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How Do I Get Over My Father Wound?

My dad is paralyzed and is slowly dying in a nursing home. I’m his primary caregiver and see him almost every day. But our relationship has been hard and complicated. I don’t like to re-visit that time in my life when as a teenager, I thought I was better off dead. My dad loved me, but he didn’t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

My dad is paralyzed and is slowly dying in a nursing home. I’m his primary caregiver and see him almost every day. But our relationship has been hard and complicated.

I don’t like to re-visit that time in my life when as a teenager, I thought I was better off dead. My dad loved me, but he didn’t understand me and we didn’t talk except when his anger spilled over. 

And that father wound didn’t heal for a long time. I was so happy to get out of our house and start living my life. I didn’t go to counseling or get inner healing, but I felt free to start living. Years later dad reached out to me and that’s when I began to heal.

And years after that, I began to ask the question, “So where did my dad’s father wound come from?” And when I discovered that all his life he’d had to deal with his own daddy issues, it helped me to stop being a victim.

Father wounds. Almost all of us have one. So many fathers have gone AWOL from the job or have botched it up.

How do we get over our father wound? I don’t know. It’s a huge issue and your story is unique. The issue of father wounds underscores many of the big societal problems we’ve got. Our toxic political climate, race relations, and even issues like poor education find their roots in fathers who hurt their kids when they were most vulnerable.

I thought I’d open-source this question asking you to help answer it by sharing how you began to heal.

All I can tell you is that if you had a father who didn’t hurt you in some deep, scarring way, you are in the fortunate minority. Most of us have a story. And telling that story is the first step in beginning to heal.

So, what’s your story? And where are you in the healing process? Not only does telling our story kickstart the healing process, it shows others that they’re not alone and encourages them to tell their own story.

Comments (10)

  • My Dad left the house when I was about 10-11. Sometime after that, he married his secretary. I did not talk to him for a long time. When I was (16), my Mom, her new husband, Yolanda (14) and Carlos (11), moved to Indio, California near Palm Springs. I was so glad to leave Puerto Rico. My healing with my Dad started when I was at a Promise Keepers in Los Angels, at the Coliseum. I part of the team of translators that translated up in the media boths. I heard Tony Even and other talk about forgiving your father. Soon after that night I called my father and told him that I forgive him and that I HONOR him. I have had many talks with him since and the healing has continued. PTL.

  • We talked until I was 14ish. He coached every team I played on. We were together, successful, nationally, worldly, superficially. He never hugged me that I can remember. I was expected to work for him in his “success” and I fact I did for 4 years out of college. Most of my friends had dreams and aspirations, not me. Not until the day I left the family business, moved 3 hours away and after 6 months met Christ. Soon a letter came from my dad asking if I would come back and that things would never be the same without me there. We are much alike. But, not that I set out to do it, it it was my time to prove I didn’t need him and more so, it was my time to hurt him back. He physically beat me but the mental was much worse. Fast forward 8 years of not speaking and me entering seminary in 2004. After year one I received sound advise from the dean and my good 75 year old friend, my “father” you could say. He said “son, I’ve listened to you for over a year. If you plan to succeed in your ministry, you must do three things. One, quit smoking. Two, go ask your dad for forgiveness. Three, find a good woman. I cannot help you with the first two but certainly will try with number three.

    I stopped smoking and went to my dad’s office the next day. Sitting there as I had years before so often in trouble, I could barely say: “I know my words mean nothing to you but I am deeply sorry for all of the hurt.” I cried and he simply said that the price of our friendship had gone way up. I said fair enough and when I reached the door he asked me to stop. He said to me, “son, I am sorry for all of the things I have done too.” That was the beginning of healing. Today 15 years later after 5 years of shaking hands and learning to be in the same room again, my dad and I are very close. We are completely different in our political views and much more. He believes in God he told me one day on a trip together because of what he saw God do in my life. The healing began way before I walked into his office. He is 76 and still working. I love him. He is my father and tells me he loves me, as hard as it is for those words to come out. He knows I am going to be ok. We are still learning to hug but it is not as awkward. I’m so grateful for my “father” who advised me to do what I thought was a lost cause and ask for forgiveness, no matter how bitter I was at my real father. And so, I have my father God have me and I have no issues with the love of my Father in heaven anymore. He is not a mean and controlling Dad. He is my friend and Father.

    • This is so good, Spencer. Such an encouragement. My Dad is almost 86 and we are still working through levels of awkwardness. Understanding that he was hurt somewhere along the way and responding out of that hurt helped me with my empathy problem.

  • My dad was and is a closet alcoholic. When I was a child, the only time he engaged emotionally was in rage, otherwise he was checked out. He wanted to go to work, bring his check home to my mother, sit in front of the TV and drink beer. If we needed or (God forbid) wanted more of him, he would fly into a rage and bully us into submission.

    In terms of how to heal, I’d say for me the best thing I’ve learned to do is GRIEVE what I lost. I let myself be honest with just how deeply it wounded me, without being worried that I overstated it or I wasn’t being fair to my dad. I acknowledged I experienced everything through a child’s mind and eye and that’s where the healing begins. A child is not able to rationalize through healing. They just need to stomp their feet, pout, and cry it out. I gave myself permission to do that.

    I let myself go “there”, but I refused to let myself stay there. I purposely and diligently walked through the steps of grief. Another important aspect to healing is to give yourself permission to grieve as long as it takes to get through it. It took years for me, but I knew if I missed or rushed it, I would not experience fulness of healing. I was fortunate because my dad was willing to walk through with me.

    There’s been so much healing, redemption, and forgiveness. Praise God my dad and I have a good relationship now! However – even at 51 – I still find it difficult to need or want anything of my Heavenly Father. I fight it nearly every day. I think there is a significant correlation.

    Yet, I can allow my Heavenly Father to help heal that in me and it’s amazing. I don’t look to my earthly father for what he can’t give me. I doubt I would have been able to receive healing from God unless I went through the grieving and forgiveness process with my earthly father.

    Important topic Seth – that’s for facilitating discussion!

    • Praise the Lord for healing and for living out loud. We have more in common with those around us than we realize.

  • Having kids of my own turn into adults and start pointing out the stuff in my blind spots that I dropped the ball on gave me a new perspective on Dads. It made me realize that they(or we) are all just guys trying to do the best they can with the life around them; making mistakes and being human.
    My biggest “healing” moment has probably in coming to a place where I let My Dad off the hook on living up to some ambiguous picture of what a Father should or should have been. That letting him off the hook ness came from realizing that as good of a job as I thought I did I still screwed it up, but on a deeper level realizing that there is only one Good Father- and I am His son

  • I grew up wondering why my father hated me. The middle child of five, and youngest son, it seemed his contempt and disappointment centered on me more than the others. Maybe because I was the ‘sensitive’ one…or some other reason I couldn’t fathom. I hid my crushed spirit behind a well-constructed emotional facade. For years I lived a life of wanting his approval and hating that I wanted it. Then two things happened: First, at 30 I was introduced to Jesus and asked Him to become my Lord and Savior. I met a Father who knew how easily I can be crushed in spirit. This true Father has always dealt SO GENTLY with me for the past 30 years. He became and still is truly ABBA to me.
    Second, the wife He gave me encouraged me to seek counseling for my issues. I spent many sessions with a psychologist who helped me dig into my past and understand why I struggled the way I did. I was able to recognize that the horrible upbringing my dad endured left him unable to be a nurturer to himself or others. As an adult, I was able to understand that it wasn’t my dad’s fault. He didn’t know how. [SIDE NOTE: Christian-based psychological counseling by a trained professional is a good thing. Don’t let anyone tell you different.]
    Dad died several years ago. I can’t say I miss him. The hurt long ago turned into regret for what could have been in our relationship. I think I’ve done better with my children…but I have a very personal Father who has nurtured me all the way.

  • Thanks for sharing, Steve. I guess it’s always amazing to me when anyone has a solid father relationship. So many things get in the way. Sounds like you’ve done great in processing and much to share with others.

  • Yes – that’s good, AJ. We all do better when we get to the place where we can let our dads off the hook for not being everything we needed.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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