You’ve probably heard of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you’re the parent of an LGBTQ+ youth, you may have experienced the stages yourself. Going through a grieving process is normal when you’ve learned something surprising about someone you believed you knew well. Maybe you had a vision of who they might grow up to be and marry, the kind of life they might lead. That has changed, and now, you find that you may also have to change.
Denial sounds like
My child can’t be gay! I would’ve known.
But no one in my family is gay.
They’re just going through a phase.
Do any of these sound familiar? It can be difficult to hear and accept unexpected news. Try to resist feeling guilty for your feelings. It’s okay for you to feel this way and to work through it.
Anger sounds like
It’s all my ex’s fault for being too open.
It’s the fault of the college for too much freedom.
It’s those new people they’ve been hanging out with.
Being angry with your child or others – maybe even yourself – is a normal response. Looking for a person, situation, or circumstance which may have caused your child to be gay is often an attempt to rationalize.
Bargaining sounds like
If I become a better person, will you make my child straight?
I don’t want to know anymore about this.
We can find someone to help you get over this phase.
Bargaining is when we try to avoid facing the grief that we’re feeling. You may bargain with God, your higher power, source, the supreme being, whomever you worship or pray to. You may even bargain with your child. Try to be gentle and forgiving with yourself. Many parents who have been where you are admit that they fear their child will face hate crimes, and in this case, bargaining is about trying to find some safe compromise for their child.
Depression sounds like
What do I do now?
I’ve failed as a parent.
I’ve lost my baby.
Depression is probably what most of us experience as grief. It’s a sense of loss, perhaps of failure. If this is where you find yourself, I encourage you to entertain the idea that you helped your child to speak their truth honestly, to resist bullies, to stand up for the underdog. If your goal was to raise a strong, independent soul, then perhaps you can look at their coming out as embracing this achievement.
Acceptance sounds like
I love you to the moon and back, no matter what.
I don’t fully understand, but I accept you as you are.
We’ll get through this together.
The acceptance phase may take longer that you expect. Sometimes it brings up our own issues, like questioning if we did something wrong as parents. You have a lot of questions such as:
What does this mean for my child?
What will their life look like?
What if everyone is not as open and accepting?
Will they be harmed?
Your child is choosing to be their authentic selves, and this is something to celebrate. Your parenting is likely one of the reasons they are able to do this. You have raised a strong, confident child who is not afraid to challenge the status quo.
Help sounds like
Being an ally of the LGBTQ+ community is important to me because I have an LGBTQ+ child. I’ve lived the experience and learned to change my expectations and visions for her. As a Mom, I support my daughter and her partners in expressing their authentic selves, and I’m just as passionate about educating and supporting other parents who may struggle with their child coming out.
If you’re ready to talk about what you’re going through, I’m here to listen.
Follow me on Facebook at Balance Energy Wellness for posts, and Facebook live events. Subscribe to my email list for announcements of workshops both in person and online, and the ability to work together in person or remotely.
I look forward to hearing from you . In Peace,
Tammy Zumbo, LCSW-R