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My Dad, Me, and the Healing Power of Forgiveness
by Ayana Iman
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July 8, 2020

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My Dad, Me, and the Healing Power of Forgiveness

Ayana Iman with her father (Photo courtesy of Ayana Iman)
Ayana Iman with her father (Photo courtesy of Ayana Iman)

I’ve always considered myself a daddy’s girl. As far back as I can remember, I would always prepare two cups of juice: one for him and one for me. Our relationship was special, effortless, and loving. Then he left. My parents separated, and our home crumbled from the dissolution of their marriage. I was devastated.

At 8-years-old, I experienced abandonment. My father returned to his home country across the pond. Unlike most people my age, I became aware of deceit. I thought he would always have my back, but he didn’t. We went from Friday night movies on the couch to only being able to talk through a $5 phone card that I purchased from the local bodega. Our time was limited by minutes, leaving only enough room for surface conversations. I was angry without the vocabulary or context to express myself fully. How could he abandon us like this? My parents weren’t perfect, but they were home.

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As a college student, I jumped at the opportunity to study abroad in England and be closer to my dad. Ten years had passed since I last saw him. By then, we spoke through Skype, but nothing could replace an in-person meeting. I’ll never forget the moment our cohort touched down, and we drove through places that felt both foreign and familiar. England was exactly as he described it: lush with greenery and a mist that kept the air moist. 

A few hours after I arrived on campus, he appeared at my dorm. It was an emotional reunion as we cried together in the hallway, hugging, and in pure shock that we were in the same place. Nothing mattered to me more than that moment. He apologized; I had forgiven him. I needed him to know the impact he had on my life. We used the next few months to talk through our situation, creating new memories, and strengthening our bond.

Time may not have healed all wounds, but it certainly broke down the proverbial walls. I think when I accepted my father as a human and the error of his ways as a character flaw, the more I began to accept this as our normal. This made space for my healing, from childhood trauma to dealing with daddy issues within my relationships. Believe it or not, I didn’t know that I had any issues until I started dating and saw the effects of my actions.

When I accepted my father as a human and the error of his ways as a character flaw, the more I began to accept this as our normal. 

Ayana Iman with her father (Photo courtesy of Ayana Iman)
Ayana Iman with her father (Photo courtesy of Ayana Iman)

I would put up with blatant disrespect to keep the relationship together, just wanting to love and be loved. Now, I know when a person truly loves you, their actions will reflect that. And if I loved myself, then I wouldn’t stay in those situations.

My trip abroad laid the foundation for our family to heal. My father made his first trip back to the states in over a decade to be present for his children and grandchildren. I’m so happy that my daughter gets to know the man I know today; this includes a host of aunties, uncles, and cousins that I didn’t know growing up. Since then, we have visited each other often and speak every day.

Forgiveness is a choice. It allows you to take your power back and control the narrative. You can choose to forgive a person and not invite them back into your life or open the door for possibilities. Being someone’s parent does not guarantee your forgiveness. As a parent, I’m painfully aware of my presence in my child’s life and do my best to keep her trust.

I do not condone my father’s decision to leave. He knows that it was purely selfish. Oddly enough, we joke about it. We’ve used humor to our advantage. Whatever his reasoning, it doesn’t matter now.  At present, I’m focused on embracing love, because that’s how my mother raised me.

I’m grateful to know my father and acknowledge some people don’t have this privilege. Family is everything to me. I made space for forgiveness so we could have a breakthrough, and I’m better because of it.

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