How did you get connected with The Fatherless Daughter Project?

I was honestly just looking for answers. I hit a low point recently, and at the time was compelled to find out if emotions I was experiencing could be linked to the absence of my father. I began Googling support groups that dealt with father loss and The Fatherless Daughter Project came up in the search results. The next day I checked out the book from the library and in under a week I had finished it. I’m still amazed at the timing of everything, yet I know it was no accident that I found TFDP when I did.

Can you tell us in a few sentences about your personal story of father loss?

I struggled with finding the right words for this question, because after 14 years I’m still trying to make sense of what happened. I was really close with my father, and I would often go to work with him on the days I had off from school. There are so many stories I could tell you of how he was a dedicated husband and father. All I can say is, we (my mom, brother, sister and I) knew we were loved by him and he took great care of us, but this changed drastically when I was 11. He became an alcoholic and a different person. He moved out of the house and six months later we had to move to another state to live with my aunt. He never contacts me or my siblings, not even on our birthdays. My fear is that he will suddenly pass without him knowing that I do still love him and that I forgive him. Of course I have episodes when I am angry at him, but when those moments pass I’m reminded that the real him is in him somewhere.

What has been the biggest challenge being fatherless?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was having to step up in the areas where my dad should have been. I was the emotional support for my mom as well as a parent to my two younger siblings. In the years following his abandonment I had sports, friends, school and parties to keep me distracted, so I didn’t really take notice of how it was affecting me. When I graduated high school it was a big shock because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, yet at the same time wanted to start claiming my independence. Looking back, I realize that having to play a role that wasn’t mine to play created a sort of identity crisis within me that I’m still trying to work through to this day.

What has helped you to survive?

Knowing I have my Catholic Faith to turn to as I face these struggles has definitely helped me survive. Journaling with the Lord and sitting quietly in his presence through the years were positive coping mechanisms I used, and I’m thankful to my mom for always encouraging us to deepen our relationship with Christ. I’m also thankful for my friends, aunts, uncles (Uncle Mike) and cousins who were positive and supportive role models in my life. I, and my family, could not have survived without them.

Jessica and Tony

Is there a special person(s) in your life that has helped you find healing?

Words can’t even describe how thankful I am to God that He brought my fiancé, Tony, into my life. He is my best friend, and we do everything together. With him, even the mundane activities like cooking dinner are fun. He’s helped me identify unhealthy thought patterns and has been understanding, patient and loving throughout this emotional roller coaster I’ve been on the last couple years as I settle into myself.

Where do you shine?

I love writing. I’ve had a few articles published online and I’m halfway finished the first draft of my first novel. I also directed and edited my friend’s music video a couple years ago which was a lot of fun, and I was really proud of the final product.

What would you tell your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that you aren’t going to reach a point (in this life) where suddenly everything will be made right and the wound that you carry will be wiped away. The wound will heal but the scar will be with you for the rest of your life. There will be various stages throughout your life where the pain flares up again. It’s hard to finally accept, but it’s the only way you can move on in the healing process and not let the past define you and your future.

If you could have a theme song, what would it be?

I’ve always liked Kelly Clarkson’s song “Catch My Breath” and particularly now because the lyrics reflect the crossroads I’m at in my life. It reminds me I’m Addressing the pain and unhealthy patterns I’m still holding onto from my past, yet now taking ownership of my life and moving forward in confidence.

How do you hope to make a difference in the world?

I actually plan on writing a fiction novel someday which will have the theme of fatherloss. In addition, I’m trying to work on getting more comfortable speaking to others about my story-starting with those around me. I want to do my part in helping to address lost fatherhood even if it’s just immediate friends and family.

Fill in the blank: “The most amazing thing about my life is _______________.”

continually discovering that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Thanks, Jessica. We are stronger with you in our sisterhood!

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