LGBTQ

Grief Looks Different For Everyone

I’ve written a lot about grief on this website. The most-read post is about how you can grieve and support your child. I wrote that post in response to an article in the New York Times that said grieving the transition of a transgender child is transphobic. It still makes me mad to think about it. There are a lot of people in the transgender community who feel that way. And just like we can’t understand their lived experience as a transgender person, they can’t understand our lived experience as the parent of a transgender person or what that feels like. You can read all about it at the link above. I’m betting you already have. Grief looks different for everyone though; sometimes, we think we’re doing it wrong if we aren’t experiencing it in a way that others are.

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

There’s no wrong way to grieve.

You may have felt sad when your child first came out as transgender. It may have caught you off guard as it did me. I remember telling my therapist, “My son is the happiest I’ve seen him in years. Why am I so sad about this?” She reminded me that my sadness was about me, not him. Our emotions are about how we feel. It’s about the loss we are experiencing and the change we are going through. It is how we can grieve and support our children. It’s not an either/or experience; it’s a both/and.

You may feel like you have been sad for too long. I wrote a post about how there is no timeline in your emotions. In it, I talk about how it takes as long as it takes for you to work through whatever you feel. I remember feeling guilty for still being sad at the end of the first year after my son came out. Somehow I had it in my head that a year was enough time to be sad. Says who? You can be sad for a year or two or five.

Or, you can be sad for five minutes. And if you don’t feel sad, that’s okay too. There are no rules about how you should feel when your child comes out as transgender. No one is watching to make sure you do it right.

There is no right or wrong way to respond to your child coming out as transgender.

Unless you choose not to love or support them, that’s not what we are talking about here.

Sometimes, you may feel sad after the fact. You’ve been doing fine, and your child has been out for six months or a year. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, sadness set in. And you may feel like you need clarification about this. You weren’t sad before, so why are you now?

It’s normal to feel grief at any time during your journey.

It doesn’t mean you are backsliding. You shouldn’t take it to indicate that you don’t support your child either. It’s just a normal response to change and loss. The loss of the child you thought you had. Or the loss of your expectations for your child, whether you realized you had them or not.

You may have been so busy supporting your child and helping them to move forward that you didn’t give yourself space to feel your feelings. So when your child finally came to a place where they were okay, and you slowed down, your feelings burst through. Our emotions will always make themselves known. We either give them time and space, or they make it.

You can’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. My grief journey will look different than yours. Your grief journey will look different than the next person’s. If you judge yourself against someone who is grieving more or less than you and think you are doing it wrong, you’ll discount your own feelings.

Honor your feelings. Let them come in their own time. Know that they will last as long as they need to. Expect that sometimes they come back when you least expect it. All of it is normal. You’re not doing anything wrong.

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