I am not a stranger to grief. When I was very young, I witnessed my little dog get hit by a car. My parents divorced when I was 6. My father was an alcoholic. I’ve lost elderly relatives, in-laws, my father, and am now watching the slow demise of my mother. My husband and I suffered three miscarriages. Like anyone else, I have had to work my way through the grief in each experience. Some of these times were more difficult than others; none can hold a candle to the anguish I have felt watching my adult daughter succumb to the manipulative lies of gender ideology.
Many people are familiar with the notion of grief being something we experience in “stages.” Initially described by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, the stages now sometimes include shock and guilt as well. Counselors are generally quick to point out that these stages do not necessarily happen in a linear fashion, and not necessarily in the order listed. Indeed, far from a progression, my grief experience in this nonsense world has been more of a cauldron of grief, a simmering hot mess in which a particular “stage” will bubble up unexpectedly and have to be dealt with again and yet again.
Denial is at a low simmer now, but occasionally I fantasize about a day when she will call and announce herself by her real name again. When that bubble rises, I have to remind myself that this is an autistic young adult who is obsessed with her body and who rarely, if ever, admits mistakes.
Bargaining was at the surface for months. I knew better than to throw research and facts at her, but I asked pertinent questions, trying to encourage her to think. These were questions about how she wants her life to be and what her purpose is, along with questions that anyone embarking on a medical treatment ought to ask. She would have none of that. Now that she has cut off communication, bargaining has subsided. It sometimes surfaces at the altar in church, though such moments are not so much attempted deals with God as simply beggar’s pleas.
The most aggressive bubbles in my cauldron of grief are anger and overwhelming sadness. After a week or so of quiet—or distractions—I feel the agitation moving under the surface of the brew. When the anger bubbles begin to rise, I find I must be very careful. I do not want the anger to spill into other relationships. I am angry at her foolishness and her cruelty to us, yes, but I am much more angry at those manipulating her—the on-line bull-shitters who convinced a depressed, isolated young woman in the middle of COVID that she wasn’t good enough as she was, and the medical and counseling community who have taken advantage of her in order to line their pockets. That doctors—DOCTORS!—are telling young people that they can actually change their sex….oh, the bubbles are at a rolling boil. They are Very. Big. Bubbles.
The sadness is always simmering in the pot, and I have to stir it back into submission continually in order to handle daily life. I remind myself over and over that I have purpose, and I must work toward that purpose. But then the little bubbles begin to push up higher and higher. I feel them in eyes that suddenly sting with tears, in dreams that leave me unhappy on waking. They work their way into my body, leaving me chronically fatigued. Eventually, the sadness bubbles will no longer be pushed to the bottom of the cauldron, and I have to “sit with sadness.” I usually sit on the floor, back to my bed, and simply allow the sadness to rise to the surface, to burst forth in a froth of tears and snot and wails and pleading with God for help. After an hour or so, I am able to rise, wash my face, and move on with my life.
Is there any acceptance yet? I will never accept the notion that she is a man. It doesn’t take much knowledge of biology to recognize that her “transition” is actually the creation of an elaborate and unhealthy boy-costume to help her live out her delusion. But I will always accept her as my child. My husband and I both tried, individually (to be less threatening), to connect with her in neutral, pleasant ways and build a new kind of relationship. I suppose those were yet more bargaining efforts. She ignored our invitations. We heard nothing for eight months, and she blocked our texts.
We were surprised, then, to receive an email on Thanksgiving morning. Though she tried to sound mature and casual, the basic message was “I’m not coming home for the holidays; I don’t have time or energy to deal with you.” So even with the slight ray of hope that she isn’t completely out of touch, it’s clear that we are not welcome in her life. Rather than burn ourselves repeatedly with continued fruitless efforts, we have written her that we will not bother her any more. If she wants a relationship, she will have to contact us. Accepting that we are unwanted is a bitter brew to swallow, but there is no benefit for any of us in forcing ourselves into her life.
I hope that one day the fire will be extinguished, and the brew in the cauldron I’m tending now will settle down for good. Perhaps that will happen as people wake up and realize the harm being done to so many thousands of young people. Perhaps the flames will subside if my daughter decides to detransition—even if she remains estranged. But I know that it is possible that there will be no cooling of this cauldron until the fire of my life has gone out.