A complete stranger sent me an email yesterday. In it she told me the story of how she was disowned by her father. She shared her grief and her pain, as well as her fears of how her father’s rejection might impact her daughter. She wrote to me because she had just read the blog post I wrote in 2014 about being disowned by my dad and felt I was someone who would understand her story.
I get similar emails several times a year from people who in desperation decide to search the internet for answers on dealing with the pain and sorrow of parental rejection. My post “The Day my Dad Disowned Me” is somehow at the top of the page when people enter “disowned by my father” on Google, and as a result over 13000 people have read the post. It still gets 300 hits a month 4 years after it was published.
Last month I received an email from a nurse in Los Angeles, asking me if I could call her about her struggles with her father’s rejection. She said she was looking for guidance and advice, but when I called her it was clear that she was looking more for validation and support. She needed someone to tell her she was okay.
With each message received I ask myself, “Why are people writing me, someone they have never met?” Is it that the post resonates with their own experience or does the fact that I am a doctor causes them to trust my expertise?Whatever the reason, the messages continue to come. Each one reminds me of the importance of fatherhood. Dads have the power to encourage and heal, as well as the power to tear down and destroy. This power does not seem to fade over time, as the messages I receive are from people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many are dealing with the pain of being disowned years earlier.
This is a sobering reality, one every father needs to take seriously throughout their life. My children are now adults but my call to fatherhood has not gone away. It is evolving and changing, and I often struggle to understand what it means to be a dad of grown ups, but there is one thing of which I a certain. Being a dad will always be important. I need to love my kids, be there for them, and encourage them.
As I get older I am adding another task. It is my goal to encourage other men to step up to the plate and to excel at fatherhood. It is one of the main reasons I lead two men’s groups. If we are to solve the fatherhood crisis in our nation it must begin with dads encouraging dads. As so many emails have taught me, the cost of failure is simply too high.