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  • JL Whitehead

When your father is missing...

I found myself thinking about my father this morning. I woke up with him on the forefront of my mind for no apparent reason…and I smiled despite the pain that he unwittingly left behind. He had no idea the emotional damage he left in not playing the role that had been assigned to him; a role that he pushed away from himself as easily as you would your chair after you’ve eaten a particularly good meal.

I had a chance to tell him what I felt about his abandonment of his family and yet I never got the answers that I was looking for. I suppose, like many of you, I felt like what happened to me when I was thirteen or what happened to you at any age may have started with the absence of your father.

As a boy, I remember missing him so badly that it brought me to tears. The tears of a boy whose father was missing is exceptionally painful,; and those tear weigh heavy Thousands of little black boys have been left to fend for themselves and find their way in a world that to some degree, hates them. Millions of little boys, regardless of race who have been victims struggle, mostly in silence. My father was missing for a reason…I just didn’t know what that reason was.

Many of you lost your way when you were younger. You fought your battles in ways that only you knew. You survived your loss; whether that was because your father was missing, or your father was present and abusive.

No one wants to be a victim, and no one wants to be a survivor. I’m sure that you don’t. But here’s the thing, what happened to you, as awful as it was does not negate the man that you’ve become. What happened to you does not shape who you are unless you allow it to.

I can say that because I’m living proof that what happens to you doesn’t define you.

Fighting the good fight can be daunting. It can be down right scary. You may have hidden your hurt and decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to re-visit past pain. You may have even convinced yourself that what happened to you was an isolated incident(s). Or worst yet, you buried the abuse acting as if it doesn’t matter or that that the act was inconsequential. I assure you, it does; even if its root is imbedded in an absentee father.

I’m sure that there are things that I don’t know regarding the relationship between my mother and father just as I’m sure you don’t know everything that went on with yours. But my father didn’t give me the answers that I’d been seeking all my life. He wasn’t man enough to.

Surviving abuse isn’t the road that we want to travel.

I never sought the help that I needed because for most of my life, I didn’t think I needed it. I never thought that professional counseling would heal the hurt that I carried inside me. And I admit that I don’t have all the answers to address your pain.

What I will say is despite all the things that you may have gone through, there is a number that you can call that may place you on the path to helping you cope with what you are going through.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7: Telephone: 800.656.HOPE (4673) Online chat: Español:

I sought my healing in prayer and private conversations with trusted allies. This doesn’t mean that you must do what I have done because everyone’s walk to healing isn’t the same. But I urge you to invest a little time in yourself and think about where you are now emotionally as well as where you want to be.

~ J.L. Whitehead

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