Research on Father-Loss

Emerging themes on this subject, based on personal narrative methodology, reveal a pattern among WWII war orphans, daughters who lost fathers.

  • Feeling Different  During the post-war period, conversation about the missing father was off limits in the home. The girls rarely or never knew another child in the same situation.
  • Yearning vs. Grief   A free-floating longing for “what could have been” characterized these fatherless girls. It should be noted that divorce was still rare among middle-class families at this time. For the orphan child, life felt insecure or dangerous. Yet, nothing was named and no interventions were made. These girls did not receive counseling and many did not know the story of the father’s death. They responded in one of two ways: with hyperdependency or rigid self-sufficiency. This theme finds that the child experienced curiosity more than grief, an acute yearning for the smallest piece of evidence of connection.
  • Fear, Anxiety, and Monsters in the Dark  The litany of fears voiced by women in their 60’s and 70’s who reflected on their childhood were multiple and complicated. Among them:  fear of abandonment; fear of being left behind; fear of trusting and letting go; fear of getting lost and panic; fear of unexpected death of a loved one; fear of the dark; fear of “being replaced” if the mother re-married; violent night terrors; darkness as a trigger for deep sense of loneliness.
  • Extra Responsibility and Caretaking  These girls often took care of their mothers and later in life, experienced a strong instinct to care for others. As mothers, these women feared letting go of their maturing children. Cycle of caretaking is rooted, for these children, in the belief that they were somehow responsible for the father’s death.
  • Loyalty, Romance, and the Ideal Man  Father-loss in this period produced a significant effect on future relationships. These women in general manifest unwavering loyalty in marriage and a strong need “to see it through.”
  • Always Seeking A Daddy  This unconscious need is exhibited as loyalty to a memory. Unresolved issues have persisted throughout their lives. Emotional deprivation of the father still evoked tears in aging women. Dr. Taylor writes that “something is truly absent from these women’s lives.”  She concludes that,  for these daughters, the war-connected deaths of their fathers defined their lives. ” The orphan daughter learned that she was a living legacy to a man whom everyone wanted to forget on some level.”

One thought on “Research on Father-Loss

  1. This is difficult research. Digging around in the past– unearthing this litany of possible reactions–must be both disturbing as well as a confirmation of your own life experiences.

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