Bereavement for your trans parent has to happen to make room for their change. You may choose to agree or disagree with this statement.
Trans or gender diversity issues are talked about in the media most days now; however, having a parent change gender is not the norm. Even though this openness is difficult for all concerned, ultimately, we need to hold onto the fact that they deserve the respect and trust that they are keeping themselves safe and going through this process for the right reasons.
This decision will not have been taken lightly and as outsiders looking in, we need to support them where we can.
Why Is Bereavement So Difficult?
Having said that it is also difficult for us being on the outside. We shouldn’t dismiss our struggle to get used to the new normal as well. My Dad came out about his need to transition in 1987. I certainly didn’t know anyone whose dad wanted to be a woman. Like any other major change in life, we need to allow ourselves to go through a bereavement process which is sometimes called ambiguous loss. There is no real closure, your parent is still in your life, in contrast to a parent who has passed, making this particular grieving process difficult. They aren’t gone, they are still here but ………different.
When talking to people going through gender reassignment, most know that they have needed to make this change since they were a young child. For them to come out to the world and begin the process is yes, a daunting prospect but also a relief that they can finally be the person they want to be and start making an authentic life for themselves.
The rest of us need to catch up and get with the new program. This can be difficult especially if there have been no clues to this desire to be a different gender. In some cases, like myself, it was a total shock. My Dad was a gentle, kind and caring soul but led a life of deception, there were no clues. My Dad lived the life of a fully-fledged male, DIY, gardening, running, rock climbing, mountaineering; all alfa male hobbies back in the 1970s and 1980s.
When My Dad created Joan a lot of things changed. It wasn’t just about appearance and mannerisms it was about Joan’s role within the family home (which was difficult for my Mum), conversations were different. Suddenly it was OK to start talking about breasts and vaginas, not the sort of conversation I used to have with my Dad.
I apologies if this doesn’t sit well for those going through gender change but for many of us the longer we have been deprived of the deception the harder it can be to re-adjust.
Where Does This Leave The Parent-Child Relationship?
As children of trans-parents, yes, we need to understand, appreciate, and accept their need for the change but the person who is changing also needs to understand or appreciate and accept that we can’t just obliterate the original make-up of that person out of our lives. They are there in our memories, our hearts, photo albums and videos. I am not saying that children of trans-parent will never have the same depth of feelings and emotions for them, but it will be different, and we need to be given time to build that new relationship up to the same level of depth that we had before.
However difficult the new relationship with your trans-parent might be at the moment; it will be good again if you want it to be.
How Long Will This Bereavement Last?
Most of us do need to go through a period of bereavement because all major change has a bereavement process attached to it. Like with any bereavement process there is nothing set in stone, it is a flexible and fluid process.
It can take many years like it did for me but once I started to accept, stop playing the victim, practised the art of being self-honest and spending more time with Joan, the easier it became.
Eventually, the natural end to my bereavement process came to a head. One day I was burning a mass of very old documents and there in the flames was a piece of paper with my Dad’s signature on it. Thankfully I was able to save it along with one of my Mum’s, and put them together somewhere safe where they would always be together.
Making Your Bereavement Process Easier.
If you are struggling with the bereavement process of change then here are some pointers to help you get started:
Practice the art of self-honesty. It is a hard process and takes time to learn but ask yourself:
Why am I feeling like this?
How is this affecting me?
How is this affecting the people around me?
What is making me keep these feelings alive?
How would I like to be feeling instead?
What is the one thing I can do to help me change the way I feel?
A very soul-searching set of questions but also very important ones if you want to start making some headway with the thought processes you are struggling with.
If that series of questions is making sense to you and you would like to learn more about how to continue to feel happier, more content and in control about your life then part two of my book, “When Dad Became Joan” guides you through “7 Steps to Living Your New Normal”. This can be purchased using the following link to Amazon:
Or register for my free e-report on how to manage your emotional balance: