Not Father’s Day

I hear it’s Father’s Day today. Might even be in the UK as well as north America, but I can’t be sure as it’s not on my radar. For the last 29 years I have not had a relationship with my father, ever since he emigrated to Australia from England when I was eleven-years-old. I wrote about him in my book; I’ve blogged about it here; I’ve talked about it at length with two therapists and I’ve even written an article about it for a national newspaper and Cosmopolitan (of all places). I’ve looked at it from all angles. I’ve put myself in his younger shoes. I’ve acknowledged how it’s affected me as an adult woman. I sat with my younger self, feeling what she felt. I’ve witnessed friends’ relationships with their fathers and marvelled at them. I’ve flirted with the idea of forgiveness. I’ve had actual conversations with him in the handful of times we’ve met — last time was over 10 years ago. I’ve listened to him apologise to us and admit it was a shitty decision. I’ve also heard him talk lovingly about his children — his Australian family. Moments before he’d stumbled over my name, unaccustomed to using it.

I have no idea what it’s like to have a man in my life who loves me unconditionally, like a father would. I’ve never had anyone to send a Father’s Day card to. It’s all very normal to me now, just another part of the story, but for some reason, this afternoon, after seeing yet another ‘I love you, dad’ status update on Facebook, I felt a sadness I haven’t experienced in a long time. The sadness of a little girl who didn’t have a daddy anymore. She had no idea how to process it, so she turned into a needy teen who wanted so desperately to be loved she’d settle on the first guy who paid her some attention. And my thoughts then turned to my nephew, as they so often do these days. I trust that HIS daddy will be there for him. I love my brother-in-law and I know he’d always do right by my sister and Noah (and he knows I’d kneecap him if he didn’t ;-)


To be honest, I don’t know how to end this post. I guess I just wanted to put some words down, and give a shout out to all of you out there who don’t have someone to send a Father’s Day card to either.


62 responses
  1. Marylin

    Sending you hugs. My boys’ dad is similarly not in their lives. More than yours was, for now, but it’s something I just can’t understand. How he could possibly *not* want to spend time with his children.
    I can’t fathom how he can be ok with missing so much of his amazing children’s lives.
    I just.. well, I don’t really know what else to say, but from a mama’s point of view, I just wanted to say this: that little girl who’s dad left? It wasn’t her fault. Ever. Give her a big soft snuggle from me. xx

  2. Lee Currie

    Thank you for that, the perspective of an adult looking back. Though I have a fabulous father – great provider, wonderful heart, happy to listen and give considered advice, my children do not. He insists on living in the same town “for appearances” which makes it so much worse. They get that his interest in pleasing strangers rather them is about him, but it still hurts. With the help of therapy my kids are just learning that it’s okay to feel abandoned and they are all learning to give voice to it.

  3. Justine

    I feel for you Susannah. I have a relationship with my father, yet I feel the same sense of sadness when I read the ‘ I love you Dad’ comments on Facebook. I don’t consider that my Dad offers me unconditional love and at the age of 47 I still struggle to have an adult relationship with him as he still wants to treat me like a child and let me know all the things I could have done better. So, I keep my Dad at arms length and every birthday / Christmas / Father’s Day I find myself looking for the most bland and uneffusive cards I can find, and mourning the fact that I can’t join the outpouring of Dad-love. Sending love to you Susannah xx

  4. Mel

    I so get this. That’s all I can say.

  5. Rebecca campbell

    Your honesty is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing xxx

  6. La plume et la page

    My dad died five years ago and he was a wonderful father! Sometimes I’d like to talk with him again… There’s no man in my life today who loves me unconditionnally as my dad did. Sad!

  7. Joy

    Thank you. I tend to appreciate the moment and celebrate the gifts, but today my social media threads were full of “my dad is the best ever tributes” and that is so far from my experience. I’m not upset at my dad, for his mental illness contributed to much of the chaos and abuse, but I had spent years so upset with myself for continuing to love him, and for drawing to me similar men (including the father of my children). So, I feel your message and I am glad you shared it. I don’t feel so “outside of the norm” today.

  8. Kelly

    My dad passed away November 1, 2011. I don’t get to send cards to him anymore. The woman he lived with has his ashes and refuses to speak to any of us. I wish I could know if he had a final resting place. I try to take comfort in the fact that even though she had his ashes, I have his DNA …. and his grandchildren.

    Thank you for sharing the words you did….so honestly…..

  9. Bee

    Oh Susannah, thank you for writing this post. I haven’t had a real relationship with my dad in what feels like forever…I just got back from a trip where I flew across the country to see him and he fit me into his schedule with a 90 minute breakfast. This year all the happy, “I love you Dad” posts were getting to me in a way the other years haven’t, so I appreciate, and stand in solidarity with, your candour.

    much love, as always.

  10. Pip

    Oh yes. I totally get this. This is me too. There are lots of fathers out there who move on or move away from their children, physically or mentally. When you grow up and/or have your own children you are constantly reminded of the things you might be missing. Or just when you see great dads with their kids, even. It’s tough, right?! Still. It makes us what we are so we mustn’t lament too much. We must know that this is just another part of the puzzle that’s us. Thanks for writing about this. It’s fortifying to know there are others out there feeling a bit empty about Father’s Day. x

  11. Ariane

    WOW, thank you for saying what I have been feeling all day but didn’t quite know how to express. I see beauty in your words Susannah and in the sadness you feel. There is a lesson in the experience of not having a relationship to our father and we are meant to learn this lesson. Perhaps learning the lesson or at least knowing there even is one, can bring us comfort. I hope that writing your thoughts and feelings out has transcended you to the other side of sadness.

    With love, always

  12. Valerie

    I can feel your pain and it still seems so raw… However, the real loser here is your father. He has missed out on a fabulous, gorgeous, intelligent, caring and talented daughter. I hope you meet someone whose dad is still alive because he will be very proud to have you as a daughter-in-law.

  13. Heather

    Today many of us are united in our grief, for so many reasons. I really felt this today. With you on this.

  14. Olea

    Thank you, Susannah. I’m a churchgoing person, so I heard many reminders today to reach out to our fathers and tell them how grateful we are for their many sacrifices and love for us. That’s not my experience, and it’s healing to be reminded that there are plenty of wonderful people who also didn’t have that experience.

    Much love.

  15. Sarah

    What a real and honest post Susannah. I have similar feelings for my mom, even though she is still close by and we do see each other, it is a relationship I struggle with. Picking a card for Mother’s day is very hard. Hard to find one with minimal words which is what I feel.

  16. SHERRY

    “and I don’t know how to end this post…” indeed. But I love that you would knee cap him…and I love how fierce you are. I excluded my father from me life in 1975…he left us in 1972 (thank heavens!) and after 1975 I never did another thing for Father’s Day until my husband became a father. It’s a privilege, not a right. I hear you Susannah and so do the rest of us who had fathers who didn’t even try to reach the bar. xo

  17. Victoria

    Hi Susannah – thank you so much for sharing your feelings. I too have had a very difficult relationship with my father. It was around for my childhood, but he was angry and controlling. He took off when I was 21 and I only see him when he decides he wants to show up, not when I need him. To say our relationship is difficult is an understatement. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that he will never be the father I needed. Thank you for so bravely sharing your story.

  18. Katie

    Days like today are tricky. Know that some of us who are outwardly posting lovey things about our fathers are really just trying to cover some cracks and hollow spots in our relationships with our fathers too. I honor and applaud your honesty today.

  19. MICHEle M.

    Hi Susannah,
    I have lived a similar story and thank you for sharing yours. (and the other readers, theirs)

  20. Barbie Dallmann

    Sometimes we just have to feel what we feel. I appreciate what you’ve said about doing your work … processing, understanding, analyzing, and learning to live with it. Once in a while, though, we just need to feel the sadness, shed the tears, and grieve for what we wish we’d had.
    Everyone has something like that. Your post gives us all permission to do what we can … and still feel what we feel. Thank you.

  21. Robin

    Your post hit me really hard. My father and I haven’t had a relationship in years (my choice/his severe drug addiction) and this year Father’s Day was rougher for me than in years past. I read your post today, nodding, and understanding.

  22. The Dame Intl

    Thank you for this. I washed my hands of my father at 18 years old. I am now 34 and we have never spoken since. While he was an entertaining and gregarious person, he was an awful shitty father that fucked me up and its taken all these years to undo the mess he made of me and Im STILL working on it. I have tried forgiving him but I still blame him in a way, I still resent the wounds that Im not even sure are healed. I too have had a weird relationship with men all my life, sleeping with anyone who would let me, and not trusting any man anywhere, even boyfriends I fell in love with and who loved me back. I hope one day we can each heal from the mess they made.

  23. Alessa

    Father’s Day & Mother’s Day are two holidays I don’t acknowledge. My father left when I was 3, at the time for reasons unknown, and my mother abused me from the time I was born.

    My father surfaced a few years ago… I suspected he didn’t want me.. I found out he was actually incarcerated… for what at this time, I still don’t know, but I believe it was something like drugs or manslaughter… no, he wasn’t a serial killer, I do know that… but never being one to deal with emotions… I never asked.. in fact I cut off all conversation… I’m not upset or angry.. just not interested in having the conversation.

    I just don’t have any interest in getting to know a complete stranger.

    Yeah, I kind of hate Mother & Father’s Day. For reasons listed above. It doesn’t even make me sad anymore… well most of the time… but I suspect because my emotions never thawed…

  24. Diane

    What is it with these fathers? How can they so easily walk away from children and responsibilities? I could never understand how mine could do that but based on these comments it looks like “walking away” is a pretty common story.

  25. Ginger


  26. Zarina Ávila

    I have a father that I love but unfortunately never knew being a dad and, most times, it’s like embers not here.

  27. Jessie

    Hugs! Thanks for your honest words.

  28. Corliss

    Thank You…I too have a hard time on Fathers Day.

  29. Holly marie Smith

    I felt tears well up in my eyes as I read this as I can totally understand and sympathise.
    I didn’t have my father in my life at all until i was 19 ( I am now 23) and still to this day there is a lot of confusion and amnocity for lots of reasons (which i wont go into) and even though I now have some connection with him, I still dont feel like I have a father and that hurts more than never knowing him at all.

  30. cheryl c.

    There are more of us out there than you know…I didn’t get to know my Dad until well into my 30’s..strange…but I always longed for him…I’m glad that he lived long enough for me to know the entire story and build a relationship with him as an adult…funny, in the end, I was the one taking care of him…unconditionally…Life is strange.

  31. Vero Palazzo

    A big hug… I think it is nice to celebrate these days (mom’s day, father’s day) but at the same time it is very difficult for those children and adults that for any reason, do not have a dad or mom to hug or send a card to… I am lucky to have my parents alive and with all their mistakes, they are the best I could have, but my husband grew up with no dad (he died from cancer when my husband was 3 years old) and I know it is hard to see and listen all people celebrating something you can’t. Love from Buenos Aires!

  32. TJ

    Big hugs…frankly, I hate these “Hallmark” holidays.

  33. Jen

    Thanks for posting this. I had a rocky relationship with my father. He was an alcoholic … well in truth … still is. He and my mother enabled one another while I grew up and was forced to become grown far before my time. I still work on the relationships in my family as it is far from the Rockwell portraits we see. I spent most of today with my best friend who is in the middle of a horrid divorce and whose insensitive estranged husband brought his gf home to visit prior to the divorce papers being filed. Explain that to 3 children and console that. I struggled for 12 years of marriage to try to have children I longed for and he discards his every single day. I feel you even if it looks like something different from afar. I am grateful for the love my parents share but I struggle with the inconsistencies.

    Much love to you, Susannah. xx

  34. Kimberley McGill

    Warmest hug for you. And thank you.

  35. Roxanne

    Thank you for the elegant way in which you peel back yet another layer and share with us you raw vulnerability. All I can say is your father is truly the biggest loser in all of this, for all the beauty and joy he has and is still missing out on. xoxo

  36. I.Mar

    I do feel for you regarding this. Although my dad is present, he has never been a dad and I do feel like you in many ways, watching friends with their fathers. I have also worked my way through it and am now at peace with this. It also means I am avoiding him as much as I can. Better for me that way.

  37. Nancy

    Thank you for your honest words and open heart Susannah.

    My father passed away three years ago at a much to young age. He was to young and so felt I. For most of my life we didn’t have a good relationship, only after my parents were divorced we were able to talk about some of the issues that were standing between us. We had one wonderful, honest year left that was full of tears and joy and it was only three days before he died that I, for the first time in my life, aged 20, had the feeling that there is somebody there for me, somebody who cares and supports me. I struggeled in my first year of studies and my father had an encouraging phonecall with me. Afterwards it made me cry so badly, because of this feeling of support and the realisation that I finally have at least one “real” parent in my life. That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

    I am sorry you have not had that kind of second chance with your father but I hope you have been able to resolve the issue as far as you needed to in order to be in peace with your story, eventhough there might always be a part of us left, that is longing for that unique and unconditional love that only a father can give. My thoughts are with you.

  38. sas


  39. michelle gd

    for different reasons, but i am right there with you.

  40. Liesbeth

    Thank you for this susannah. It resonates a lot

  41. Amiana Li

    I lost my father rather suddenly three years ago.
    We had a great relationship, he was calm and the shore where my family felt safe. When he died we all lost our floor and have been searching/building a new ever since.

    Nowadays, on Father’s Day I don’t leave a tribute to the best dad ever, he of course had his flaws, like I do or my mother does, I just let my friends and family know that I miss him and keep on remembering eveything that he taught me.


  42. Lydia Kimble-Wright

    Thanks for this post. In past years, I was compelled to write a post on Father’s day this year is different, in that I felt no need to address the topic. This is a big step for me. My father abandoned us when I was five years old. My Mom was left to raise three girls on her own. As a child, I was drawn to television shows depicting an intact family with a father who loved and cared for his children. I’ve never had that experience and know that it affects the person that I am today. At this time in my life, my anger and longing has been replaced with acceptance that it is what it is. I don’t have a father to celebrate and that is okay. Blessings and xoxo, Lydia

  43. Rockyann

    Man…I have the same feeling on Father’s Day. My dad didn’t leave us but there were many times I wish he had. He was meaner than shit and he was very cruel to me. My mother checked out mentally and I felt so alone throughout my miserable childhood. I hate those Facebook posts too.

  44. Kate

    With you all the way on this one: my father died very suddenly almost 13 years ago, when I was 20. Having already abandoned me twice in life, our relationship by the time he died was strained to breaking point. Despite this, his final abandonment floored me and Father’s Day has ever since been tinged with sadness.
    It’s lovely to hear the stories of those who do have wonderful father figures in their lives, though :)

  45. jim

    Incredibly brave post, thanks for sharing and showing your vulnerability. Haven’t had a father to celebrate father’s day with for 38 years; it’s always a confusing day.

  46. Brandy

    I share your pain Susannah, it’s a weird and off putting day for me too. Even though my head knows better my heart still longs for him to be a better man – the father I have always wanted. xx

  47. Vanessa

    Sounds like one more good reason for me to not be on FB. You are not alone. It’s been 11 years since I’ve dealt with my paternal figure. His actions left me alone to deal with my emotionally broken mother (who has physical problems of someone 20 years her senior) while raising my four children. Probably part of my survival strategy but I never think of him on Father’s Day, just my husband. There is no neat and tidy wrap up to family mess, is there? Hugs.

  48. Krista

    Thank you. I’m sorry. You aren’t alone. XO

  49. Emily

    Thanks Susannah, as you can see from the comments, many of us feel your pain. It’s strangely comforting to read that someone else has a total shit for a father too, as odd as that sounds. Funny, we actually moved to Aus (Mum, sis & me) and left my father somewhere in England, but this was a good while after he left us. It does suck to know that half of what genetically makes up ‘you’ is a total arsehole. I guess it just makes me even more thankful my sister & I managed to make good lives in which we aren’t arseholes.

    Thanks for sharing xx

  50. Vicki

    You’re not alone. Aho!!

  51. Laura Bradshaw

    Wow. Thanks for puting some of my thought / feelings into words. I’m still extricating myself from a very toxic relationship with my father who was “there” but whose love was so far from unconditional it was terribly damaging to my young and adult self. Like you’ve sat with my young self and told close friends and therapists. and at this point I wonder if I will arrive at forgiveness before he passes (which is not particularly imminent)- I hope so….but I too gazed at all those FB post honoring dads and wondered what that would feel like. I cannot really imagine it.
    You are my sister in this and I’m sending you a firm hug….the kind you’d like to get from a man….a dad.

  52. maggy

    Thank you for your heartfelt post. I have a very similar story. It has been the last few years of my life that I’ve truly understood the impact a father has to his daughter. As I also saw many Facebook posts glowing of love and gratitude to fathers, I felt somewhat different. I do have gratitude to those men who are awesome dads and wonder at times what it would have been like. Would I have had to learn so many mistakes the hard way?

    This year, I called my mother and wished her a happy Father’s day. She earned it.

  53. Angie R

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I did not want to face father’s day because my daughter had a father up until after Father’s Day last year. This was our first Father’s Day without my husband her dad and I wondered what it would be like for her for the rest of her life. Thankfully, they didn’t make as big a deal, as they often do, about it at church.

    I have mixed emotions of my own regarding my own dad. I am a bit guarded with him now. Kind of a Cat Steven’s “Cats in the Cradle” type of relationship. Hopefully, we can eventually meet in the middle with this.

    Anyway, thanks for your post – it made me think of my own pent up emotions.

  54. Sarah

    Thank you for writing this post, I too had no relationship with my father, he left when I was three and the last time I saw him I was about eight. I found out a couple years ago that he died in 2007, which I felt a bit odd about because deep down I always harbored the fantasy that he would try and get back in contact with me, declaring what a mistake it was to ever leave me behind, but his death killed that hope. I think what hurts the most is that my dad met a women and became a step dad to a girl about my age, which I found particularly hard – how could a man be more invested in a stepdaughter than his own flesh and blood. I guess I have come to terms with it now and I have never really been that bothered about Father’s Day, but with the rise of social media, it has become more in my face and sometimes makes me feel like I am missing out on something. I also feel it more since my mother mother passed away last year, which has left me with no family, but having said this, I think I wouldn’t be the strong independent woman I am today if none of these things happened. Plus, it has made be choose friends who are like the family I never had, they look out for me and make my life complete.

  55. Shelly

    It is interesting how social media has magnified the loss and pain of the difficult aspects of our own lives. By virtue of the sheer number of people declaring their “normal” experience in public, it can be harder to swallow the difficulty in our own private lives. I think writing about it helps. It helps others who aren’t having the “normal” experience to connect and feel less alone. But somehow these less desirable feelings and circumstances don’t populate the facebook feed quite as often and it leaves a lot of other people, myself included, feeling more isolated, sad and suffering at times.

  56. Veronica Roth

    Yup that’s me. He left when I was 9, died when I was about 39, never heard from him, didn’t know where he was, didn’t care. The only way I found out is because the RCMP tracked me down from an old newspaper clipping he had. I was curious, so went to where he was, donated all his belonging to charity, saved some photos for my children in case they wanted to know about him and never really thought about him again. But I’ll tell you what, even though I’ve had a terrific stepfather, I never valued the fathers of my children in their lives. It does change one. :)


    Thank you for writing this. I also find father’s day difficult and haven’t spoken to my father in 20 years. I could barely go on FB on Sunday. Too painful.

  58. Julie W

    Thank you for sharing this. I was a young adult when my father walked out and having tried to have a relationship on his terms, we stopped talking about 10 years ago. Part of me longs to be the ‘Daddy’s Girl’ I never was, even when we lived as a family but I know that will never be. This year I had more than the usual twinge of sadness as Facebook seemed to be more full of Daddy messages than before. I have someone who fathered me but not a Dad… The irony is that I’m very much a family person but sadly most of my family of origin aren’t…

  59. kira

    I too grew up with an absent father and the impact on my life sounds similar to yours. Many distant and withdrawn men in my life. I still have rare contact with my father and when I do we have strained conversation and awkward moments. I sat there on fathers day reading FB and Twitter wondering what it would be like to feel such love and trust for my father. I don’t think i will ever know and today at 42 I ok with that. Thanks for the honest post and isn’t it great to not so tied by the loss anymore. Hugs Kira

  60. Catherine

    I am 29 this year. When I was 11, I lost my father to cancer.
    I do not know where this comment is going.

    About 2 years ago, back home in Hong Kong, I found my father’s TLR camera (Mamiya C220) and brought it back to London. Not even my mum saw him using it since they started dated and got married etc. I never expected there is an TLR waiting for me all these years. As if, he knew; someone knew.

    Sometimes we will never figure out WHY certain things turn out the way how they turned out. All we could do is try not to stay too damaged by it and try and learn something from it.

    oh maybe I will end the comment like this. Sounded quite wise ;-)

    Keep Calm and Carry On :)

  61. alicia bock

    Thanks love for all of this~ I am way behind on my blog reading. But, do remembering feeling so out of place on facebook that day, and then feeling that I was finally getting closer to being ok with it.
    I have made my own family out of those dear to me and I try to let my gratitude for them fill in the empty places.
    Sending you all my love. xoxo

  62. Heather

    I share your pain. I think I should probably stay off social media tomorrow. :(

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