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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Five Stages of Grief

Today my mother and I talked about my sexuality for the first time in ten months. While it definitely could have been better, it has definitely been worse. It's clear to me though that my mom is still clinging to her rigid rules and is afraid to let go. I think it scares her, and what's more, I think she feels guilty.

The conversation started out talking about going to grad school. I mentioned that I want to go to the U, and she asked why. I explained the benefits of the program at the U, and she followed up by telling how one of my younger sibling's friends has spent the last semester there and hates all the protesting. She specifically mentioned the LGBT protesting. And then it all went from there.

At first the conversation carried as if we were talking about a group that neither of us belonged to, using "they" and "their." But I eventually opened up the issue. She said that she believes that some people are legitimately gay. That they are never attracted to girls, etc. But others, perhaps people that have been hurt and don't want to take a risk again, aren't that way and choose it. That's when I confronted her about it. "That's how you think I am." A statement rather than a question. 

"Ty, you loved the girls growing up." Obviously she was referring to all the girls I spent time with as a child. I didn't know how to make it clear to her that playing with the girls was proof in my direction. I told her that as I read all the common traits and experiences of gay people growing up I feel like I'm reading my own life history. 

So she pulled out the crushes and the dates and my relationship with Jessica. But human beings are not so simple that dating a girl means you are heterosexual. I told her that for me, attraction to romance was a huge thing. And that romance for me meant having someone that loved and accepted you, someone whose love didn't need to be earned. And growing up I felt I had to earn everyone's love.

At one point I looked at her and said "Mom, you need to know that this isn't you fault." She teared up a bit, and told me that I had said differently when they confronted me a year ago. Now, whether I actually said something to that effect out of frustration or whether she interpreted anything I said that way out of her own personal guilt, I don't know. But I do not blame my parents in the slightest for my attraction. I looked at her and said, "no, mom. It's not your fault. You have been a wonderful mom." I walked over to her and hugged her, her guilt obvious in her wet eyes. I held her and assured her that in no way did she cause this, and that she had been wonderful to me.

I don't know whether or not she believed me, but it needed to be said, for her sake.

As the conversation carried on things shifted to the religious aspect of it and she held her ground as a good member does, with little acceptance that this is a legitimate issue. I made some points that she obviously didn't think of, like the fact that we haven't had direct revelation on the issue for four thousand years, and that it may have even referred to something besides a committed relationship. 

Apparently she'd read "In Quiet Desperation," because she quoted the mother who said she was grateful her son had died before he broke his covenants. I'm sorry if I offend someone, but that disturbs me. She was more grateful that her son killed himself out of absolute self-hatred and agony than see him in a gay relationship. Rather than see him become a happy individual who loves and accepts himself. I'm sure if I offered that deal to my mother she would immediately refuse. Suicide is not the answer. Love is. And when we still have so much we don't know, we need to be working to find the answers.

But when it came down to me, she said "I just don't understand why you would have chosen this when you've had such incredible spiritual experiences." Why wouldn't I choose a celibate life, when I've had so much. I didn't think she'd understand if I bared my soul, so I let it rest.

As I have thought about it I can see that my mother is going through the five stages of grief. Everyone goes through these stages when they experience loss, and loss of the image she believed her son to be is no exception. 

The five stages are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

These can manifest themselves simultaneously. It's not a one or the other type of thing. She is definitely still in the denial/anger stage, and perhaps even a bit in the bargaining one. She still doesn't completely accept that I'm legitimately gay. She gets upset about it, and even talks about me living the gospel over my desires, a form of bargaining. So I am trying to be patient. In time she'll separate herself from the issue, and she'll see the difference between unconditional love and endorsement. Until then, I'm just going to let her know that I love her. 

But each one of us goes through these stages of grief as we cope with losing that person that we think we should be. I went through this in the course of the last year. I spent my teenage years denying that it even existed. When I was 20 and serving a mission I finally admitted to myself that I was gay. That was near the end of 2008. From that point up to December of 2009 I was both angry, working to change it, and asking God to do the same. I was bargaining. 

When I finally grew tired of trying to change what I was and got sick of denying myself what I really wanted I entered the depression zone. It was a dark time for me, and my newly found boyfriend was my only consolation. This continued up through March when I started seeing my therapist, and she helped me to ease out of that depression. Over the last nine months I have come to accept myself, my sexuality, and find joy in the world. And I really don't want to go back to where I was before. There is no happiness in the first four stages of grief. And so I move forward, even if others can't see why.

But they'll come around. In time, everything will work out. Because if you're optimistic and can take joy in the little things, everything always does work out.


apronkid said...

I predict I'm going to have a similar discussion with my parents soon enough. They'll ask me about past relationships with girls and stuff. I think I'm like you; I really fall in love with the romance of having a relationship. It's a hard thing to explain, but I'm glad you posted about it, because it helps me form my thoughts better.

Thanks for this post :) I thought I was done with the whole grief cycle thing, but just yesterday I proved myself wrong, haha. But your right: with a little optimism and appreciation, life can be beautiful.

Joe Conflict said...

You should get her a copy of Prayers for Bobby. Much better book.

Ty said...

Prayers for Bobby is officially ordered off of Amazon. I want to read it first, though. :)

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