"We are alone, do you understand that?!" These were the words of a mother, who had recently found out that her child was gay. Together with her husband, they are the collective image of the various stories, which the parents of LGBT people experience. The feeling of isolation, the self-blaming, the fears and the painful grief over the expectations for their child’s future are a common thread in the individual narratives, that are shared in my office.
Being in the position of people who have a “secret to keep” from family and friends, because "they won’t understand and will judge”, all of a sudden these parents realize how isolated their children might have felt, hiding a part of their personality for years. And how torturous this can be. The psychological support, which I provide for these parents is to guide them go through (on their own terms) the various stages of accepting their kid, respecting their needs, family values and personality attributes. We go through this together. But this is not enough.
What these parents need the most is not to feel alone and isolated in their experiences.
In the past months we had numerous questions from parents with whom we work person-to-person, as well as from those who connect with our volunteers via the online chat, with regards to the start of a support group for parents of LGBT people. Attuned to these needs, we decided to start this type of support group at the end of September.
As our support group for LGBT youth, this group will be a valuable resource for peer support, uniting the parents, who go through similar experiences. In a safe and confidential environment, they will be able to explore various coping strategies when facing challenges and to feel supported by other parents, who have been there. The group is directed by the needs of its members and is a good basis for the formation of sustainable contacts and a community.
In an environment of trust, the families will be able to more comfortably share their worries, fears, as well as their positive experiences. The most valuable element of such a support group is the feeling that you are not alone, that there are others, who go through or have gone through similar situations. Not only you will have the opportunity to hear how other parents have dealt with difficulties, what is the path they chose, how the connection with the kid will be challenged (not necessarily), but also how love is the strength, which makes the feeling of connection even stronger. I often hear people say: "I accept my child, but you have to understand that it is hard for me.“ It is natural, even in families, in which the LGBT topic is not stigmatized, for difficulties and challenges to be met. The group will be beneficial also for parents, for whom the acceptance seems impossible and out of reach. Their love focuses on the effort to envision all the issues, which the homosexual orientation might eventually bring upon their child and try to prevent him or her from them. In the parental support group, all the members will walk the path together, without judgment, listening to each other, with attempts to see each other’s perspectives, but always with care for the LGBT kids – grown-up or not.
The positive effect of the group is possible due to self-expression – of emotions and feelings; overcoming of isolation – through the awareness that you are not alone, that there are others with similar troubles; through sharing of common shame, stigma, in conditions of equality and lack of judgment. The example of those parents who have succeeded in bringing a positive change in themselves and strengthening the connection with their LGBT child will develop the self-message: „I can handle this too“.
Author: Anna Joukivskaia