Experiencing Grief When Your Child Comes Out As Trans

When your child trusts you with the information that they are a transgender person, you may experience a lot of conflicting emotions at once, especially if you don’t have other “out” trans people in your life and the transgender landscape is new to you.

As you sort through various emotions and immediate reactions, you may find yourself experiencing a sense of grief.

Don’t Deny Your Grief

Grieving is born from sadness in response to loss. It’s not a “bad” or “negative” response. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it serves a purpose. It’s there whether we try to push it down and ignore it or we find a way to work through it.

Some worry that grieving in response to your child coming out is inherently transphobic (negativity towards transgender people). While it’s understandable that someone would feel that way, it’s not necessarily true.

Reframe Your Grief

When your child comes out as transgender, you may feel the loss of the life that you thought you would have, the loss of the life you thought your child would have, the loss of the idea of a daughter or a son, or any number of other losses.

Grieving these losses is not the same thing as grieving the perceived loss of your child or grieving your child’s transition.

In fact, this grieving has very little to do with your child’s transition and more to do with your expectations, your plans, and a transition of your own as you become the parent of a transgender person.

Your grief is about you, not about your child. Remembering that is an essential part of being supportive of their transition.

Create A Separate Space For Your Grief

Because your grief is about you and not about your child, it requires its own space to be honored and to be worked through.

It’s okay and natural to have a lot of conflicting feelings about your child’s transition. It’s not okay to heap those feelings onto your child or to make this momentous decision about you.

There is space for both of your needs, but it is not the same space.

You can create space for yourself and your grief by talking to a trusted friend, journaling privately, discussing with your therapist or seeking out counseling, or joining a support group for parents with transgender children.

You likely have hundreds of questions dancing around in your head right now, too. It’s a beautiful thing to try to understand your child, but it’s not their responsibility to educate you.

Take some time to research the transgender experience on your own. When your child is ready to talk about their individual experience with being transgender, they will come to you.

This intentional separation of your feelings from your child’s experience is an essential part of supporting your child during their transition.

At the same time, don’t despair if you feel you have mixed your feelings in with your child’s, asked them to educate you, or had some conflict with them already. It’s never too late to apologize, change your behavior, and commit to doing better in the future.

Find Joy In Your Child’s New Life

When given the love and support of their community, a trans person flourishes after coming out. Whether their transition is physical, social, spiritual, or all of the above, the first thing to transform is usually their demeanor.

While they might be feeling their own grief at the loss of who they thought they were, the freedom of being who they are comes with immeasurable joy. Appreciating that joy can help soothe some of the grief you’re experiencing.

Depending on your individual relationship, this joy may be something that you can participate in or something that you can appreciate from afar. You might take them shopping, help them get a new haircut or wig, or teach them how to apply makeup.

Not everyone has the opportunity to be directly involved, and that’s okay.

Professing their joy (and yours) whenever their transition is brought up by others is also a great way to show your support and celebrate the happier, healthier life that your child is creating for themself.

Going Forward

This grieving process will look different for everyone; try not to compare your feelings to what other people say.

As you explore and move into your new role as the parent of a transgender person, remember to feel your feelings, create space for them, and embrace the joy of your child’s new life.

Photo credit: Lisett Kruusimäe, via Pexels