Mental Health: Unfinished Business

Relationship and life coach, Donna Lancaster, reflects on how her relationship with her father impacted on her own wellbeing and mental health...

Image: IngImage.

For so many years I wanted to believe that my unfinished business with my father did not affect my life. "I've moved on", I told myself, "that was in the past and he's no longer a part of my world."

And yet, there he was in every critical thought and belief that I held against myself: too fat, too stupid, too weak, not good enough, too dull and on and on – like a relentless critic passing constant judgement inside my head. My father’s words taking on my own voice. 'Parenting' myself the only way I knew how, through judgment and shaming.

My father was then present again in all the ways I neglected my body, sabotaged my opportunities, rejected myself over and over for decades – with the aim to remain loyal to this man at any cost. "Don't worry, Daddy – I'm staying faithful to your words. I won't dare to be more than you said I would."

And then he showed up in all the relationships I ever had with men. All the addicts, all unavailable, just like he was. And then my friendships too, choosing people who would replicate my “oh-so-familiar” story. My father’s judgements reaching me once more through the dysfunctional friends I invited in.

And most painfully, there my father was, and no doubt his father before him, reaching on through to the next generation as I parented my own beautiful children the only way I knew how. I watched myself pass down what was passed on to me. Like a dysfunctional baton of unfinished business that I took from my father and ran with as fast as I could. And then when I could no longer carry it, my beautiful eldest daughter making her own unconscious vow of loyalty to me, took this invisible baton and began her own race.

So, no – I wasn't done with my father, just because he wasn't present in my life. And no – I hadn't finished my business just because I didn't think about the past. If only it were that simple.

However, it was through grieving the loss of my innocence, the loss of the father I needed, accepting the reality of the father I got and grieving the loss of the parent I'd hoped to be, that I was finally able to cut the chains of dysfunction and, in so doing, set myself, my father and my children free.

So while my father didn’t give me hugs, or hold my hand or tell me everything would be alright (it is), I am still so grateful for what he could give me – my life, my strength, my vulnerability. He broke my heart wide open and I will forever be grateful for that. And now I have two great grandsons, who would not even be here if not for him. This means the world to me.

So, wherever my father is, I send him nothing but love and gratitude. He helped me become who I am. I love him and am at peace with our relationship.
Life and relationship coach, Donna Lancaster.
Donna Lancaster has been working with individuals, couples and groups for over 20 years. A trained social worker, she is also an experienced facilitator and Hoffman teacher. In her coaching work, Donna uses a variety of approaches to support people to grieve, identify the underlying causes of depression, and move on from their losses including bereavements, divorce and separation. Find out more about The Bridge, Donna's five-day personal development retreats in Somerset at
Watch resident blogger Marc's video about his own personal experiences with mental health as a parent here
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Guest Tuesday, 24 November 2020

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