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Before "coming out," you spent years trying to feel good in your own skin, but nothing ever felt right until you were able to include that missing link … your sexuality. The weight was lifted off your chest, you felt whole, and you just knew it was right for you.
The missing puzzle piece was finally a part of the whole picture of your life, but sharing your true self with family came with horrible back lash of pain and losing other critical puzzle pieces … your family. Family had difficulty in accepting your sexuality and cut the relationship off. Losing the relationship is horrifically painful and now the "odd man out."
The bitter sweet sensation lingers on a daily basis - finally getting to express who you are, yet getting punished for it. This deep wound may feel as if it has never healed.
Years have passed and now you want to heal the lingering wound, but are lost on how to start.
Here are a few tips on how to start the healing process:
Do Your Research on YOU: Pull out those dusty old journals or photos and examine what you were feeling or how you were with your family. Ask other people in your life questions about the relationships and how you behaved with family. Ask how you might have behaved or responded.
Do the research on you and your part. Were you pushy? Did you come off harsh? Did you express yourself in overly reactive or self-destructive ways that may have been interpreted as bad?
Recognize Your Raw Spots: Certain times (such as holidays, Mothers Day, birthdays, and significant events) can feel like lime juice squirted on a wound; shocking, painful, and uncomfortable.
Recognize when the raw spot is rubbed and prepare for the sting. Calm your body, slow down, reach to others for comfort, and avoid self destructive behaviors. The more you know when the raw spot is rubbed, the more you can control your reactivity.
Recognize Your Family’s Raw Spots: Basically, having family disconnected sucks, plain and simple. But possibly understanding your family may help you less personalize the issue. The more you understand that your family is simply fearful and disconnected to protect themselves, the more you may see the issue is less about YOUR sexuality … and more your family’s coping.
For example, your military father is simply afraid of not having that picture-perfect, heteronormative family blue print and wants to look the other way to avoid the uncomfortable feeling. His looking away is HIS issue, not YOURS. Disconnecting may be your family’s unhealthy way of dealing with their own lime juice on a wound. See it in a new lens.
Write a Letter: When the wounds hurt, you may pull away to protect your heart and put on armor. Instead of avoiding the pain to avoid hurt, jump right in and heal the heart. Be the bigger person and make the first move by writing a letter to your family. After doing your research, you may notice that your reactions have sent inaccurate messages regarding how you felt. Clearly express how you feel and felt, and express how you want to reconnect.
If you need to apologize for your explosions or harsh reactions, say sorry and own your half of the relationship. Have a few people in your life review the letter and make sure you keep out any attacks. You get to know that at least you have been done your part to rekindle and take responsibility for your bad reactions.
Educate Yourself: There are various books out there for support, so take a proactive approach and get educated. You can start the healing process by simply learning about it. Here are a few books I recommended for the healing process:
Create New Puzzle Pieces for Your Life: You won’t ever be able to replace the loss of the family, but you can add new puzzles pieces to your life picture. Focus on creating a family with your friends and community. Start new traditions, make weekly family dinners, or get involved in monthly activities. Simply because you have part of your family missing, doesn’t mean you have to stop having family completely.
Give them Time: Be patient. Your family may manage emotions differently and may need more time to adjust. Give them time and be patient. If you want the relationship, make sure it is known that you want the relationship and keep the door open to them. Remember, it may take many years … so don’t simply shut the door because of pain.
Seek Professional Help: Don’t give up on yourself if you can’t get them to be an active part in the healing process. Seek professional help (therapists have jobs for a reason … they are trained at handling these types of circumstances). Work with a therapist on moving through the rough times and improving how you feel as a whole.
If you can relate to this article, what has helped you move through the pain?
Jennine Estes is a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with a private practice in Mission Valley. She has appeared as a Relationship Expert in Redbook Magazine, Martha Stewart Publications – Whole Living Magazine, Social Work Today Magazine, San Diego local news stations, and more. To learn more relationship advice from the author Jennine Estes MFC#47653, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her San Diego Couples Therapy website.