Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Should I Forgive My Father for Abandoning Us?”

When I was four my mom left my dad. My sister had just been born and my mom found out he was doing drugs and cheating on her the the woman who was babysitting us. She moved with all four of us kids back to Pennsylvania from Arizona. My dad was ordered to pay child support and they were supposed to work out a custody agreement, but instead he disappeared. The only time we heard from him afterwards was the announcement that he had a baby three months later with the woman he was cheating with.

Because my mom never finished high school she always worked menial jobs for part-time wages. I can remember several times having the electricity shut off because we couldn’t afford to pay the bill. We struggled but my mom always tried to make it okay, even though we never heard from our father. We would get birthday cards from family in Arizona, or occasional phone calls, but they never gave any indication that they knew where he was. I eventually grew out of my “I want my dad” phase, my sister joined the army, got discharged and got pregnant, my brothers matured enough to stay out of trouble (finally!), and I moved to Oregon with my partner. When I was 22 my mom finally got the first child support payment from my father. He paid for about six months before stopping.

When I was 23 my mom died unexpectedly. Losing her felt like losing a part of myself. My aunt told us that our dad had called her to say sorry for our loss and ask if we wanted to contact him. I was so angry; 20 years later and he only contacts us because our mother died and he’s sorry for “our” loss. I didn’t want anything to do with him. It’s been two years since then and all my siblings have had some contact with him and my half-sister has attempted to contact me. Everyone keeps telling me I should try to give him a chance, that he’s trying, but I just can’t. I can’t forgive him for everything he did. A part of me blames him for losing my mom. If she hadn’t had to work her whole life, if she hadn’t had to devote all her energy to taking care of us, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten so sick.

When mom died it was like everything was torn apart at the seams. I’ve been severely depressed and am just now finally working my way up. My therapist says I should try talking to my father — that it might help to resolve these feelings — but it hurts my heart to even think about it. It feels like a betrayal. I guess my question is: am I being unreasonable? My aunt says I’m being petty and holding a grudge to punish him. It’s probably true but I feel like I have every right to. Should I try to reach out to him? Try to forgive him? I’ve heard everyone’s point of view and I would really appreciate yours. — No Forgiveness for Father

First of all, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. I’m sure you keep her alive in your heart and memories and I hope that brings you at least a little sense of peace.

As for your father, screw what everyone else says to do in regards to him. If you don’t feel like reaching out to him, then don’t. If you do, then go ahead, but realize that he’s never going to be the father you wished he would have been. Nothing can ever give back the years you grew up without a father’s love, support and influence, and even if you did forge a relationship with him now after all this time, you cannot undo your childhood. Still, working on forgiving him eventually may go a long way in easing the pain in your heart. It doesn’t have to happen this week or this month or even this year. But it can be a goal for you to work towards in therapy. And maybe in time, you’ll feel ready to forgive him for for not being the father you needed. But forgive him for yourself, not for him. Do it because it may help you move forward with a lighter heart.

As for your half-sister, remember that she is not to blame for the way your childhood played out. Maybe it would be nice to have a relationship with her. Maybe not. But whatever you decide is best for you, remember that she is innocent here. She didn’t ask to be born and she didn’t ask to be raised by your father. You really don’t know what her life has been like and she may be carrying her own pain and disappointment. Maybe meeting each other could help you both heal. But only you can decide if and when you’re ready for that step. There’s no right answer here; no one can tell you what you “should” or “shouldn’t” do. Listen to your heart and only do what you feel comfortable doing, with the understanding that the only direction you can really move in is forward and that your past cannot be undone.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com and be sure to follow me on Twitter.

63 comments… add one
  • avatar

    emjay August 2, 2011, 7:24 am

    I totally agree with Wendy. And I have nuthin left to say. She said it perfectly.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 2, 2011, 7:52 am

    If and when you feel like meeting or having a relationship with your dad go ahead and do it but until then don’t worry about it. I think that being pressured to have a relationship that you don’t want only adds to your stress and you don’t need that stress. Don’t feel guilty about not reaching out to your dad because there is no relationship there in the first place. I don’t think that this is about pettiness or selfishness on your part. This is you mourning your mom and no absentee dad can ever fill the empty place in your heart that belongs to her. That place belongs to your mom and it always will. I think you would be further ahead by focusing on what you can do to honor the memory of your mom and how proud she would be of you. If you work hard you honor your mom. If you go to school you honor your mom. If you stand by your responsibilities you honor your mom. Know that you’re a good person and don’t need validation from your dad.

    Know that you are doing the best you can and tell those who push you for a relationship with your dad that you’re not ready and that you need them to quit pushing.

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  • avatar

    Tudor Princess August 2, 2011, 8:09 am

    My dad and I do not speak. I realized a few years ago that he was a toxic influence in my life and I cut off contact. At first, people asked me to talk to him, but now they realize that my choice is to remain separated from him and they leave me alone. Thankfully, I have a wonderful step-father who gladly took up the role of father and raised me as his own. I am so sorry that you did not get to have that.

    That being said, your aunt is being horribly rude and manipulative. What your father did to you (and the rest of your siblings) is inexcusable. They made their choice to talk to him. You have no obligations what-so-ever to speak to him. State firmly to anyone who asks that although he may be your father by blood, nothing he has done has made him a true father by any stretch of the imagination. You do not wish to speak to him and that is final. If they try to keep going, or bring it up again, cut them off quickly and tell them you no longer wish to speak about it and if they continue the conversation will be over.

    I wish you all the best as you go through this.

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    • avatar

      El August 2, 2011, 10:17 am

      I don’t think she needs to justify her decision to anyone.

      The next time any nosy family members bring up LW’s relationship with her father, I think a simple, “that’s none of your business and I will not discuss it with you” would suffice.

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      • avatar

        kali August 4, 2011, 10:44 pm

        Yeah, I love how people who do not have the same experience with someone try to tell us how we ‘should’ feel or behave. It’s been a battle, but I nod and say, “thank you, but I need to figure this out on my own” in such a tone that they drop the topic. And if they don’t, I tell them we need to discuss something else…

        Hang in there, LW. I am so very sorry for the loss of your mother.

        Regarding your Dad, you are certainly entitled to your feelings. On the other hand, (as others have said) you can’t change the past, but the negativity can still affect your life. I urge you to continue your therapy and work on letting go of the anger and hurt. Those emotions are only hurting you and you don’t deserve that.

        I hope you are able to resolve this issue soon and that your aunt (I’m guessing your father’s sister?) learns to mind her own business.

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  • avatar

    Amanda August 2, 2011, 8:22 am

    LW, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. I’m sending you a BIG hug and many positive thoughts.

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  • avatar

    SweetChild August 2, 2011, 8:36 am

    I agree with TudorPrincess, your father is just a guy who contributed some dna to help make you then stopped there. He’s a father in name only, nothing he has done deserves even the faintest kindness from you. You are absolutely NOT being petty AT ALL by not wanting to speak with him and even if you live your whole life and never change this position then you’re completely justified. Tell your aunt to back off if she brings it up again, only you can know if you want to establish contact with this man and your decision should not be influenced by anyone else. I’m sorry for the loss of your mother, and I hope you can keep her memory alive in the way that is best for you.

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    • avatar

      Greebo August 2, 2011, 11:18 am

      Dang it! I meant thumbs up! Small screen–sorry.

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  • avatar

    Jena August 2, 2011, 9:12 am

    “I just can’t. I can’t forgive him for everything he did.”

    I think you said it right there yourself.

    You are not obligated to talk to him. You don’t owe him anything just because he gave some DNA and then disappeared. If you don’t want to reach out to him, don’t. Tell everyone to mind their own business.

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    • avatar

      Greebo August 2, 2011, 11:15 am

      Exactly. There is no need to forgive the unforgivable. A victim of rape should not forgive her attacker. An abandoned child should not forgive the adult who failed to be a parent. Forgiveness implies pardon or excusal. By all means release your anger and free yourself from that. But don’t feel the need to expunge his abhorrent and miserable behavior.

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      • avatar

        kali August 4, 2011, 10:47 pm

        Not that I think LW should forgive him BUT forgiveness can also mean you choose not to dwell on the pain or give that person the power to affect you any more. You don’t forgive them for what they’ve done; you forgive them because you’re releasing yourself from their negative influence.

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  • avatar

    Amber August 2, 2011, 9:21 am

    LW I definitely agree that it’s whatever you is best for you. I haven’t spoken to my father since my parents got divorced almost 20 years ago and truly I don’t feel like I need to. My father remarried and has a brand new life. Got remarried within 6 months of the divorce being final and has 2 more kids. I always felt like my mom, sister and I had been erased as far as he was concerned. I had a lot of anger towards him for a long time. I’ve forgiven him but I just don’t think we could ever have a relationship of any kind. We saw his family for awhile after and they always pushed him down our throats and tried to convince us to see him. After awhile I asked my Mom if we could stop going because like what your family is doing to you that was unfair. Your relationship with him is just that yours, not theirs.

    Also as a side note, if you do decide later down the road to see him again know that it’s not a betrayal of your mother to do so and it doesn’t erase what he did. And you wouldn’t be doing either of those things by agreeing to see him. Your Mother knew how much you loved her and choosing to talk to you Dad won’t change that, ever. However, like I said earlier you know what is best for you. And if never talking to him is what is best that’s what you should do.

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  • JK

    JK August 2, 2011, 9:39 am

    LW, I’m so sorry for your loss.
    I love Wendy’s advice, I’d like to add another piece that I remember reading (Prudie, maybe?) Write a letter to your father. Don’t worry about grammar, or making it perfect. Put own in paper everything you feel, everything you wish you could say to him. Then put it away (don’t send it). In a time, weeks, onths, whatever feels comfortable for you, read it again. Then burn it.
    Sometimes getting our feelings down on paper helps, lots of us have trouble expressing our feelings for one reason or another, sometimes in wirting can be the only way. Hopefully writing (and burning) this letter helps you unload some of what is weighing you down, without having to get in touch with your father if you don’t want to.

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    • avatar

      Skybird August 2, 2011, 6:09 pm

      This whole letter writing thing has been very carthatic for me in many situations. Burning the letters has really helped me facilitate the “letting go” process.

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      • JK

        JK August 2, 2011, 7:21 pm

        Im a big letter writing advocate (in person I’m not that good at expressing my feelings), I usually give it to the person though, in this case I thought the advice about burning the letter was best, so LW didn’t have to contact her “sperm donor”. I have given the same advice to a close friend who was having trouble letting go of a very complicated relationship, and I know in her case it really helped.

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  • Budj

    Budjer August 2, 2011, 9:40 am

    You need to let go of the negative energy associated with the feelings towards your father because that is not a healthy and happy way to go through life. That does not mean you need to foster a relationship with him…forgive him for not being there so that YOU can move on…do it for you, not for him… Only make him a part of your life going forward if you want to and feel ready to navigate those waters.

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    • Budj

      Budjer August 2, 2011, 9:55 am

      I should add you don’t need to contact your father to forgive him….more an internal feeling.

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  • avatar

    Monica M August 2, 2011, 9:47 am

    I think there is an option you have that hasn’t been discussed besides ignoring your father or contacting him and forgiving him. There is the option of contacting him and telling him how you feel and expressing the animosity and blame you have for him. You say you are depressed and seeing a therapist which means the past is still effecting you. It may seem cliche but contacting him may give you closure. I agree with everyone that it is your decision whether to contact him and to ignore your family’s pressure.

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  • avatar

    Maracuya August 2, 2011, 10:31 am

    My father wasn’t ever present in my life. My grandfather did the same thing, abandoned my mother when she was only 3 or so. He came back 40 years later, and my mother forgave him. I went through the same thought process as you did: Am I being petty by not forgiving my own father? Maybe if I was a ‘bigger’ person I would magnanimously say that all was forgiven.

    Here’s my view: Your aunt using the phrase “holding a grudge” makes it sound like it’s for something petty, like someone forgot your birthday or accidentally gave away your entire shot glass collection. This is something large, that affected your entire life and you are entitled to not forgive him. It doesn’t make you less of a person that you can’t, and you should work out your feelings on your own timetable.

    Regardless of whether you contact your father or not, you should work through those feelings because it will make YOU feel better. I always thought if I let myself become affected by that emotional baggage–betrayal, bitterness, regret–only my life would suffer while he would never know.

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    • JK

      JK August 2, 2011, 11:22 am

      Thumbs up for the shot glass reference, you made me laugh!!! I also agree with what you said!

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      • katie

        katie August 2, 2011, 7:45 pm

        that was such a stupidly sad letter…

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  • avatar

    ktfran August 2, 2011, 10:59 am

    This letter made me incredibly sad. LW, I’m so sorry for what life has dealt you.

    I really liked Budjer’s and Maracuya’s advice.

    Heal when you’re ready. But I do think you eventually have to let go of the anger you feel towards this man. Not for him. For you only. You can do this a myriad of ways and you don’t necessarily have to contact him. It really does sound like you’re trying.

    Also, not many have addressed the situation with your half sister. I agree wholeheartedly with Wendy. She has done nothing wrong and when you’re ready, only when you’re ready, I think it would be a good idea to contact her. Especially since she’s reached out to you. I think you’ll always wonder about her if you don’t. And remember, if she turns out to be a crappy person, at least you’ll know and can move on.

    Best wishes LW.

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  • Firegirl32

    Firegirl32 August 2, 2011, 11:07 am

    LW – My parents divorced 26 years ago. My father called and told me that he was starting a new family, so he didn’t need to see us any longer, and I was to explain that to my brother (he was 9 at the time). Eventually, my brother at my father forged a relationship, but I have not. I had family try to push me back into his life…but I figured if he wanted in, he would have tried, being the parent and all. I went 20 years without talking with him. In the past few years, I have been able to forgive him. It has helped me tremendously to move past that. Please remember, to forgive him doesn’t mean to talk to him. Hell, he doesn’t even need to know you did it. Find peace in knowing you can not let it effect you any more. Know he isn’t important enough to ruin your day. I take that thought with me…with any rude phone call I get at work, with a poor driver that cuts me off…just remember that they aren’t important enough to ruin your mood/day/life. For me it’s been 26 years – it was probably over 20 before I took control of how I let him effect me. It feels fabulous to let it go. To say sorry it’s your loss, not mine. Take control! Do what’s right for YOU!

    Good luck LW! My thoughts are with you in this journey. Do what you need to, to take control. I believe in you.

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    • avatar

      Kalipzo August 2, 2011, 8:52 pm

      Zen fist bump, Firegirl!

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  • avatar

    LTC039 August 2, 2011, 10:11 am

    LW, I know it’s hurtful what your father did to you & your siblings/mom but harboring feelings of hatred & anger only make YOU feel worse. You’ve already had to deal with a LOT within the past two years, not including everything since you were 4, so maybe there’s a little room for forgiveness in your heart so that you can continue to grow. You don’t have to forget all the pain he put you through & you don’t have to be super close with him again, but attempting to make peace with your own feelings by reaching out to him maybe do you a lot better. I feel that if you don’t try to talk to him at least once, you’re going to continue to harbor all those feelings for as long as you live & you may be surprised.
    Right now, you have the upper hand, so you decide what things will be like. I really believe it would help you. I’m so sorry for your loss & wish you the best!

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    • avatar

      Amber August 2, 2011, 1:48 pm

      I agree. Forgivness is not for the person that you are forgiving, it’s for yourself. The only person her anger is negatively affecting is herself.

      Easier said than done though, obviously.

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    • avatar

      LTC039 August 2, 2011, 12:49 pm

      I wish the thumb downers would explain themselves. What’s so wrong about wanting to release your feelings of hatred & anger for a better life…?

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      • avatar

        Sarah August 2, 2011, 4:08 pm

        It’s condescending to tell another person that their emotions are the problem, rather than someone else’s objectively shitty actions. (I didn’t thumbs-down you, for the record.)

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      • avatar

        LTC039 August 2, 2011, 4:14 pm

        How is that condescending? Don’t you think harboring feelings of anger & hatred are damaging to your spirit? I agree she has every right to feel that way, but I don’t think she should stay living with those angry feelings. It’s for her health, not for anything else.

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      • avatar

        emjay August 2, 2011, 9:29 pm

        What I don’t understand is every day I read DW and everyday you gripe because people thumbed you down. All they are saying is that in their opinion, No, they don’t agree with what you are saying. And I am not being rude, just observational, but I am guessing you do not handle criticism very well. The woman is struggling with mixed feelings, but already has a pretty good idea that she does not have room for forgiveness as this point in time, and she does not like the fact people are trying to force her to change her mind on such a personal issue. And then you kinda make it sound like she is the one to blame for her feelings because she will not let him be a part of her life. (Again, I am not being mean, I am being sincere though) and that is kinda the same feed back she is getting from the people around her so she wrote to Wendy, and us, for a different-fresh perspective. So to end this long reply, that is why I thumbed you down.

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      • avatar

        Maracuya August 3, 2011, 11:03 am

        I actually didn’t thumb down you (in fact I gave you a thumbs up for the spirit of your post, although I see how people could read the way you wrote it as blaming the LW).

        I’m sure some people just thumb-down you to troll you because every time you’re thumbed-down you comment on it. That’s my two cents.

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    • avatar

      oldie August 2, 2011, 2:19 pm

      I didn’t thumb you down, but do think that you are simply assuming a few things. First, you assume that contacting her father will help LW. She may correctly have an excellent sense that it will not do so. Second, you are assuming that she has been bitter and mentally bound up all these years from carrying hatred of her father. I don’t sense that this is the case. She is in bad shape now, because she is still grieving the loss of her mother. I think her anger was spiked by her father intruding into her grief, as if the death of her mother was an opportunity to slither back into her life. I can see how LW could view contacting her biological father as a form of betrayal of her mother. The guy never tries to make contact, while her mother is alive. He and his relatives start contact as soon as Mom has died. The unspoken relationship here is that he and his relatives are planning to sell the story that the separation was Mom’s fault. She should have stayed with her philandering husband. He didn’t have contact, because he felt aggrieved and fearful that Mom had poisoned the water. Aunt is clearly holding out LW’s father as the innocent victim of her petty feelings for something she assigns too much blame to him. I’m sure if the aunt had taken the approach that the father knew he was terribly in the wrong, was abjectly apologetic for stiffing her on the child support, which she was due, and the emotional support or at least some sign that he thought she mattered to him even a little bit as a child that she most definitely was due, then she might be more willing to contact him. To have the aunt decide she is petty for feeling to aggrieved to speak to her father is just plain cruel. If the father had any sense at all for anything other than his own needs, he certainly would not be pushing his grieving daughter to make contact, before she is ready. Now that her father has been located, I wonder if she can sue for back child support.

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      • avatar

        LTC039 August 2, 2011, 2:41 pm

        I think you took my response way out of context. I was assuming anything other than having all the built up anger is not good for her mental & physical health. I never mentioned a word about her aunt & I think the whole “mother being blamed for the separation” is wayyy from left field & a pretty big limb you went on. If the dad was a drug addict, I’m pretty sure other people had some inclination (depending on how bad he was that’s not an easy thing to hide). I did not get anything in the letter saying people are blaming her mother. & yeah, I am pretty sure that all the years he was absent, she did have much resentment towards him (it would only be natural) it’s just more prevalent now because of the recent circumstances.
        I am a firm believer in closure (second chances). This girl needs closure. Doesn’t matter how she gets it, she just needs it. To acquire that she needs to FORGIVE, she doesn’t have to become daddy’s little girl tomorrow, but she made it very clear that her anger is eating away at her at this moment & that’s not healthy. I think sueing & all that will cause more emotional damage & unneccessary grief to add to that. Really? She’s going to sue this guy? Money should come last when it comes down to your health, it’s not worth it at this point. Telling her to let go & then sue him is a huge oxymoron.
        What she needs right now is inner peace. If her father reached out (& I’m in no way saying he has been jumping over mountains to get to her) through w/e means he wanted to/could , I merely suggested that she contact him back, in a way to forgive & let go. She’ll never forget the pain he caused & he isn’t not getting a father of the year award, but I’m pretty sure her mother would rather see her at peace than building up all these feelings of anger. If she doesn’t forgive, she’s always going to harbor those emotions. I disagree with you 100%, sorry.

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      • avatar

        LTC039 August 2, 2011, 2:47 pm

        For the record, my grandfather (my dad’s dad) was an abusive alcoholic who cheated on my dad’s mom left & right & even attempted to stab her once. He made my dad’s life a living hell. My dad hadn’t spoken to him in years because he moved to another country & one good day (after about 15 yrs) he contacted my dad begging to meet me that he was sorry for everything. My dad was so angry with him but decided to give him a shot, well I met him & all he was good for about a month & then screwed up again, so that’s when my dad knew it was cut off time. But, he gave him a second chance, he didn’t go on life wondering what could’ve been.

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    • avatar

      Kalipzo August 2, 2011, 6:47 pm

      You can let go of the pain and anger and hatred without talking to the person who caused those emotions in you.

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  • avatar

    Greebo August 2, 2011, 11:11 am

    LW, I’m so very sorry for your loss. I hope the memory of your mom’s love and support will offer you some comfort as you mourn.

    There’s a difference between “forgiveness” and “releasing anger”. I disagree that you “should” forgive your father, even to ease your own hurt. What he did by abandoning you was wrong. It was wrong morally, legally, emotionally and financially. Worse yet, he didn’t suffer the consequences of what he did (or didn’t) do–you did. You don’t “need” to forgive that.

    BUT–you need to put down the burden of your anger. You have the right to be angry, but that kind of anger is a poison that will hurt you, not him. Maybe telling him how his neglect and indifference would help ease your anger, maybe not. Whether and when to contact him is your call. Maybe drafting a “practice letter” to him would help. But understand that this man is who he is. I’m so sorry, but if you confront him, all he can do is offer an apology and excuses. Those carry no weight.

    You might try a support group. You might also try a fundamental change in your routine. I’ve found over time that when I’m stuck in a certain emotional place, making an unrelated change in my routine can help. Got the blahs? Take a class. Sad? Create a garden or get a pet. Angry? Find a new workout. That kind of thing. I feel like it forces me to alter perspective in small ways that can amount to big changes.

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    • avatar

      MsMisery August 2, 2011, 11:20 am

      I wish I could thumb you up times a million. I think forgiveness is a little overrated. And I think your action plan is very sound. There’s no need for this “father” to be in the LW’s life. She just has to start livin’.

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    • Budj

      Budjer August 2, 2011, 11:27 am

      Rarely is their ever true justice in the world…and being mad and hoping for some sort of retribution might “feel good” short term, but is hardly the best way to process the emotions. “Releasing anger” and still having it afterwards means it is still a problem. Forgiving implies she has moved on…and moving on and past it is what it seems like she needs to do as she does not sound interested in having him in her life currently.

      I remind you that forgiving him doesn’t mean she is giving him the peace of mind of knowing she has forgiven him.

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      • avatar

        Greebo August 2, 2011, 1:17 pm

        I think we’re debating semantics, but to me, forgiveness is offered to another person. This man doesn’t deserve that. The LW deserves to let go of her anger, but but it is possible to move on without that anger and without forgiving him.

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      • avatar

        MsMisery August 2, 2011, 1:24 pm

        Yeah. That.

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    • katie

      katie August 2, 2011, 7:50 pm

      this is exactly what I was going to say!

      all this letter comes down to is how this poor girl needs to deal with her feelings. there are so many innumeral ways to deal with feelings that just a blanket “forgiveness is needed” isn’t needed, or correct.

      LW, you need to do whatever it is you need to do to get back on the right track. Its going to take a lot of time, it is going to take a lot of releasing of feelings and anger and thinking about, talking about, and reliving things that you would rather not think or feel again. but at the end, no matter if you contact this man who contributed half of your DNA (he is no father) or not, you just need to HEAL. whatever that means to you, thats what you need to do.

      on a personal note, i would never want to speak to that DNA contributor ever again in my life.

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  • avatar

    zombeyonce August 2, 2011, 11:15 am

    I feel that forgiving him for herself could really make her feel a lot better, but he doesn’t need to be a part of that process at all. I think it’s very telling that he hasn’t reached out to her or even tried to apologize for being an absentee father. Sure, he said he was sorry for her loss, but not for anything else, and if he really was sorry and wanted to reconnect or even try to make up for it, he would have done more than just tell their aunt that THEY could contact HIM. That line killed me.

    “Everyone keeps telling me I should try to give him a chance, that he’s trying, but I just can’t.” He isn’t trying. Nothing in the letter suggested that he has tried to get together with her or apologize. LW, forgive him for yourself so you can move past it, but I don’t see that there can be anything in reconnecting with him but more pain, as he doesn’t seem that intent upon righting his wrongs and it could just send her back to feeling like she’s a fatherless child again.

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  • avatar

    lisa jones August 2, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Sue him for back child support. You are over 18 but he is responsible and could face jail time. Go to the DAs office and they can take it out of his check.

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    • avatar

      Maracuya August 2, 2011, 1:00 pm

      Actually, I went through this same thing. I didn’t want him in jail and if his wages were garnished it would negatively affect my half-siblings, who are slightly younger than I am. My view was that I’m an independent adult with manageable bills, and the drama it would stir up wasn’t worth it.

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      • avatar

        kali August 4, 2011, 10:54 pm

        Maybe he should have considered the existing children before creating a new one.

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      Pinky August 2, 2011, 4:24 pm

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Furthermore, there were four children in the LW’s family. He owes back child support for all of them. Garnish his wages. If he hides money and doesn’t pay, he goes to jail. It’s the Karma credit plan.

      Depending on what state you live in, if your family had to go on public assistance due to his neglect, he also has to pay back the government for the Aid to Families with Dependent Children or WIC or food stamps. He’ll have to pay the government back every red cent to compensate what had to be paid to the family to keep them from starving to death.

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    YouGoGirl August 2, 2011, 12:53 pm

    There are a lot of misconceptions about forgiveness. In our culture, the victim is supposed to forgive as quickly as possible and forgiveness is supposed to make everything better. Forgiveness is also used as a weapon, in which the abuser accuses the victim of not forgiving. This happened to me. My husband’s nephew stole $10,000 of our things and it played out in the courts as he was dying of pancreatic cancer. Before the funeral, the nephew’s mother (my husband’s sister) accused me of not forgiving him when I told his probation officer I did not want him there.

    In the sad situation of the LW, the family may have their own agenda and may be trying to ease their feelings of guilt by pressuring her to forgive and have a relationship with her biological father. Her mother’s relatives may feel guilty for not being of more help as her mother struggled to support her children and then died. His family may feel guilty because they knew where he lived and would not give this information to her mother so she could get a court order for child support. In many states, a father’s wages can be garnished. This situation happened to me also. When no one in my family would help me as my husband was dying, one sister said it was my fault because my answering machine was not working well.

    Forgiveness means that the LW let go of some the anger she feels towards him and is able to move on with her life. Forgiveness does not mean that the LR must have a relationship with her father or that she forgets the wrong he did to her. The LW is under no obligation to have a relationship with her father after he abandoned her.

    Through therapy and the support of her partner and friends, the LW may eventually feel less angry. But it will probably take a long time, maybe years. And she will probably never completely get over being angry. But she will be able to have loving relationships and build a good life for herself. Another important point: the LW has no obligation to prove to people who are pressuring her that she has forgiven him. Nor is there any required time table like one year, two years…etc. After my difficult childhoon, I am only now realizing that I do not have to prove that I am normal and that I do not have to meet any litmus test for “getting over” it.

    The LW has a child now and she wants to raise her child well. I hope she can get some therapy to help her deal with her very difficult problems. There may be low cost therapy in her community. I also hope that she can make her family see that they are adding to her considerable pain.

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    kdog August 2, 2011, 1:21 pm

    Sorry, but screw your aunt. Petty?? Really?? There is nothing petty about how you are feeling in this situation or the situation itself. If you can bear it, it might be nice to connect with your half-sister. As for your dad, well, I think people put way too much pressure on having relationships with family just because they’re family. Your dad disappeared and you have every right to want to keep it that way now. Like Wendy said, if you can find it to forgive him for yourself it will probably help you move on with a lighter load. Otherwise you just keep doing what you’re doing, going to therapy and giving yourself all the love and care you need.

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    Nick August 2, 2011, 1:56 pm

    Ah, forgiveness is so easy to advise when it’s someone else’s grudge.

    Forgiveness is best gift in the world for giver AND receiver. Anger begets anger (psychological studies illustrate this). Angry people die younger and are unhappier. *Why would anyone do that to himself?* Excuse my being blunt, but who wants to die young? An “eye for an eye” leads to a world where everyone is blind.

    BTW, frogiveness is when you forgive a frog. Just saying.

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    Princess Bananahammock August 2, 2011, 2:20 pm

    I’m so sorry for all that you’ve been through, and I completely agree with Wendy that you should only see him if you think it would be helpful for YOU. I’ll just offer some advice based on my personal experience. I think you need to get to a place where you fully understand, accept, and whole-heartedly believe that his shortcomings as a father have nothing to do with you. There is nothing wrong with you and you deserved a father that was there for you. This all sounds obvious to say and easy to comprehend intellectually. But, for me, it was difficult to get to a place where I truly believed that it was not personal. There was something wrong with my father – not me.

    In order to reach that place, it can be helpful to have information about your father. You can get that information from him by talking directly to him, or by talking to others in your family. Once I was able to see why my father was the way he was (he was severely abused by his own parents), I was able to see him as a person and actually felt some compassion for him. It doesn’t mean that his own actions were okay. Just that I could see, and finally truly believe, that it wasn’t my fault.

    Good luck, go at your own pace, and only do what you think will be truly beneficial for YOU.

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    AKchic August 2, 2011, 2:24 pm

    *hugs*
    Honey… I can feel for you. I really can. My father was a terrible person. He was emotionally/mentally abusive and a control freak. He got it in his head that my stay-at-home mom was cheating and quit his union job to “watch” her all day. She had to go to work in order to make sure we kept the house. There, she DID meet someone and left him. She took my younger sister with her (at 6, I wasn’t about to live with that guy’s 7 year old daughter who was 2x my size and beat me up all the time). Too bad that my dad and 16 year old brother were already molesting me and she didn’t know it.
    I ended up in foster care and they ended up divorced. I haven’t seen my father since I was 8. His father hatched a kidnap plot when I was 13 and the only reason it didn’t happen was because his new wife called my mom to tell her not to put us on the plane to CA for the visit.
    When I was 20, my father’s little sister called my grandparents to “reach out”. Being nice, I spoke with her. The entire time was nothing more than a lecture on why I didn’t track down my father (who had not only left state, but changed his name!). Two days later, I got a call from him. Unwanted, and completely unneccesary. I got a sob story on how I was taken from him, how he had wanted me, etc. The worst part? How he tried to tell me my mother was evil for brainwashing me against him. The first call in 12 years and this is what he has to say? Turns out he’d been found by child support services and was being garnished for child support for my younger sister (my mom never filed for me, thinking it was enough to get something for my sister).

    I change my number and my aunt or father gets it from my sister. I finally had to stop giving my number to my youngest sister because of it. My half-sister doesn’t know him. My mother and grandmother have to be told NOT to give my sister any information about my kids (including pictures) or my phone number to my sister or else she gives it to my father because he will send her money for the information.

    You do not owe him forgiveness if you do not want to forgive him. He may be seeking true forgiveness, or he may be seeking it out of guilt. In my father’s instance – he is trying to ensure I do not have him arrested as a child molester. I told him I’d rather pursue vigilante justice. There is a thing called “statute of limitations” and his ran out already. Even before he called me the first time. I just wasn’t ready to face my demons then.
    You need to decide what exactly there is to forgive. His weakness? His adulterous ways? His chickenshit attitudes for not being a man and saying “I want a divorce”? His lack of manhood for not taking care of his children? You can forgive those things at any time you are ready. You just don’t need to tell him. But remember, if you don’t tell him, you are just like him – cowardly. He was a coward who couldn’t face your strong mother and tell her what he felt, which is why he had the affair rather than break things off right.
    It may be therapeutic for you to tell him how you feel and to leave it at that. I know it was for me when I told my father exactly what I wanted to do to him, in great detail, and telling him exactly what the chain reaction was to each and every small thing I did to him. I have no doubt that he was physically squirming on the other end of the line. He was gagging at one point. He has not called me since. I think I left the impression that HE is the reason that there is such an unbalanced piece of my soul.

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      cmarie August 2, 2011, 3:40 pm

      It’s a cruel (and untrue) to call the LW cowardly if she chooses not to confront him.

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        AKchic August 2, 2011, 6:07 pm

        No, it’s cowardly to forgive him, but not tell him.

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        Kalipzo August 2, 2011, 7:06 pm

        It’s not just forgive or don’t forgive. You can let go of the negative without forgiveness. You can make it to a place where a parent who didn’t parent is a stranger to you without forgiving them for the terrible things they did and the important things they didn’t do.

        There are people who you should not have any contact with, including to tell them that they don’t have power over you anymore.

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        cmarie August 2, 2011, 8:51 pm

        When someone has wronged you, you’re not obligated to forgive them or let them know that you’ve forgiven them. They are the ones who are wrong. It’s not cowardly to work through your negative emotions while keeping a healthy distance. Why engage with someone who hurts you?

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  • Chaotonic

    Chaotonic August 2, 2011, 2:37 pm

    LW, I haven’t spoken to my abusive step- father in five years. He raised me since I was three months old and was the only father I knew growing up. Choosing to cut off contact was the easy part, holding back the rage that I have towards him is the hard part. I can’t stand the thought of him and that rage has leaked over towards my half brother as well because he worships my step dad. I’ve been in therapy for a while, but sometimes I feel if would just call him up, just scream at him and tell him how much of whatever he was ruined my childhood and has scarred me for life, would make me feel ten times better. Will he own up to anything? Hell no, he’ll probably just hang up, will I feel better? Possibly. Am I going to do it? No, I don’t think the outcome out weighs the risk of being hurt again, because what happens if he doesn’t hang up? What happens if he does apologize, because I really don’t want to hear him say he’s sorry, in my mind he won’t mean it. There’s so many ways a phone could play out, but in the end you could still feel the same way. I’ve let my anger guide me into a safe harbor and I built up a fortress to keep everyone but my husband out, my family ties have suffered because the anger is directed at them for never stepping in. This is how I feel. I dunno if it will help you, but its an example of what has happened and what someone else has gone through.

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    Joanna August 2, 2011, 3:31 pm

    I can empathize to some degree. My dad separated from my mom when I was 6 and my sister was 2. It wasn’t pleasant and my dad played games with the custody of us children and was doing a lot of coke at the time. Shortly after my parents separated my dad was doing so much coke he annihilated the tissue between his nose and ears and required surgery. When the divorce was final when I was 11, he decided to skip town and move somewhere else without telling anybody and stopped paying child support.

    We lived on my mom’s part-time wages that sometimes left us without anything to spare. I can remember my friends going off to summer camp and stuff and I was too poor to go. I remember not having snacks or dessert ever. Dinner sometimes was a few packs of ramen noodles for us.

    I lived like that from until I was 18, and the private detective my mom had hired found him in California. (We live in NY state.) She was able to take him to court and he ended up owing about $10,000 in child support. I went out to California once to visit him but it just wasn’t the same. I haven’t seen him in 6 years and before that it had been 8 years.

    The important part is just to remember that you have yourself in one piece and that’s really all you can worry about. I haven’t forgiven my father and I really don’t care to.

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    Nickie August 2, 2011, 4:14 pm

    OMG, this is my situation exactly. My “sperm donor” left my mom and two kids ( my brother and I) when I was 2 years old and never looked back. His family always claimed they never knew where he was and no child support ever came. My mom had 3 other kids besides us and so it was a hard life for all of us. Now that I am in my 20’s, his family has tried to contact me and show me pictures on FB. I have politely tried telling them that I do not want a relationship with them. I know it’s not their fault their family member is a loser, but they could still have tried to reach out when I was younger. It’s too late now. And I agree with Wendy that “Screw what everyone else thinks”, it’s my life and my choice if I want a relationship. My brother and I do not want a relationship ever, with him or his family. So stay strong dear LW, and best of luck!!! Do not feel guilty, if someone is toxic to you, no matter who ( parents esp!), you do not HAVE to have them in your life!!! It may hurt more, but it will be for the best!!!

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    Skybird August 2, 2011, 6:05 pm

    My “sperm donor” cheated on my mom and lied, and they divorced around the time I turned 1. I was 32 before I realized he was toxic to me and my life, and I spent SO many years trying to get him to love me. I cut off all communication with him, and told him that I was tired of being his daughter at his convenience. No one else knows YOU like YOU do. Write him a letter (not one that you’re going to send) and tell him EXACTLY what you think of him and how you feel. Then burn it – just to get it all out of you. Tell your friends and family that you have a lot of anger, and to please, please stop bugging you to do something you’re nowhere near ready to do, and might not ever be ready to do.

    I feel Wendy is correct in that your half-sister is innocent in this. You might want to consider writing her a short note, saying that you’re not in any way blaming her for anything, that you’re considering meeting with her, but that you are harboring a lot of anger for the male parent that brought about your existence, and a lot of blame regarding your mother’s illness and subsequent death. You never know, she could wind up being a very close person to you. As for forgiveness, that’s also completely up to you.

    As I said, 16 years beating my head against a wall trying to figure out how I could be a better daughter, when it finally took the realization that I’m a VERY good daughter, and that he’s the one who doesn’t know how to love, and that his inability had nothing to do with me. It’s taken an additional nearly 10 years (and one child, and a failing marriage) for me to be able to tell (myself at least) that my life is worth something, and he had a part in bringing my life about, so for that, thank you. Unlike you, my father was, sort of, in my life. Well, when he had time for me. I haven’t spoken to him or had any communication with him for nearly 10 years.

    Any sense of forgiveness you may be able to come to will not be for his benefit, it will be for yours. And I wonder, is your therapist really helping? Maybe it’s time to find a new therapist.

    You have nothing to feel guilty about (believe me, I have a well-developed guilt complex, and that’s really difficult to let go of), but at some point, I hope you come to the realization that the anger you feel for him is giving HIM control. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. Take the time to heal yourself; it’s not going to happen in a month, it may not happen in five years, but it will happen. Journal. Soul search. Forgive yourself first if you feel like you’re letting others down. You’re not. There are times in one’s life where one MUST be selfish. This is one of those times for you, so BE SELFISH. You’re not alone, letter writer. My heart goes out to you, and I hope you’re lifted up by Wendy’s comments, and the comments of others. Many well wishes to you.

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    Betty Boop August 2, 2011, 7:29 pm

    LW, if I were you, I would consider engaging in removed contact with your father. Emails, letters, something that allows you a chance to try to work through your feelings, not with the intention of forgiving him, creating a relationship, or anything like that, merely to allow yourself the chance to better understand that he doesn’t have any power over you. I would, personally, want to do this sooner than later just to make sure the chance isn’t lost. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, I just know it was helpful for me to see my mother in a clearer, adult view to allow me to work through my anger, depression and hurt feelings. If your happy with your therapist and feel she’s making a difference for you, you should also consider why she would encourage you to do this as well. This isn’t about forging a relationship, this is about you doing what you need to do to heal.

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  • katie

    katie August 2, 2011, 8:10 pm

    LW, i completely understand why you dont want any contact with the sperm donor that helped create you. anyone who would blame you for that, or suggest differently, just should be told to shove it. you in no way owe anyone anything about this whole thing- you dont owe your aunt anything for trying to create a relationship between you and him, and you certainly dont owe him a damn thing.

    I think the main thing to focus on now is how to heal from these horrible things that have happened. whatever that looks like, just do that. call him and scream at him? do it. he certainly deserves it. write a letter and burn it? do it. vow to be there for your potential children better then your father was for you? do it. take karate? do it!!! do whatever it is that will help.

    you have certainly been dealt a terrible hand in life. i think that the best way to honor your mothers memory would be to turn your cards around and become a success (i also think that would be the greatest silent revenge on your “father”). honor all the hard work that she put into you to make sure you survived. it is possible- and i am sure she will smile down from wherever she is now, knowing that it was all worth it for you.

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    Christina August 3, 2011, 10:32 am

    I cut off contact years ago with a cruel parent and it has turned out to be a great decision. I have no left over anger, I have a better life and I rarely think about them. People used to ask me over and over if I had talked to them yet and my answer was no and stop asking. Why would you want me to talk to someone who was cruel and left me in tears after each meeting? You don’t stay in contact with someone who abuses you emotionally or physically. Why would someone expect you to contact someone who had disregarded you for years? It never made any sense why relatives always want to mend relationships for the mean person. That person is still who they demonstrated themselves to be. You do have every right to hold a grudge against him. There is no need to ever be in contact with him. In my case the anger faded into disregard fairly quickly and my life has always been better without that person in it.

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    Miss Lynn August 8, 2011, 5:09 pm

    LW, I can totally sympathize with your situation because my two older sisters went through almost the exact same thing growing up. My mother was married to their dad for ten years before they had kids, but unfortunately a few years after they were both born he decided he didn’t want to be a father. The main difference between your situation and theirs was that my mom re-married and my dad stepped up to the plate and raised my sisters as his own. My sisters are 27 and 29 and they still hold a strong resentment towards their biological father. They have had very minimal contact with him throughout their lives, he didn’t pay child support and barely sent my mom money for them at all, and they have seen him less than five times in their lifetimes. My oldest sister wants nothing to do with him and fully believes that the man who raised her is her father, period. My 27 year old sister still has unresolved emotions towards him and has tried to reach out to him several times, with very little success. The bottom line here is, everyone deals with this type of situation in their own unique way. It sounds like you have had a lot of hardship in your life, and you should only do what feels right to YOU. Screw what other people think! They can’t fully understand how you feel because they are not you. Don’t let the people around you bully you into reaching out to your estranged father with whom you hold so much resentment towards. Good luck!

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