I’ve had two good friends in the last 2 weeks “come out” to their very religious families as no longer believing in God.
As each read me the words they chose to speak to their respective families, memories of the horror I felt when I came out surged through me again, haunting me with feeling crippled by guilt for killing my parents and creating a chasm in my relationship with my sister. But I was also filled with a new emotion: Anger. Now, it’s been about 4 months since I told me parents about my disbelief, so I’ve recovered significantly from their initial blow. But reading my friend’s words was the first time I saw the situation from an outside perspective. And it gave me the ability the reevaluate my own experience from a more-removed-standpoint. This is what I realized, something that my husband and any rational person in my life tried to reassure me at the time but that I couldn’t quite understand:
I am not responsible for how my parents (or anyone else) feel/s.
But more than that:
Our parent/child relationship is completely backwards. During my “coming out,” I was the one who had to reassure them of my love for them, over and over again. I was the one who had to comfort them in their pain, who was made to feel the cause of the pain and then to apologize for it. Not the other way around.
The realization of this backwards-ness while experiencing my friends’ words to their families turned my being haunted with terror to being filled with anger. I am angry at my parents for making me take care of their hearts when they did nothing, absolutely nothing, to assure me or comfort me or hold me or wipe my tears. I needed them to be my parents. But instead, they made themselves out to be the victims.
I will no longer feel guilty. I will no longer allow myself to think I “killed” them. I need to be freed of them and of the guilt. And if they refuse to comfort me during that hardest time in my life, as they so blatantly have, then I will have to find that comfort within myself, knowing I have the courage and power to be completely authentic and emotionally healthy. That I am willing to admit my mistakes, discover my own dysfunction, and sacrifice all my pride on the altar of being genuine. I am no murderer. I am a creator of life: my own.