Father Loss Leads to Fatherhood Lost by Gregory Hasek MA/MFT LPC, LMHC
A Reflection on Father’s Day: A Day to Honor or Grieve?
Don Miller (2006) wrote a book called, To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing up Without a Father. In the book he states this, ” I began to wonder if those of us without dads are making mistakes in our lives, we wouldn’t make, if we had a father to guide us.” As a writer he is reflecting back on some of the choices he made in his life that may have been different if only he had grown up with a father in his life. He goes on to say, ” What kinds of ways would a father help a son? Is there practical information that we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey?” I have to wonder if Mr. Miller is also saying to the millions of men who have lost a child due to an abortion decision, that maybe they would have made a different choice. Just maybe…if they had a father in their life that they could have gone to in the moment of a crisis pregnancy and received acceptance, guidance, grace and love. Just maybe…the decision would have been different and the child would be here on this earth today. They may have treated the decision differently with their partner. They may have had the opportunity to show their “true” nature of how a male is wired to provide and protect their partner and their child. The wiring that is so obvious both in the human and animal world, although stating this may not be politically correct, or something along those lines. The new father could have witnessed their child’s first words or steps or later played football in the yard or given driving lessons for the first time. But millions of men this Father’s Day won’t.
The first point I want to make is the title of this article. Father Loss often leads to Fatherhood Lost. We know that approximately one-third of children will grow up today without a biological father in the home (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). Many who do have fathers in the home will often have poor relationships and at times experience some form of abuse. In fact, one study has shown that as many as 29.9% of males will have experienced physical abuse and 16% of males will have experienced sexual abuse as children (Adverse Childhood Experience Study, 1998). I am not a mathematician but the numbers alone speak volumes. How many boys are left who have experienced a healthy bond with their father and have not experienced some significant trauma? What this means to me is there are very few young men who are prepared when their girlfriend comes to them and says, “I am pregnant.” Many have had either no positive attachment with a father and many have also experienced a type of trauma that impacts their ability to make a healthy rational decision at that “crisis point.” You see…Father Loss truly leads to Fatherhood Lost.
My second point is I find it ironic that Father’s Day is supposed to be a time to honor dads. It is not much different than what Mothers Day is supposed to be. But I sense what millions of men across this country feel at a gut level is different. Sure they might receive a Father’s Day card from their children or wife. They might smile and say thank you. They might get a much deserved time off from cutting the grass or taking care of the usual things they see as their “role.” But when it is said to them, HAPPY Father’s Day. Is there happiness deep inside? Perhaps instead, there may be sadness and grief for Father Loss and/or Fatherhood Lost.
Millions of men will wake up this Father’s Day in mourning. But you will never know it. They often keep their pain inside and suffer in silence. They might have that fleeting thought as they watch some sports on television, “They wish they would have had a dad to do those things with them” or “they wish they could have been a dad and did those things with the child they lost.”
In closing, reducing the number of abortions in this country can happen if we find a solution for Father Loss. But what I want to reflect on the most this Father’s Day is, even though this is a day to honor dads, let us not forget what I said about what the millions of men will feel at a gut level this Father’s Day. They will not “tell you,” because that is the way “men are.” Join me in grieving with them, will you?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (1998). Adverse Childhood Experience Study. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/ Miller, D. (2006).
To own a dragon: Reflections on growing up without a father. Carol Stream, IL: Nav Press.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). Living arrangements of children under 18 years. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/