I’ve been doing this work with fatherless women for about a decade now. I mean working with women who grew up with an unattached, unavailable or absent father.

What I have discovered is a lot of women don’t consider themselves fatherless because either they had a strong paternal presence in their lives such as an uncle, grandfather or even a step father. But when I use the term fatherless, I am merely speaking of a girl who’s biological father was not presence in her life.

For a long time, I didn’t consider myself to be a fatherless daughter because I had a step dad. And for the most part, he was a great father. He was absent a lot of the time because he traveled while in the military and he worked an awful lot. He actually didn’t enter my life until I was around 12. So much of my early years I didn’t have a father figure at all.

Nevertheless, I loved being able to say that I had a dad. For some reason I began to feel like I finally belonged and that I had somehow arrived at some social status. Even my mother took pride in saying things like, “your dad this and your dad that.”

I never shared that my step father wasn’t my biological dad, neither did he or my mom. We kept this silent to those who didn’t know us before they were married. I was silent, just like so many others.

When I speak to women around the world about this topic, I am often told that they didn’t feel fatherless because they had very good paternal connections with a step dad or grandfather.

I truly believe that’s possible. But what I don’t believe is that those of us who were abandoned by our biological fathers do not carry some type of hidden, muted, unrecognizable pain, resentment or confusion because our fathers didn’t choose to love, protect and care for our well being.

At least this was my case. It wasn’t until after my first marriage ended in a divorce that I began to reflect upon my life and realize that I had been living out many of the patterns associated with fatherless women.

And while I tried to cover my emotions and even believed that my step dad could make up for who and what my dad wasn’t, I couldn’t. And this pain and hole in my soul showed up in how I lived my life…even if it was subtle.

The truth is, I did wonder why my dad didn’t want me. I did hurt because he never set out to find me and have a relationship with me. I finally decided that I wanted some answers.

When I came face to face with my biological father, I quickly realized that I would never get the answers that I was seeking. Nor did I get the apology that I so desperately needed.

My conclusion of the matter is, no one can ever take the place of your biological father. Except those rare cases when a step dad was there from the very beginning. However, there will always be a deep wonder and open question that lags in the back of your mind that says, “Why didn’t my dad choose me?”

And while we may never get the real truth, for those of us who were fortunate enough to have a paternal connection with a step dad, grandfather, uncle or etc., we are grateful. These amazing men do fill a special void and they shape our lives. And we embrace love, acceptance and forgiveness to fill the space that was abandoned by our biological dads.