We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t miss what you’ve never had.” It’s a quaint adage, but when it comes to fatherlessness, nothing is further from the truth.
Fatherlessness is a devastating problem—so much so, in fact, that even popular guru Oprah has acknowledged that it is THE social epidemic of our day. And the stats bear witness to the fact.
Fatherless children are:
1. 72% of all teenage murderers.
2. 60% of rapists.
3. 70% of kids incarcerated.
4. 11 times more likely to be violent.
5. 3 of 4 teen suicides.
(Sources: National Fatherhood Initiative (U.S.A.), US Bureau of Census (U.S.A.), FBI (U.S.A.))
Amy Alkon, syndicated columnist “the Advice Goddess,” believes that the Newtown Mass Murder was directly related to fatherlessness, stating that “…a father in the home may have made a big difference.”
The social pathologies related to fatherlessness are indeed cataclysmic, but there is a glaring omission in much of the discussion. Most people, when they think about “fatherlessness,” think of it as a problem that impacts kids alone.
But the truth is that just as many adults suffer from the impact of fatherlessness as do children, and that is because once you are fatherless, you generally stay fatherless throughout your entire adult life.
Fatherlessness doesn’t stop at age twelve.
Equally disconcerting is the fact that too few in our society understand that fatherlessness has a particularly devastating impact on men, who make up more than half of adults who are fatherless (a staggering 30% of all men in Canada).
Why is fatherlessness particularly damaging to men? Because men learn to be men and get their sense of “self” from fathers.
Fatherlessness doesn’t just leave a man without a role model; it leaves him without a mirror to gain a clear picture of himself, a sense of his identity. And without that identity intact, the other elements upon which positive masculinity depends crumble.
In Canada right now, there are literally millions of fatherless men who don’t quite know, as a result of fatherlessness, how to fit in – how to relate to other men or how to relate to women, and that is because they don’t know how to relate to themselves.
Solve this masculine identity crisis and we begin to solve all the other social pathologies related to fatherlessness.
So what does this have to do with being “conservative”? Well, in addition to the fact that conservatives tend to be those who most clearly believe in and want to protect the traditional family—family with a father and a mother—there is an even more basic issue: conservatives also suffer from fatherlessness. In particular, this issue is personal for me. I am a fatherless man. I never knew my father. From the day I was born, there was no father in the house. Sure, there were “men” around. But no paternal father protector and no role model, and a ton of identity issues ensued.
Most fatherless men look stable at first glance. But inside they are deeply wounded, vulnerable and often angry.
As a child I never really understood the implications of fatherlessness. But I knew something was wrong. To look at me, you wouldn’t have guessed it, but I was a very angry, self-hating, and destructive boy who turned into a self-hating and angry man.
So let me offer the following two pieces of advice to those of us suffering from fatherlessness as adults.
1. If you are an adult male who is fatherless, forget trying to find a father-substitute among other grown men. Like me, you’ve suffered a loss and chances are you will never find a suitable replacement. And as the stats bear witness, if you go on seeking male affirmation and approval – as you probably have been – you will no doubt continue to experience disappointment and rejection, and your sense of self will only diminish. The harsh reality is that no other man can replace or make up for what you never had. So letting go of finding a father-substitute will free you from this cycle of dependency, disappointment and pain.
2. Take time to grieve and acknowledge your loss. That means, and this may sound strange, making time to experience the pain of your loss, communicate that loss in words or with tears, acknowledge the injustice, and then, most importantly, let it go once and for all. The process may take several weeks or even several months. Be clear, however, that if you don’t take the time to grieve the loss you will never be free of pain, and of course you will be unable to move forward and become a healthy, caring, serving, and self-affirming man.
In no way am I suggesting that this is a panacea for fatherlessness. It is, however, an important first step. Unless fatherless men find healing and self-acceptance, the cycle of fatherlessness will only continue.
It is certainly past time that our society acknowledged that fatherlessness is a devastating social problem deserving of recognition and action.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.