Q: My father abandoned our family when I was young. Now that I'm getting older and really need his input, he's not here for me. Do you have advice for dealing with this pain?
Jim: If your mother is available, a starting point would be to tell her that you're having a hard time right now. Even if she's dealing with "stuff" of her own, she may have important insights to share. Did your dad have a problem with alcohol or drugs? That wouldn't excuse his leaving, of course, but it might help explain it.
Maybe you could talk to your mom about the possibility of writing your father a letter. Ask her if she has his address, or if there's someone else who might know where he is. Perhaps his parents or siblings would be able to forward a letter to him for you.
After this discussion with your mom, you can begin writing to him when you feel ready. Express your feelings openly and honestly. Ask any questions that are on your mind. Let him know how important it is that he responds. There's no guarantee that he'll answer, but it's worth a try. The process of writing can be beneficial for you, too. It's often a very healing experience to put our deepest thoughts and emotions down on paper.
Whatever happens, remember the real Easter message of renewal: God loves us so much that He went to immeasurable lengths to repair our fractured relationship with Him. He's sad about the pain you've experienced as a result of being abandoned by your earthly dad. Psalm 68:5 tells us that God is a "father to the fatherless." Turn to Him with your pain.
If you'd like to talk to someone about this, our staff counselors here at Focus on the Family would be more than happy to take your call at 855-771-HELP (4357).
Q: My spouse and I sometimes experience significant marital conflict. When that happens I usually shut down, and it's really hurting our marriage. I'm a visual person -- can you give me a mental picture that I can retrieve in times of stress to help me engage in a healthy way?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Marriage can challenge the strongest of couples. I really like this illustration: When serious conflict damages your relationship, do you dig a moat or build a bridge?
Digging a moat is a common reaction when your marriage is suffering. It's like an emotional trench around your heart so deep and wide that your spouse can never cross it. When you're buried in heartache, that's an understandable response. But in the long run, it'll keep you stuck in pain.
To break free, build a bridge to your spouse by finding ways to connect with each other. You don't have to let heartache have the final say over your life and marriage. Rebuild what's been broken. That's not easy to do, but few things worth having are.
The key is all in how you go about it. Your relationship won't magically fix itself overnight. Healing can come, but it happens one date night, one conversation and one kiss at a time. Disconnecting from one another probably took some time, and so will reconnecting.
You also have to prioritize your relationship. Put the kids to bed early one night, so you and your spouse can have some time together. Hire a baby sitter or meet for lunch. It may seem like ordinary moments like these won't get you anywhere. But they're exactly the kind of small steps that can slowly bring your relationship back together.
If conflict has damaged your marriage, remember: Don't dig a moat. Build a bridge.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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