Walking Down the Aisle Alone – Unpacking the past & making peace with my father

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Last Saturday I got married to my boyfriend of nearly 7 years, the man who has shown me what a healthy functioning relationship looks and feels like. We decided to have a small, off-beat destination wedding meaning we skipped out on some of the events weddings are typically known for (bouquet toss, first dance, tons of drunk guests). During our ceremony, I also skipped out on a tradition that touches my heart every time I’ve witness it – the father giving the bride away. My father and I are in an okay place considering our past, but it has been quite a long, complicated journey.

When I was around 15 my father was transferred to a position a state away. The plan was for my mother, me and my sisters to stay at our home in GA, wait for it to sell and then join my father in FL. This was not a separation, but a decision my parents made together. It was during this time my father abandoned our family – for the first time. In one of my previous posts, I discussed the toxicity of my parent’s relationship, but at the time I regarded their relationship as just a way of life. I did not consider my father did not want to be with my mom, with our family but during these months apart, my father became increasingly difficult to get a hold of reaching the point where we had not heard from him in months. We discovered he had left his job and we stopped receiving support from him; my mother, whose health was declining, became the sole supporter of our family. It wasn’t until my oldest sister finally reached him and talked to him that he was finally convinced to return home. When he returned there were many fights, but we were never given an explanation as to why he left and what had happened in his months away.

In 2008 my family had yet to fully recovered from my father’s seemingly random abandonment when my older sister passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in her sleep. This sent my family into a new type of turmoil and within just a year I would watch my father lose another job, my family be evicted from our home and my father leave us once again with the promise to reunite. As you can probably guess, there was no reunion between us and my father. I am able to write about this now because it feels like all of this happened a lifetime ago, but during these years, coming to terms with my father’s abandonment and all that happened in between felt nearly impossible, and there was a time where I didn’t feel like it could ever benefit me to forgive. How was I supposed to let go of all the years he had made life so difficult for my sister, my mother and me? How could I come to terms with my father leaving us when we needed him most? Would I ever be able to see beyond the years my sister, mother and I spent homeless, the years we spent taking on the responsibilities of a household with a mother whose health failed more and more rapidly each year?

The answer to all of those questions is yes – to a certain degree and in time. At 29 years old it has been nearly 10 years since my father left us for that second time. More than half of those years were spent in anger and depression as more of my father’s failings became evident to me. I spent a lot of time mad at the parental relationship I did not have, mad at my dad and what he had put us through. Over time I realized how little being angry at my father did to benefit me. And when I started to let go of some of this anger I carried around, I began to see things in a new light. I saw my father as a person beyond the role of parent and saw him at his most basic role – a human, one with flaws who makes mistakes.

While some of the things my father has done could be seen inexcusable and valid reasons for holding grudges, I had to choose differently for the sake of my own well-being. We get painted a very specific picture of what your relationship with your parents should look like, what they are supposed to do for you, how they are supposed to treat you. In letting go what my relationship with my father was before the abandonment or what it could have been and accepting it for just as it is in this very moment without expecting more, I have been able to find so much strength in myself and let go of so much anger and judgement – lessons that may have even been harder for me to learn had my relationship with my father been what the world tells us it should be.

On my wedding day my father wasn’t there. I invited him, but he did not come. When I got the news just days before the wedding, I found myself doing something I would have never done just years ago: I found myself accepting it and moving on. The anger and sadness that I would have felt in the past was not there, and now, a week later the resentment I could feel for him not attending isn’t there either.

I have never felt more powerful than I did walking towards my now husband without the arm of my father laced with my own. This was me stepping into my future, into a healthy relationship that I’ve built despite (or even because of) my relationship with my father. The moment didn’t look quite like the scene I was used to seeing at weddings, and that is okay. The moment was still every bit as meaningful and important as the traditional scene.

So, to all the brides walking down the aisle alone and all the ladies walking through life without the support of a father – you are powerful, you are strong, you are everything. If you find yourself feeling down about your relationship with your father or needing to come to terms with abandonment, remind yourself:

  • The way you were/are treated/neglected by your parent is on them and is not a reflection of what you deserve
  • Your parents are human. Humans mess up
  • The only person who can meet your expectations is YOU so don’t place them on others
  • You are worthy and were worthy of great love; give it to yourself daily

Sending love & light to you wherever you are

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