What you need to know:
- These women write letters heavily blotted with the ink of longing, disappointment, strength and resilience, are their way of releasing pent-up emotions, and expressing the pain that remains deeply etched in their souls.
- They talk about the confusion, silent tears, lack of confidence and numerous failed attempts to fill the gap left by the people who were supposed to be their heroes, role models and protectors.
The pain of being abandoned by a father can only be understood by those who have grown up without a dad.
Daughters are particularly affected by the absence of a father figure at home, and often they find themselves turning to unhealthy habits in an attempt to fill the void.
This week, three women open up to their absentee fathers through candid letters they may never send. Their sentiments, heavily blotted with the ink of longing, disappointment, strength and resilience, are their way of releasing pent-up emotions, and expressing the pain that remains deeply etched in their souls.
They talk about the confusion, silent tears, lack of confidence and numerous failed attempts to fill the gap left by the people who were supposed to be their heroes, role models and protectors.
These are not just letters, they are the unspoken narratives of girls who grew into womanhood without a strong male figure.
Each word is a step forward in their journey of healing. The letters are also a sign of resilience from the daughters who carry a pain very few can understand.
Woman 1: ‘Dad, why do you continue digging the hole we are in?’
I wish I knew what goes through your mind when you see my siblings and I. What do you feel about us? Do you feel sad about what you have done? Do you even see us in the first place? What do you want? Why are you so good to people out there but indifferent to us? At what point will you realise what you have and are about to lose? Do you know you live in your own world? You drink excessively, cause chaos, and go on with life like nothing happened.
I remember one night in your drunken stupor, you were fighting my mother. I intervened and you hit me so badly. At that moment, you came back to your senses, and really apologised saying, ‘It was not your fight.’ But dad, you made it my fight since I was protecting mum.
We have all made you proud despite the chaos you bring. You have always bragged about my performance but contribute nothing, be it recommending jobs, or even paying fees. Dad, you do nothing yet take the glory.
I’m a psychologist and I have dealt with alcoholics. I don’t think you can blame your case on liquor because even when you are sober, I feel some darkness in you.
Mum used to tell me that we were very close when I was a baby. You would change my diapers and even read books to me. That was until I joined high school, and you suddenly became cold and authoritative. You stopped attending school meetups, caring about me…what made you change your attitude towards me, dad?
Do you know to date I talk in my sleep because of what you have made us go through? I have gone through a series of therapy sessions, but that has not gone away.
We do not ask you for anything. Mum provides but you do make our lives difficult. Drink but do not project your anger on us. Do you know how disturbed I was by the major fallout last year that resulted in us not being in talking terms up to now?
It is normal to lose a job but how you chided me when I lost mine really got to me. You called me names and almost hit me but neighbours intervened. I don’t know whether we will ever talk again because I’m scared of you.
I wonder how I will introduce my future partner to you. At some point I will take someone home. I don’t tell my friends about you in detail. I have been unable to make genuine connections because I feel people feign their true identities. Whenever I feel a connection with someone I find myself withdrawing.
Dad, why do you continue digging the hole we are in? I do not think there is much about my life I want you to know. Yes, you will earn your bragging rights but I do not want my life to be something someone talks about because it makes them look or feel good.
When I do something significant in my life, I want you to celebrate it instead of looking around wondering, “Who can I brag about this to?” Dad, do we mean anything to you or we are just trophies?
I wish you told us, ‘You guys, I don’t love you but you know what, you make me look good. That is all you are in my life for.’ It would be good to know where we stand so that we do not live the rest of our lives wondering what we did or did not do.
Signed by your daughter, SM (mid-20s)
Woman 2: ‘When I ran to you, you confidently told me that I was mistaking you for someone else.’
I thought I was okay doing life without you because anyway, you were never there. But that is like a bad dream I can’t seem to wake up from. Your presence still repulses me. When I was nine, you beat me up and told me never to call you ‘father.’ You did not want to see me around you ever since I was young. When mum would ask for any money for my upkeep, you’d start fights and quarrels.
Dad, allow me to jog your mind a little bit. Do you remember passing me on the road? When I ran to you, you confidently told me that I was mistaking you for someone else. That day mum left for about two weeks, what made your brother force me to eat from the floor after some of the food spilled while I was eating?
Luckily, mum left you. But she was not stable. We would hop from one house to another. I was so destabilised growing up. I suffered a lot with my identity. Yes, I have a step-dad but there is some distance between us. I wish you read my diary when I was in high school. Maybe you would have acted accordingly.
I wanted to tell you how I was struggling with maths, and how I was at least trying with chemistry. I would have told you about the boy I met and did not know what to do. Perhaps my relationship with mum would have been better if you were around. I blamed her a lot. I kept wondering how things would have been if we’d have been living with you.
Mum found the diary, by the way, and she gave me this talk about you, which I felt was long overdue. Looking back, it was more of an opportunity for her to vent than me knowing you. You stole so much from me, including stability and confidence. Now as an adult, I am feeling the impact.
If you were present, maybe I would not have been duped by this guy who told me he loved and cared for me only to dump me while I was pregnant. I wouldn’t have given birth at age 21 or gotten into a series of toxic relationships. Dad, you should have showed me what it means to be properly loved by a man.
In 2016 when I met you, do you remember? I did not even know what to say or do with you. I stretched my hand and you hugged me. Deep down, I felt that was the embrace I had been looking for all my life. I told you that I had a child and although the words did not come out of your mouth, the look of ‘you’ve given birth early just like your mum,’ was all I could read.
When it was time for me to leave, you spoke earnestly about us reuniting and you supporting me in college, which gave me hope. This continued until I asked you to drop me off somewhere not too close to home, so that mum wouldn’t get angry. Your response took me aback. It was so easy for you to blame mum yet you were the one who left. All the excitement I had faded.
You know, we tried maintaining a relationship but it proved impossible. It became mentally taxing because both of you would heap your frustrations on me. So I stopped trying only to show up again in 2018 after you informed me about my step-mother’s sickness and her subsequent death.
From then I wondered whether or not I should maintain contact. I wanted a relationship with you. I didn’t want you to use me as a dumping ground of your frustrations over what my mum did or did not do.’
Signed by your daughter, ARS (30)
Woman 3: ‘It hurt me most when I would fall sick and be hospitalised and you never came to visit.’
To my father,
Dad, remember the biscuits you would buy us…those sprinkled with sugar on the top. They are still my favourite, because they bring back happy childhood memories.
After your separation with mum in 2006, I used to cry a lot and ask for you, but you only showed up a year later. I was excited to see you but you left again for another year. Sometimes you never showed up for two years.
You were never present for me. Even calling me and my four siblings happened about once in three months. This messed me up emotionally.
Mum really struggled to provide and meet our non-financial needs. Fortunately, she had just been employed by the government. When I was 10 and mum opened up about what led to your separation, I still had hope of having you in my life, but you were unavailable.
It hurt me most when I would fall sick and be hospitalised and you never came to visit. The separation led to rejection from our relatives. They did not want to be associated with us. We felt so alone!
Some of my friends in school told me they came from broken homes, a path I understood fully but their dads still provided for them. I envied those with present father figures.
To date, I envy any woman who is a daddy’s girl. They always seemed to have more confidence than I and my sisters. Your absence left me struggling with confidence until now. I also struggle with interacting with men. I remember googling a lot of the questions I had on relationships when I started having boyfriends after high-school.
I didn’t know how to interact with men and even now, I struggle to define what I want in my ideal partner. I mistakenly believed that sexual relationships were a way to earn love from a man, but this never healed the emotional void left by your absence.
During my college years, I often turned to sexual relationships in an attempt to fill the emptiness, but this only made things worse. It took time for me to realise that I was misusing sex.
I also struggle to ask the guys I date for money, because I have not seen my dad provide. My mum has always been self-reliant.
Dad, you dented my view of marriage so much that I don’t think I ever want to get married. What if my marriage doesn’t work like mum’s? These are some of the questions that run through my mind.
Signed by your daughter, LD (23)