Editor’s note: This article, published Aug. 14 in the official newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, was reprinted with permission.
NEENAH — Bob Allen Kroll’s book “Confronting and Healing the Greatest Wound of All” was released this summer, but he said it was in the making his entire life.
Kroll grew up the eldest of nine children in an alcoholic dysfunctional family in Thorp. It would take him years to realize the effects he had suffered from his childhood.
“I had some internal struggles that I had no idea were caused by the emotional wounds I received from my father,” said Kroll, a member of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Greenville. “A friend of mine mentioned that there was a men’s retreat in Florida (in 2010). I decided to go. We drove down there and it was life-changing for me.”
Those attending the retreat were asked to read, in advance, the book “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” by John Eldredge. The topic of “the father wound” is addressed in the book.
“I had never heard this term before. It spoke of how the father’s relationship with his son often is damaged,” said Kroll. “There are wounds that develop because the father fails to love his child properly because of abuse or neglect. When I read this book, I thought, ‘This is the story of my life.’
“I would define ‘the father wound’ as the long-term emotional pain a person suffers caused by the abandonment of their father’s love,” he explained.
The retreat turned out to be an “incredible healing event” for Kroll, who lives in Neenah.
A Catholic marriage and family therapist walked him through the process of forgiving his father with the help of the Holy Spirit.
“The main core event for overcoming my ‘father wound’ with my dad was that forgiveness that I offered him,” he said. “There was so much grace flowing during that event that I was able to forgive him.”
His retreat experience also changed his relationship with his wife, Christine, and their four sons, Kyle, now 26; Jared, 24; Jason, 18; and Riley, 15.
“I don’t explode in anger anymore. The prideful side of me dissipated,” said Kroll. “The self-esteem issues that I had, disappeared. So many great things took place because I forgave my father, this major healing of emotions that I had been carrying for decades.”
Following the retreat, Kroll dove into learning more about “the father wound.” He said he spent 400 to 500 hours researching the topic to put together a presentation and in 2013 began speaking at events and for groups.
“People come up to me afterwards and they are tearing up, saying, ‘I wish I would have heard this story when I was a young father,’” said Kroll, who is a shop supervisor at an integration automation company in Greenville. “Women would also talk with me, if it was a mixed audience. It could be more than alcohol. A father can wound his children if he’s abusive (or) from a divorce situation if dad left the family. Dad may be there, but he’s a workaholic, so there’s neglect and lack of interaction.”
The child misses out on that bond with dad.
“Children have a burning desire to be loved, affirmed and protected by his or her father,” he added. “Sometimes, if they don’t get it, a major piece of their heart is missing. There is a hole in their heart that is meant to be filled by their father that they take into adulthood.”
While Kroll said he was able to “enthusiastically say ‘yes’” to forgiving his father after the retreat experience, he explained that he understands it can be an ongoing journey for others.
In his book, he provides a 13-step process on how to offer forgiveness to any significant individual who is responsible for wounds in a person’s life.
“A person can do it on their own or they can have someone walk through it with them,” he said of the 13-step process. “Forgiveness is one of the core elements of this book, to overcome the emotional wounds we’ve received.”
Kroll asked his father, Bob Frank Kroll, for permission to publish the book, which is written especially for Catholic men.
“There are some things that are not so favorable, some not so good things about him,” he said. “I received his blessing.”
His father was part of the audience a few years ago at a men’s conference in La Crosse where Kroll spoke. He explained to him that there were “not so good things” he was going to say about him that day.
“He had the courage and humility to sit there and hear me speak,” said Kroll. “At the end, I asked the men, ‘Are you the same man you were, 10, 20, or maybe 30 years ago?’ Not a single hand went up. We grow in maturity, in holiness and virtue. I said, ‘You know my father is not the same man he was many years ago when he did the things I speak of. Gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to my father right now. Dad, would you please stand up?’”
The room was initially silent, Kroll said. But then, one-by-one, the audience members started clapping, giving his father a standing ovation.
“I was tearing up as this was happening,” recalled Kroll. “I told the men, ‘Thank you for doing that. It meant a lot to me. My dad is part of this journey helping me restore and heal wounded hearts. He’s allowed himself to be exposed as well.’
“My father is 80 years old. He still lives on the farm I grew up on and we have a wonderful relationship. I speak to him probably two to three times a week on the phone and visit him a few times a year at his place,” he said. “There has been major reconciliation between me and my dad. That’s not always the case. Your dad may be passed on. He may no longer be here, but even if that is the case, you can still offer forgiveness to your father.”
Kroll said another grace came from forgiving the wounds caused by his father.
“The relationship we have with our earthly father often affects how we see God the Father,” he said.
“Sometimes, that word ‘father’ can be painful because of the pain you received as a child. I know I didn’t have a relationship with God the Father. Now that I’ve overcome these wounds with my own dad, the word ‘father’ is now positive in my life.”
The foreword for Kroll’s book was written by Bob Schucts, founder of the St. John Paul II Healing Center in Tallahassee, Fla., who was the leader of the men’s retreat Kroll attended in 2010. They’ve been in touch ever since, he said.
Kroll’s journey with “the father wound” also led him to start the “With All Your Heart Institute,” described as “an apostolate that focuses on making others aware of how emotional wounds from the past affect our lives and relationships, and methods for healing these wounds.”
To order “Confronting and Healing the Greatest Wound of All,” to schedule a speaking engagement and for more resources, visit withallyourheart.org. The book is also available through Barnes & Noble.