Grieving & Celebrating Father’s Day

Jun 17th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Incest

by Bethany, Christina Enevoldsen, Linda Pittman and Jennifer Stuck

Bethany: Father’s Day feels so empty to me–like one of those holidays like Flag Day or Secretary’s Day. Why should I pay attention to those? I don’t have a flag, a secretary or a father. My dad is in prison for sexually abusing me for most of my childhood.

Father’s Day for me has always been about going through the motions. I followed along even though I knew it wasn’t fair. I can’t remember the last time I celebrated a Father’s Day with my dad. After I moved to California, I made the obligatory phone call to him for the minimum fifteen minutes. But it was work to me. None of it came from my heart.

Why should I honor a man who doesn’t deserve honor? He contributed a seed, but after that everything he for me was destructive.

I remember writing Father’s Day cards that really gushed about what a great dad I had, but it was always what I thought I “should” have felt about him. I felt guilty for not being more sincere.  I thought something was wrong with me for not feeling closer or more loving.  I tried to work myself up to appreciation and admiration but writing those cards always felt hollow, as though I was trying to put something there that never was. 

Christina: I remember writing Father’s Day cards that really gushed about what a great dad I had, but it was always what I thought I “should” have felt about him. I felt guilty for not being more sincere. I thought something was wrong with me for not feeling closer or more loving. I tried to work myself up to appreciation and admiration but writing those cards always felt hollow, as though I was trying to put something there that never was.

Linda: My father has been dead since 1992. It has been thirty-three years since I last saw him. The last time I saw him he didn’t act as if he had missed me in my fifteen year absence. In fact, it was like I never existed. I never had a problem with Father’s Day because I don’t and haven’t ever missed my father. I may have missed the idea of a father who is loving and caring but I can’t wrap my head around that concept, much. My father sexually abused me from the ages of three to twelve years and maybe even earlier because my memories are pretty fractured.

When people talk about their fathers wistfully, I remember the fear, the hiding and avoiding the dread and pain and shame and revulsion. When others say they miss their dads, I can’t relate to that idea, in fact I never missed mine when I left my home at twelve….just wondered if he ever even thought about me.

Jennifer: Linda, I used to always find ways to judge and criticize people who were close with their fathers. As if it was easier for me to convince myself that having a good father in my life wasn’t even something I wanted. The truth is I have no idea what it would be like to have a healthy father figure and the image of a father brings to mind a crazy drug fiend, so of course I wouldn’t want one of those around. If my father had been different, or if I could even imagine what it would be like to have a healthy father I might feel differently. Although, I have had a few good men in my life and am very appreciative of them.

Linda: I saw some really sweet things written about dads the other day and it really affected me. I have been okay for years with not having a dad who loved me and I accepted that mine was an abuser. I got to thinking how nice it would be to feel what this describes …just once:

“Being loved by a daddy is like having the sun kiss your nose while you’re eating sweet strawberries, running through sprinklers. You don’t need it, but it can change your world.” Bonnie Gray

Bethany: When my mom married Don six years ago, I got a new dad – or a step-dad rather. Don and I worked together in the same church office and when news spread that he was marrying my mom, a coworker thought it would be funny to put together a list of “dad” related names I could call Don. It was meant as a joke, but the idea of calling Don my dad was uncomfortable to me. “Dad” was a dirty word in my book.

Don isn’t like the original dad. He is kind, respectful and truly cares about me. I feel safe with him. There isn’t the same threat of betrayal that had with my first father.

When I broke off my relationship with my dad, Don was there for me, fully supportive of my emotional health. Even though he took on the role of a traditional father, I didn’t like calling him dad. I didn’t want to call him something gross or disrespectful or invite him into the role of abuser, so I skirted my way around the term.

Christina: I can relate to that. I don’t want another father figure in my life. That feels threatening. It really hurts that my dad’s lifestyle so colored my view of that role that I don’t even think of it as a good thing to have. Yes, I honor men who are good fathers and I believe that they exist, but as far as it relates to me, it’s a concept like a fairytale or some scientific formula that I can’t comprehend. Either way, it doesn’t make sense.

Even before getting my memories back, I thought the people who idolized their dads were so foreign—like from another planet.

Linda: Yeah Christina, I had trouble identifying with the ones who idolized their dads too. My neighbor (playmate) lost her dad when she was really young to a brain aneurism and I could not understand why she was so upset that she couldn’t even talk about it. I couldn’t fathom what a good relationship with a dad was.

Jennifer: Christina, that’s exactly how I felt. I either couldn’t relate to them, or wondered what they were hiding.

Christina: I wondered what they were hiding too or when they were going to remember what REALLY happened. While they were in disbelief over the things my father did to me, I was in disbelief that their father was so great.

Bethany: I grew up with friends who had great relationships with their fathers. They still talk about their fathers like they are their heroes and dream of marrying a man just like him. They run up to their fathers and give him great big bear hugs that seemed to last forever. And I think to myself, “Woah! Where are your boundaries?” The physical affection and admiration bothers me.

I don’t have too much of a problem hugging men, but I do have a problem hugging someone who is in a father role. For me I saw the physical affection between fathers and daughters as an all or nothing thing. Either he didn’t touch you at all or he hugged, molested, and raped. It was hard to comprehend a father who would just hug his daughter because he loved her.

Christina: I feel that same discomfort when I see father/daughter affection. It’s not only that I suspect there’s more to it, but just seeing genuine love from a father feels uncomfortable. It doesn’t matter if it’s with their son or daughter.

I know great men who are excellent fathers. My husband is one of them. So I know they exist and I applaud them. I can’t think of anything in life more important than being a good parent to the children you have.

I’ve been cleaning some things out lately and found a silver chafing dish that my parents passed on to me at least ten years ago. It was a gift commemorating a party to honor my dad. The lid is engraved with his name, the date and “In Appreciation.” I was too young to attend and I don’t know the occasion, but I’ve always imagined a large party at a country club where lots of “important” people gathered to pat my father on the back.

The thought of people gathering to celebrate my dad used to bother me. I resented him being treated as though he was a good person. I hated that the person who used to sneak into my room at night was so well-loved and admired. I wished that I could scream the truth about him or show a home-movie about the secret things he used to do to me.

I don’t feel anything right now. I’ve already accepted that he will be honored and supported by some and they will never believe that he sexually abused me during my childhood or if they believe it, they excuse it as something that happened too long ago to consider it important. They can feel and think about him the way they choose and I will do the same. I don’t have to honor him anymore or have a relationship with him.

I’m content working through my process. I don’t know what other feelings may come up toward him or because of him, but I’m done with him.

I still am someone’s daughter, I exist, and no amount of denial will make me disappear. I am here until the last breath and here enjoying life in spite of the missing parts. I am enjoying watching the good fathers in my family and grateful that their children never have to experience what I went through. They get to enjoy hugs and play with their dads and experience their dad’s protection. It is okay to watch from the sidelines and I am content to do so now.

Linda: My dad gave me life and then he systematically took it away until I was left with no identity. I struggled through the years like a plane on autopilot with no one at the controls until the fuel ran out. I had to rebuild myself from my childhood onward through my 20’s and 30’s. The childhood I had to face was gruesome and cruel. The shattered remains of a little child were scattered everywhere showing up throughout my life and relationships.

I am still that little girl inside, the one who believed in fairytales and princes and make believe. The little girl that wanted to be a ballerina, and loved music. Sometimes that was all I had to hang on to because my reality was too horrific to look at.

I’ve had to look at that reality many times over the course of many years on my healing journey. If I told you I don’t feel cheated, I would be lying. But I’ve accepted the reality of what my childhood was like and my dysfunctional parents and family.
I have survived and grown without what many people will celebrate this Father’s Day.

I still am someone’s daughter, I exist, and no amount of denial will make me disappear. I am here until the last breath and here enjoying life in spite of the missing parts. I am enjoying watching the good fathers in my family and grateful that their children never have to experience what I went through. They get to enjoy hugs and play with their dads and experience their dad’s protection. It is okay to watch from the sidelines and I am content to do so now.

Related Posts:
My Parents are Dead (To Me)
Unfriending My Abuser
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 1
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 2
What If My Family Rejects Me? Part 3
The Myth of Unconditional Love


Bethany, along with her mother, Christina Enevoldsen, is the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Besides helping abuse survivors see the beauty within themselves, she enhances the beauty of others as a professional make-up artist and has worked in television, film and print. She lives in Los Angeles.


Christina Enevoldsen

I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. My passion is exploring new ways to express my empowered new life. I’ve recently discovered the joy of waterslides, the delightful scented lotion from Bath & Body Works, “Dark Kiss” and hosting princess tea parties for my granddaughters. My husband and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona and share three children and six grandchildren.


Having experienced healing from sexual, physical and verbal abuse, Linda Pittman has found joy in encouraging others in their healing journey and tells people that it’s never too late to start. She’s been married to her husband for twenty-one years and has four adult children.


Jennifer Stuck is whole heartedly pursuing physical and emotional health and is determined to heal the wounds of her childhood sexual abuse. She loves to write, especially poetry. She has an open, accepting personality, and is always ready to crack a joke. She is currently studying for a career in Physical Therapy. When she isn’t in school Jennifer is at home spending time with her two beautiful daughters.

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  1. I have never in my entire life given my father a card for Father’s Day. I never will. He is presently 84 years of age. While I faked many things in my life, feelings for him has never been one of them!

  2. Ronnie,
    That’s great that you’ve never been confused about that. I created a fantasy family. I thought my parents were wonderful and I didn’t see much of anything wrong about them until a few years ago. Before I remembered my abuse, I always took the blame for my “cold-heartedness”. More shame on top of the other shame and none of it belonged to me. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thank you for your service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
    I sincerely appreciate the wonderful work that you are doing. As a person who has been doing counseling for over thirty years and who spends over fifty hours a week now working with other brothers and sisters in Christ on sensitive life issues, I am always thrilled to see godly people reach out and help those who have been so intensely injured. The greatest thing that a person can achieve is to take an horrific incident in one’s life and use it to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I a very sorry for the events in you lives that have led you to this area of service but I praise God for how you have chosen to use those events to rescue others and for the incredible work that you are doing to heal the broken hearts and souls of other individuals with whom you come in contact. You are truly an inspiration to others who are looking for how to effectlively serve. May God bless you in every act of obedience to Him. Your servant in Christ, David Weeks

  4. Hi Ladies,
    In general I am not a conventional person and do not celebrate holidays in a conventional ways if at all. For example even though I am a devote Christian I do not even consider it to be a Christian holiday for many reasons so my Christmases besides being a good day to volunteer at homeless shelters have consistent at least the past 20 years of getting Indian food in NYC because it is mainly the Chinese, Korean and Indian restaurants that are open and do not require reservations. My husband is Chinese and I get better at home and my favorite Korean restaurant closed so we usually have Indian. Anyway I said all of that to say that holidays to me are mostly meaningless and man made. However we got married on July 4th and we love fire works so I like July 4th but only because I like fire works. My dad was okay actually I did not have any major issues with him such as hm abusing me. I spent time with him growing up studying martial arts. He even protected me from one of my abusers by having his legs broken. But when it came to my brother who I had to live with he said he believed me but not to tell my mom because she would make his life miserable. So I lost respect for him and see him as weak. I was alwasy pretty independent emotionally and went to a performing arts high school and I am still friends with my high school friends even though I graduated 30 years ago. All of our graduates have a similar story. To make a long story short holidays mean next to nothing to me in general.
    But in my early twenties God sent me a spiritual father and it was not until then that I knew how a love for a father should feel. He was the first person to love me unconditional or the way a parent would. Not just me but many others as well.
    This is the first fathers day that is hard for me because he just died in April and there is some mystery surrounding his death. He is a public personality and the autopsy is some how hidden and there are rumors that he committed suicide and even blogs and his family and organization are remaining quiet about it. He had cancer and nobody knew and he was suffering so much emotionally as well and under great distress due to persecution and jealousy from other ministers. So it all looks bad and it is painful because he was the best person I ever knew! So I thought the blog was about grief like death grief. Though my relationship with my own dad was not horrible it was not great either and I did not experience the kind of love you feel for a parent until my pastor when I was in my twenties. He was 79 when he died a month before his 80th birthday. I am just venting because I always called him dad. I have only really trusted a few people in my life and he was one of the first. But I am grateful for the 20 plus years that he was in my life!

  5. ps-“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” — Sigmund Freud

  6. Thank you for writing this for Father’s Day. I too am an incest survivor. This year I struggled with Mother’s Day back in May and all week long I have been struggling with feelings. It took me until yesterday to realize that it was probably because of Father’s Day that these feelings are coming out. Most years, neither holiday bothers me that much. Maybe because I decided that it was time to do some inner child work to see if I had any unhealed wounds left. I guess I am getting my answer to that question. Sometime on Sunday, I will probably sit down at the computer and write my own blog articles about Father’s Day.

  7. Patricia,
    It’s interesting that we can go years without something bothering us and then suddenly, it’s a trigger. I experienced the same thing on this past Mother’s Day. I think I’m finally learning not to say “I’m over that”. lol. I look forward to reading your blog on this topic. Don’t forget to come back and post the link.

  8. Christina, here is the link to my blog article “Today Is Father’s Day.”

    I am all over the place with feelings right now since I tried to write it all down in my blog post. I hope that you can make sense of my thoughts. I forgot to add a Trigger Warning. Not sure that it needs one but it might. I was also going to put a link to here and to Emerging From Broken but got so upset that I forgot to.

  9. I used to be like Linda, unable to relate to the concept of a loving father so I did not find Father’s Day painful. Now I have a kind, caring male therapist. He hopes to be a father soon. I can clearly imagine the kind of sweet love he will give his children, and now my heart does break for what I missed. I get it. I know what I didn’t get, and it’s a beautiful thing.

  10. I'[m in a predicament where I send father’s day cards and call my abusive dad just to tone down on his nagging. He and my mom are the type to call, call and call until they get what they want. They will scream (I hate being screamed at as an abusiver survivor), they will put me down, etc. I do these things to avoid their nasty comments and me feeling more emotionally distressed.

    My father’s day cards are simple. I don’t write I love you and skip the cards that boast about what a great dad he is. I don’t give gifts. Just cards and a phone call. My dad knows that I sound flat on the phone. He acted entitled as if he deserved it.

  11. Cassandra, i am sorry that you missed out on a beautiful thing too, I just keep surrounding myself with better and better people and along with my enjoyment, I get to live vicariously through other, too. I am ever grateful to have a beautiful Son -In -Law who is the best Dad a girl could ask for.Iam glad you have a great therapist who models a good father to you.

  12. I’m so confused, still, about my childhood and my parents, but the thing I know right now in my life is that I’m not ‘interesting enough’ for my Dad to care about me and his only grandson. He ‘thinks’ he cares because he can say it but it never shows in words or actions, and it really never has. After months of no communication, because of my healing and speaking out and asking hard questions, I got a yahoo message from him on Sunday. We chatted for about 10 minutes and then he send a request to ‘re friend’ me on Facebook. He talked about work, golf and himself. As I saw how good my husband is as a Dad, and how much my father-in-law cares for his family, me included, I was saddened by their (my parents) poor choices. I am NOT, however, letting them take any joy from us any more. They are not a part of our lives and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.

    I detest most greeting cards – they are either begging for love, saying sorry for love or sound so strange that they are like miniature fiction pieces from a foreign planet.

    Thanks for your frank discussions and sharing everyone, you bless me in on my healing journey by sharing your own.

    Bright blessings, Shanyn the Scarred Seeker

  13. I totally get this. For me, though, I have always been curious about my dad. He sexually abused me when I was 3 and probably younger, but I didn’t remember it until it started coming up after I met him for the first time back in October of 2010. Meeting him was 2 days shy of being 19 years since he was arrested and had custody and contact taken away. But, growing up, I knew something bad had happened, but I still wanted a dad. Maybe not him, but a dad none the less. I’ve had great men in my life who have served as father figures, but they can’t fill that void that is there; not quite, anyway. Father’s day for me has always been a sad day. Two summers ago, I was staying with a family on my school’s campus and cried the entire Father’s day. They had a fully functioning family and it was hard to see what they had and I had missed out on. Father’s day just sucks.

  14. Hi Pinky.I know how hard it can be when your parents are gone, abusers or not. It is like the final closing of a lifetime of hoping for their real love and approval. It means finally accepting that is all there is and nothing more. I am so glad that you were able to have a good father figure in your life. You are a good and strong woman and you have conquered some tough stuff! I am also sorry for your loss, Pinky. Our losses run deep and are piled up a mile-high but someday I hope to re-coup them all in eternity.

  15. Hi Lurker, it sure is hard to leave that child role with our parents, even as an adult. I fell into to that child role every time I visited, for many years. Conventional religion says “we should honor our fathers and mothers” but what does that really mean? One definittion says to hold in high respect and revere. If I don’t feel this way inside am I being a hypocrite by pretending to honor my parents? For me the answer would be yes but each has to answer that question for themselves. I would rather be truthful and say they never showed me love and I do not feel love for them than to pretend something. I learned that as an adult I do not have to do something I do not want to or feel like doing unless it means following the law. If my parent who forced me to endure abuse wants to force me to honor them, I have to say “no, you don’t deserve my honor.” I am no longer the little girl that can be punished for not doing as I am told. They can’t make me do anything I don’t want to anymore. Abusers are not entitled to anything, except the punishment they deserve. I hope you find a way to live what you feel inside without feeling guilty, anymore. :)

  16. Shanyn, it is so horrible that you have been invalidated and abused by your Dad.When it has been and continues to be all about them…what is the use? Enjoy your family and adopt your Father-in Law and others to honor. People who are worthy of the honor you want to give. :)

  17. Mindy, I am so glad that this helps you. Honor the good men in your life and enjoy their caring. It is hard to accept the fathers we had but as time goes on we find that we are ok, without them. The sadness and loss are real and come back from time to time but the pain lessens as we get healthier and stronger. ((HUGS))

  18. @Linda, I accepted early on that my family was not the ideal. I called them the Adams family. But I did have a very supportive high school where I made many life long friends and the teachers were like parents even to the point of me moving in with one of them. She passed away from cancer 2 years ago. So the loss of my parents (they are still alive but I cut contact) was not as traumatic. I stopped expecting approval or anything when I was a kid because I got it else where and was happy with that. I intuitively knew they were the ones with the problem.
    What was traumatic is that they took a huge pay off from a wealthy famous attorney to slander me in he international news and now after having been some what poor are living in a resort community after having took the pay off. Never the less holidays especially mothers day and fathers day never meant anything to me. It was never happy or painful just blank. I never expected anything out of it. Until now that my pastor died.
    That love was what I suspect I would have felt for my parents had they been loving like him. So that loss hits hard. I never felt sad on these made up holidays because they meant nothing to me. In general I think people get depressed on holidays due to made up expectations. I used to be a crisis counselor on a volunteer basis and holidays in general were hard on people but itt had more to do with their perspective on holidays. The rest of the year they are fine then Christmas hits and they get depressed. I am just blessed I have had supportive people in my life!
    Thanks for your condolences on my loss. Yes it runs deep. I also lost almost everyone close to me expect my husband in the past 2 years.

  19. Luker that sounds so much like my dad and his side of the family. I used to go to the obligatory visits for mothers and fathers days but have never been comfortable seeing them. This last year when I decided to cut off contact it didn’t go over very smoothly. He called and called relentlessly, talked bad about me to my kids when they answered the phone, and then left messages saying he loved me and didn’t know why I was doing this. It was just more proof of the type of person he is and why I’m so much better off without him. He has, for the most part, given up now. I had to be firm.

  20. Shanyn good for you! You don’t have to waste another second striving for his love. One of the most empowering things I have learned in my healing is that I will never get the love I wanted from abusive people, not because of any fault of my own, but because they are incapable of showing real, healthy love.

    PS – I agree about the cards. They’re all so cheesy. I usually get funny ones if I buy them at all.

  21. Mindy, I feel the same way. I’ve had some amazing men in my life, but it’s not quite the same as a father. It would be nice to know how it feels to have a father that took me fishing and taught me how to ride a bike. But instead I have a father that pawned my first bike and locked me in the car while we went “camping”. It’s hard not to have a good dad, but it was way harder to try to force a relationship with a father who was never good to me.

  22. Excellent article. I feel such a kinship with the contributers though it saddens me that others have such sorrow on this day. Really hard day. I find it so hard to see fathers with their daughters, even when they look happy I fear that bad things are secretly happening.

  23. Father’s Days are hard ……. I don’t even see him as a ‘father’ he doesn’t deserve that title. He used me as a sexual toy from the time I was 6 years old. When a year later I said no, he hit me, knocked me unconscious, when I came to he was raping me. Is that a father? I wish so much I had someone to celebrate on this day :(

  24. Hi ladies,
    So Christina is on my FB page and some of you know me though I do not comment often. In general holidays do not affect me. However this fathers day I am sick to my stomach. Dont get me wrong I have a blessed life. I have a blessed marriage and a husband who is supportive in such a powerful way that I know he has been a huge part of my healing journey though I did much healing before we met.
    So I am 52 years old I was raped by my oldest bother over and over. I went through all the same stuff most of you did. I have cut contact with them and like Christina went through a law suit. My oldest brother also raped his daughter and broke her legs at age 2. Now she is grown and has a bunch of kids not sure how many. Unfortunately she was raised in a religious legalistic church. I am a born again Christian living in NYC. Unfortunately I just found out My poor misguided niece sent her oldest daughter looks to be about 12 or 13 to the same dad my brother who raped her because she misconstrued this as forgiveness. He pretends to be a Christian like the Duggers. This is sickening to me! Just venting. I do not keep tabs on them and have not had them in my life since 1993. I am going to post a version of this on my page and just hide the identities of those involved. But man people are stupid and desperate to hand their kids over to a child molester for the sake of family? Disgusting! That is not forgiveness! That is a lack of wisdom and denial and straight up stupidity! Thank God we have a heavenly father to love us so we dont need to act like a beggar for a child molesters love! Christima I am going to post your book as a suggestion on my page!

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