I have not always enjoyed celebrating Father’s Day. For many years of my life, I was stuck in “daddy pain.”

I was hurt. I was disappointed. I did not have a good relationship with my father. As a child and eventually a young man, I blamed my daddy for every wrong I felt I had experienced. So much so, that I was stuck in bitterness and it was negatively impacting every area of my life, including my marriage and relationship with my children.

Eventually though, I came to a point where I was tired from the pain of being stuck in the past. While I did not have a say in how my story began, I realized that I could change the narrative of my life.

Through counseling, I did the hard work. I was challenged to become the man that my dad did not know how to be. Today, I continually work on being the loving husband and father that my family deserves.

This issue of “daddy pain” is not unique. I have seen it surface repeatedly in counseling sessions, when I conduct workshops or trainings, and in everyday conversations.

For example, one of my former clients, named “Lucy,” came to see me every Thursday at 4p.m. She was depressed, yet willing to talk about her pain. At 16 years old, she was angry about her father’s inconsistency in her life. I listened to her heart and appropriately affirmed her as an emerging young woman. At the close of one session, she said these words with all the passion she could muster, “I wish my dad would listen and say the words you say to me.”

You’ve heard part of my story, and a snippet from Lucy’s story. For many of us, our life is tied to a “daddy pain” story where daddy neglected to show up to affirm our strengths, teach us essential life skills and be present when times were hard.

It is a horror story of how many kids grow up without dad present in their life. The National Center for Fathering estimates that 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. And millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. The numbers are staggering and the emotional bleeding seems endless.

But this doesn’t have to be the conclusion to your story. You can overcome daddy pain.

Here’s how…

  1. Empathize with your father. I know this is the last thing you feel like doing. You may be saying, “He doesn’t deserve it!” Here’s what I mean. Your dad may not have known how to be a man or a father. It is possible he was emotionally handicapped – in a wheelchair unable to move toward you and be what you needed him to be. This was my dad’s story and he had the courage to admit this to me. He simply never learned the ways of fathering. And most likely, your father’s behavior is a result of what he experienced.
  1. Be the change you wish to see. For men, become the man and father your dad was not. Be to your kids what you wish your dad was to you. For women, be on the lookout for positive manhood and fathering and validate it. As a parent, have open conversations with your child and allow him/her to express their emotions in a safe and loving environment. Taking these steps plays a role in stopping individuals from passing the pain from one generation to the next.
  1. Demand courageous truth. Take fearless responsibility of your story and the struggles you have encountered. Be the man or woman in the mirror and refuse to continue blaming your father for why your story is not working.
  1. Write a new chapter. Give the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness is giving up your right to hurt others for hurting you. Yes, you have been emotionally injured with daddy pain, but “what’s your intention?” “How long do you plan to stay stuck in that chapter?” Write a letter to your father. It doesn’t matter if you ever knew him or if he’s deceased. Somewhere in the letter say “although you have never asked me, I choose to forgive you.” Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper is beneficial for you. Let forgiveness be the gift you give yourself this Father’s Day.

I’ve personally gone through these steps and have been released from my daddy pain. In fact, my father and I have worked through our differences and have developed a healthy and positive relationship. Today, I also anticipate celebrating Father’s Day.

As I mentioned earlier, you and I didn’t have any say in how our stories began but we can change how it ends. Are you ready to turn the page?

Written by Johnny Parker
As a relationship architect and executive coach, Dr. Johnny Parker has helped hundreds of men and women experience authentic joy and fulfillment by viewing their life as a story. Dr. Parker is an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He has also served as a team life coach for the National Football League and WNBA. He holds a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership.