It’s normal to feel many different emotions after your child comes out as transgender. You may feel confusion, sadness, overwhelm, doubt, fear, relief, joy, and even anger. The most common feeling that parents experience is grief. It’s also the feeling that brings the most shame, confusion, and cause for concern. After all, our children are still alive, so why are we grieving? Experiencing grief after your child comes out is complicated, but it isn’t wrong, and it’s perfectly normal.
While grief is generally related to death, it can also be experienced with any loss. It is also appropriate to grieve when something in our life ends. In the case of our children being transgender, what is ending is our belief about who we thought our child was. The idea about the child we thought we had has ended, and we have to re-associate our child with a new gender and maybe a new name and pronouns.
Grief is a natural response to letting go of the idea of the child you thought you had.
What complicates it is how we feel about the fact that we are grieving. What complicates it further is how other people feel about our grief.
No one can understand what it feels like to be the parent of a transgender child unless they have experienced that for themself, including your child. Just like we cannot understand what it is like for our child to be transgender because we don’t have that lived experience to relate to, they don’t know the emotions we feel after they come out.
Some transgender people say that a parent who grieves after their child comes out is transphobic. There is nothing transphobic about grieving the ending of the child you thought you had. That is part of your journey as a parent of a transgender child in moving forward.
To support your child fully, you have to let go of the child you thought you had. Not doing so will keep you stuck.
Another reason grief is complicated is that we don’t like how it makes us feel. Grief is messy and sad, and there is no easy way out of it. You have to sit with your feelings and work through them to move forward. And unlike other emotions, grief isn’t linear. You can think you are making progress and slide backward, which is frustrating and exhausting.
Grief is a complex emotion. It is, however, a normal way to process the change that is taking place with your child and in your family. If you are grieving, let yourself experience those emotions fully. Give yourself the time and space to understand what is causing your grief (it is not your child being transgender but something deeper) until you are ready to move forward.
There is no shame in grieving, and there is no shame in asking for help if you need it.
To support your child, you need to support yourself. Sometimes that support looks like the help of a trained professional. Be sure to reach out to someone if you need more help than your friends and family can provide.