicine staff, because it is one.  

May we rise above the outdated paradigms. May we heal our parental wounds, for ourselves and the generations to come. May we strive to understand each other, and in that understanding, may we find peace.    

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.    

15 thoughts on “Healing the Father Wound: My Journey from Rage to Reconciliation”

  1. Patricia Andres

    My Dad was loving and attentive until I married and didn’t knuckle under to my husband.

    1. You didn’t fit into the mold of what was expected of women at that time. It’s hard when you realize that a parent’s love is actually very conditional.

  2. I recently worked through a Father wound of my own by acknowledging years of abuse and forcing my mother to face it and acknowledge it as well. It was brutal. I think the whole premise of this post is valid, and I’m glad you and your father were able to reconcile.

    1. Brutal is right. It’s some of the hardest work we’ll ever do, but it’s so necessary for moving forward and developing healthy relationships with others.

  3. So clear. I am so glad you shared that moment with him, and reached a place of being two people trying to figure out life. Healing is that ordinary isn’t it.
    You’ve been given amazing gifts to share with your clients. They are lucky to find you!

  4. Wow, Jen, so awesome. I’m currently working through the Mother Wound…it is not easy, but it is necessary. I just hope I make it out alive. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ah, that is an equally hard one to process and heal. I’m a big fan of Bethany Webster’s work on healing the Mother Wound. I have no doubt that you will make it out alive and kicking. I’m cheering for you!

  5. Thank you! This is an awesome post. I was able to work through an alcoholic father wound many, many years ago and became very close to my father before he died in 2014. We had a wonderful relationship that I still treasure while I miss him. I too broke the cycle and ended up with a wonderful man who shares some of my favorite qualities of my dad.

    1. It does make a difference when they try and meet you halfway. They know they can’t make up for the past, but it’s possible to get to a place where you both can find peace in the present. I don’t know how much time my dad has left. He’s in the last stages of emphysema, so his body is just getting weaker. When he does transition, I know we’ll both be okay with the work we did together in this life. That’s worth everything.

  6. Your post is my inspiration. Thank you so much for sharing and I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. I have the same issues but due to an emotionally absent mother. The lightbulb moment came with the help of my wonderful counsellor about what has been going on but I’ve been anxious about how/if I can get well. You have given me hope ♥

  7. Jen, I find so many similarities in our journeys! I too have a father whom I can describe in the same terms, and the effects I feel from him fathering me. I also know deep in my heart that he has a sensitive and poetic soul, and that he never had a chance to express it in his own time. I’ve bee doing a lot of work on healing my childhood wounds and just very recently I was able to clear out a big burden I’ve been carrying for long. It’s also interesting to note that we can think of our parents in terms of how we can live out what they couldn’t e.g. the daughter who became the writer that her father could never be. It gives us a tremendous feeling of compassion and forgiveness towards them. <3

  8. This is amazing, I have been working in my mother’s wound for quite a bit of years now, but recently after my divorce, I just realized I had a father wound of absence and neglect, my mother was physically abused with me and my dad did nothing all these years. Now I am looking for information regarding how to heal the father wound and how that affects my relationships with men. I have to admit it was eye opening. And my heart in pain is happy to see a light at the end of the tunnel, I have practice healing, and I am on for this. After all nothing can be wrong when you are doing all your best for healing. Thank you so much for this post. Sincerely, Temis.

    1. Healing the wounds with one parent often does lead to healing the wounds with the other. My mother was emotionally abusive, but I was gaslighted into believing that she was the saint and dad was the villain. She passed away in 2015, which led me to explore all the ways she had influenced my choices, my life pattern, and so on. She was the more involved parent and ultimately the most damaging in the long run. My dad passed away in 2018 from lung cancer, and I’m grateful to say that he had a good death. Everything between us was resolved, and all I felt was love when he left this world. I still feel his love. I wish I could have had the same experience with my mom, but she never reached the point where she could acknowledge the truth and work on the issues between us. I have continued to work with a therapist when the mother wounds surface, and it has helped a great deal.

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