I can’t really name where that feeling of being abandoned started.

Was it when he was still living with me…coming home from work and heading straight to the kitchen table to “do business” {or so I thought from my five year old perspective}?

Was it when he’d hide out in the garage all weekend working on projects, busily occupied with everything other than me?

Was it when he moved out, separating from my mom, leaving me?

I can’t really say when that feeling began.

The one that felt like a hole in my heart.

Like I wasn’t enough.

Like there was no need for me in his life.

Like something was missing.

Maybe it was later.

Maybe it was when he had his own condo and I thought {like I’d seen other friends do so often in an era of divorce} that I’d get to spend weekends with him…that we’d make dinner together and maybe watch a movie.

I thought he’d ask about my life and I’d share with him my challenges and triumphs.

Maybe it was when his response to my requests for time together were answered with “I’ve got a lot going on right now…I just don’t have time.”

Maybe it was then that I felt like nothing.

Maybe it was then that I felt like my father didn’t love me.

I can’t really tell you when that feeling began, but I can tell you that it hurt like hell.

And that it never really left me.

Still, I can tell you that over time, it has subsided.

I have felt that beautiful grace of forgiveness.

And I have felt my heart grow lighter as I have learned compassion toward the man I call dad.

One of the most powerful moments of transformation for me was back in early 2002.

January to be exact.

The Christmas before my father had been troubled by severe vision changes and drastic health problems.

His wife was pursuing treatment with an optometrist, which I could tell was going nowhere quick.

Fortunately, the previous semester, while studying for my teaching credential, I had met another student who suffered from seizures and had given me the contact info for her neurologist at UCLA.

I had gone to see this neurologist to check into a neuroma near my clavicle that had been a mystery for a few years.

When I learned about what was happening with my dad’s rapid vision change, sensing it was likely not an issue the optometrist could rectify, I immediately called my neurologist at UCLA and got an appointment scheduled right away.

Within two days, we loaded into my brother’s van and headed to Westwood.

After various procedures and consults, we learned that my father had a brain tumor.

Damn, when you first hear those words, it feels like a death sentence.

Brain tumor.

My father.


So grateful I’d already been practicing yoga for a few years at that point, and was able to give focus to my breath to keep me centered and {relatively} calm throughout the overwhelming ordeal.

Suddenly, we were in the midst of having blood panels drawn, scheduling more appointments, and preparing for surgery.

Things got real.

Real quick.

I was so happy to be able to go home after the diagnosis and surgical prep to a mama who has always been the most amazing and supportive friend I could imagine.

She held me while I cried.

She listened while I expressed my fears.

She reassured me as I moved through overwhelm into hope.

Before I could even blink, I remember I was waiting in the lobby for the surgery to be over.

Soon, I was allowed to go back and see my father.

Never before had I seen him so vulnerable.

So weak.

In such pain.

In such need.

As I gazed at my father, eyes still closed from sedation, tubes connected to his arms, head wrapped and swollen beyond recognition, my heart softened.

I saw my father as a child.

I opened my heart with such compassion to realize that he is human, just like me.

And that all the sadness and suffering I had felt over the years, the feeling of not being enough, the longing for more from him, the wishing he were different, the blame, the heartache…they started to dissipate.

I realized that my father’s choices were not about me.

It was not me being rejected, it was not me being inadequate, it was not me being unlovable.

The truth was, he was just a man who became a father and had never learned to show his love to me in the way that I wanted to be loved.

And in that moment I could feel tenderness and appreciation and pure love for the little boy he once was.

The little boy whose heart was full and pure and true.

Somehow this changed me.

I no longer looked at my father and blamed him.

I started to feel that forgiveness expand through me.

I could sense that I no longer needed to hold on to that anger and frustration and disappointment toward my father that had tormented me for so long.

I could simply accept him for who he is.

I could love him just because.

I could love him even though he’s imperfect.

I could love him because he’s human.

As I stepped forward to place my hand upon his, I felt so much appreciation.

For him coming through the surgery okay.

For the tumor being benign.

For my heart being willing to forgive.

Over the next few weeks, I spent hours and hours next to my dad.

More time with him than I had in most of my young adult life.

I would talk to him, bring him whatever he needed, and rub vitamin e oil on the massive rainbow scar across his forehead.

I just wanted to take care of him.

I wanted him to be okay.

I wanted him to feel loved.

Because he is.

And somewhere deep down, I know I am too.

Even though his expression of love may not have met my own expectations, over the years he had shown me in his own ways that he loved me.

Sushi dates together.

Shows at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

Dancing together at family weddings and celebrations.

Sometimes, the people in our lives don’t love us the way we want them to.

And we have a choice.

We can let that disappointment weigh heavy on our hearts, or maybe, just maybe, we can find a way to feel free.

Free from the sadness, the hurt, the anger.

We can free ourselves to forgive. @DeniseDare43 (Click to Tweet!)

And accept.

To practice radical acceptance.

To cultivate compassion.

To trust that we deserve to feel the way we want to feel, and to realize that how we respond to our life experience is the key to feeling the way we desire.

I desire to feel at ease.

To feel loving hearted.

To feel free from the disappointment of unmet expectations.

To accept the things I cannot change.

To release the anger I no longer need.

Because it just feels so much better to let it go.

It feels better to love.

It feels better to honor our own needs by freeing ourselves from holding on to those heart breaking feelings.

Learning to see my father as the child he was helped me learn to forgive and to love.

Changing my perspective has lifted a weight that I carried for far too long.

I feel free.

I am forever grateful for the dis~ease that gave me the chance to see with new eyes, and love with a free heart.

The learning continues…

Denise Dare is a Happiness Artist + Love Catalyst + Inspired Living Guide dedicated to helping daring dreamers radically transform their lives from the inside out. Through writing, speaking, and mentoring, she inspires us to move forward with clarity, courage, and confidence, so we feel free to shine + enjoy every step of the journey. Denise believes aligning with ease + freedom + love makes anything possible.

For inspiration + a rad ebook full of challenges to love yourself more fully, visit Denise at her virtual home here. And, connect with Denise on Facebook + Twitter + Pinterest for even more fun!

Image courtesy of Brett Jordan.