What do I say to someone who feels that her soul is awash in emptiness — an emptiness that greets her at the dawn of each new day — an emptiness that shatters her heart and reverberates through her soul? The emptiness and deep hurt that was inflicted upon you was unintentional. There are two people wallowing in emptiness and pain: You and your Father.

Every daughter wants and needs to hear her Father whisper, “I love you!” — three words that affirm her. . . three words that tell her she matters. Had you heard those words from him during your journey from childhood to womanhood, it would have made a positive impact upon your life. You would have made different decisions. You would have looked at the world through a different pair of eyes. And every Father wants to be in his daughter’s life. The youthful decisions and mistakes that your Father made robbed him of the chance to love and care for you. These decisions and mistakes cost him his freedom and account for his absence during your journey from childhood to adulthood. He is wrestling with the decisions and mistakes he made as a young man that made it impossible for him to love, nurture, and mentor you. And he is wrestling with the fact that he was not there to hear you talk about your first day at school, to plan birthday parties for you, watch you blow out the candles on your birthday cakes, and to watch you blossom into the beautiful woman that you have become. And yes, you are beautiful. Beauty is within, not without. Circumstances and decisions beyond your control and which you had nothing to do with, prevented him from telling you how much he loved you and affirming you at a time in your life when it mattered the most.

So, why, after regaining his freedom after decades of institutionalization, is your Father pushing you away and not latching on to the opportunity to affirm you and play a dominant role in your life? Why does he seem so emotionally detached? Emotional detachment was how he survived years of institutionalization.. He found a way to stop his heart from beating. It was the only way he felt he could survive incarceration and hold onto his sanity. You see, prison is not a “warm and fuzzy” place. The years of emotional detachment and institutionalization took an emotional, spiritual, and psychological toll on your Father. He is a man who finds himself struggling with how to make his heart beat again.

If you think your Father does not think about you … does not love you . . . does not recognize your existence . . . and does not feel guilty about the years he could not spend with you due to bad decision making and youthful mistakes, you are wrong. I understand that you cannot see or believe this. In his own way, your Father loves you and cares about you. When he thinks and speaks about you, his eyes sparkle, and a smile illuminates his face. So, why doesn’t he show it? Why does he act as if you don’t exist? Why is he pushing you away? Because he does not know how to tell you that he loves you and cares about you deeply. He pushes you away because the idea that he may have to allow someone to be close to him and allow himself to be vulnerable scares him half to death. Remember, you are dealing with a man who is desperately struggling to get his heart to beat again — a man who has to learn how to love again and how to trust again. Your Father wants to be a part of your life. He just does know how to do that. You will have to teach him how to do that.

While you and your Father cannot change the past, the two of you can do something about the present and the future. I know that you are hurting, but you must find it within your heart to forgive him. Your Father is hurting too. Forgiveness is not about him, it is about YOU. Forgiveness is your path to healing . . . to fulfilling your destiny on this earth . . . and to being a “whole soul” — the “whole soul” that you were when you emerged from the womb. Forgiveness is the path to helping your Father become a part of your life — something that you both desperately need and want.

There is a void in your life and in your Father’s life. He needs you just as much as you need him. If you want your Father in your life, it will be up to you to go get him and drag him into your life. Find him — send him an e-mail, call him — tell him that you forgive him . . . that you love him . . . that you need him . . . and that he needs you. If he does not answer, don’t pull away. Flood his mail box with birthday cards, Father’s Day cards, Valentine’s Day cards, “Thinking-Of-You” cards, and “I Love You Daddy” letters. Shower him with telephone calls, voice mail messages, text messages, e-mail messages, and “tweets” on TWITTER that tells him: “Dad, I forgive you. I love you. I need you. I am here for you.”