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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

The Gift of an Imperfect Father

May 31, 2022 06:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Father putting hand on son's shoulder, who has arms crossed and is looking in other direction


For many of us, Dad was the first person to throw us a ball, take us fishing or treat us to ice cream after a game. If we were fortunate, he was the one who made a bad day better, was a strong protector who kept the metaphorical wolves from the door and, by example, secured our place in the world. Fathers give us many “firsts”, and for some of us, that also means a broken heart.

Parents, like all human beings, are fallible, learning as they go, never quite getting it right, but doing the best that they can. Sometimes their “best” is tangled in a net of unresolved personal trauma, addiction or mental illness, and we learn to bear the bitter with the sweet. “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift,” wrote poet Mary Oliver, and her words can be a beacon as we journey through healing the father wound.

Once we come out the other side of childhood, it might be difficult to love someone that destroyed our trust and even more difficult to love ourselves. This “gift” might take decades for us to unwrap. Children of difficult dads sometimes blossom like lotuses into more compassionate beings from the mud of absence, cruelty or indifference. Perhaps with a shift in perspective, we may realize how their weaknesses might have given us survival tools and resilience. Flipping the coin to examine what they have done right and giving credit where it is deserved can also help us to open that dead-bolted door to forgiveness. Taking inventory, both positive and negative, can encourage us to become a different kind of parent.

In a black-and-white world, the heart’s gray areas can teach us how to lean into our own healing. We inherit a lot from our wounded fathers, including an energetic opportunity to change the familial emotional code, and it can be beautiful.

Marlaina Donato is an author, composer and painter.

5 Top Tips to Finding Your Next Doctor

1 Keep an Open Mind! Healthcare has come a long way. Today, you have access to practitioners that branch outside of traditional medicine and aim to identify the root causes of conditions while using alternative treatments that may help you get the relief you need. Just because it’s not a pill, doesn’t make it pseudoscience.

2 Build Your Health Care Team. There is no one doctor that can be the be-all-end-all for your health needs. Be sure to have a team of practitioners with different “lenses” and areas of expertise who will treat the root cause and not just the symptom(s).

3   Environment Influences Healing. Health is multi-factorial. Your mental and emotional environment plays a pivotal role in your healing potential. Your doctors and their staff should create an office atmosphere filled with positivity so you can get the most out of your care.

4 Your Story Matters.  Before you begin any treatment, be sure to have a comprehensive consultation to discuss your health concerns. Find practitioners who welcome questions and will take the time to listen and treat you with respect.

5 Report of Findings. When it comes to our health, we often make decisions without understanding the risk versus benefits. Knowledge is an important part of the healing process and is essential to make conscious, informed health decisions. Find practitioners who take the time to explain their exam findings and the recommendations for treatment in ways that make sense to you.

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