Homes without a dad's everyday presence have become the norm for many families in America today. Sadly, the wounds resulting from a fatherless upbringing follow children well into adulthood, affecting daughters in unique ways. H. Norman Wright, an experienced family counselor and certified trauma specialist, has worked with countless women over the years, helping them heal from their losses and embrace hope in the Heavenly Father. He recently sat down with Crosswalk to discuss the new release of his book Healing for the Father Wound (Bethany House, 2008). Here’s a glimpse into our conversation:

Crosswalk:  You’ve counseled a lot of women with what you call “father-shaped holes.” Just what is this “father-shaped hole” and how do you see it affect women?   

H. Norman Wright:  The most important male relationship [women] have is with their fathers because it is the first male relationship, and it sets her up in terms of what to expect from men in her life. The validation of a father’s love and acceptance is critical so that she is able to really gain an acceptance of herself and have a positive image of what a man is like.  If she doesn’t have that, then it is like going through life with that hole or that vacuum. Women try many different ways to get that filled to validate themselves, unfortunately. 

It [also] really affects their perception of God, especially when you say, “God is our heavenly Father.”  Their image of a father is, “Well, that’s not really very good, so I’m not sure I want that.” 

CW:  You write about different types of father-shaped holes.  You talk in detail about daughters of divorce. What are special challenges they face?   

HNW:  One is the “little adult” -- where a young girl has to mature so much faster, sometimes even take on adult roles when she shouldn’t have to. [Another] problem ... because divorce rocks her whole world … she tries to control every aspect of her life. Of course, none of us are ever in control, so it’s sort of an endless struggle.   

Fear of conflict is another problem. “I saw this [conflict] in my parents, and they were fighting all the time, so I am just going to avoid it. I’m going to let things go.”  That can get a person into difficulty because then they don’t speak up for things they need to speak up to. They just give in constantly and become overly submissive, defer to other people. 

A need to take sides and look for blame is another problem because we all want to know who’s responsible. A girl coming out of a divorced home is sometimes torn, because she loves her dad, and she loves her mom, and [gets] caught in the middle.   

What can really impact a daughter is remarriage. Her position in the family changes.  She might have been the firstborn; she had her own room, maybe even her own room at dad’s house and her own room at mom’s. Now she’s the third born, and she has a couple older siblings that she never wanted, and she’s sharing a room, so she feels like a displaced person. That can sour her attitude towards marriage.   

CW:  You write about two other types of fatherless daughters.  There’s the case of a father’s death, which usually cannot be helped, and then there is what you talk about as “ambiguous loss.”  Could you please touch on those two types?