My son Leo came out as transgender in January 2016. It has been almost seven years, and for the most part, I don't think about it anymore. Not like I did during the first four or five years. It doesn't consume me as it did during the first two years. But some days are still hard. Like the anniversary of the day he came out. Or the day he changed his name. Or National Daughter's Day.
That day sneaks up on me every year. It isn't one I ever notice, to be honest. Then the year after Leo came out, I was scrolling social media, and people were posting tributes to their daughters, and it was like a punch in the gut. Because I didn't have a daughter anymore. And I was realizing that I never had one. And all those posts about how much people loved their daughters made me feel gutted. I felt left out and sad. I wanted to write a post and sing the praises about my beautiful daughter, how amazing she was, and how much I loved her. Except I couldn't. And I never would again.
Grief is complicated and layered and comes when you least expect it.
That first year, I got off social media that day and the next to try and limit my exposure to those posts. Even though I love my friends, family, and their daughters, it was too much. The loss I felt was too great, and the pain was too raw. I couldn't explain to anyone how I felt because I didn't have the language yet, so I kept it in.
National Daughter's Day came the following year, and I was again surprised. It's the kind of day that sneaks up on you until you begin to read about it on social media because it's not an actual holiday. This time I talked about it with a friend. I also talked about it in therapy. I read some of the posts my friends shared on social media, and when it got to be too much, I closed it all down.
On days that are still hard, it's okay to set boundaries for yourself.
Your day may be Mother's Day or the holidays. It could be an anniversary of something or a birthday. Whatever the day is, identify how it makes you feel and what the trigger is. Then, decide how you are going to navigate that day. Will you skip it? Maybe you will celebrate it quietly. Can you take a social media break? What will make it less hard? Make a list if needed, and mark the day on your calendar, so it doesn't sneak up on you.
In 2018 I wrote a blog post about National Daughter's Day. In it, I wrote about the differences between grieving someone still alive and someone who has passed away. About how when you don't share your grief with others, it makes you feel more lonely. I shared a post on social media thanking Leo for letting me love all the versions that he is and for being okay with the photos. I shared a photo from when he was little and commented how proud I was to have raised a "daughter" who was strong enough to share with us the person he really is. It was the only time I ever posted on National Daughter's Day.
After all this time, I thought this day wouldn't be so painful. But I had to shut my phone when the posts started popping up on social media this year. I love my son, and I am so proud of him and the journey he has been on to be his full, amazing self. But somewhere in a quiet corner of my heart, I still miss having a daughter. Even though I know I never had one. Even though I know Leo has always been my son.
Some days are still hard. No matter how much healing we experience.
National Daughter's Day will always be a hard day for me. And I have permitted myself not to participate. I won't comment on the posts of my friends and family members. Nor do I like or even read them. I get off social media and protect my heart. And that's okay.
You don't have to participate in days that are hard for you if you don't want.
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