Reflections On Pain and Things That Break Our Hearts
By Marie P.
This morning Facebook reminded me that I once had a handsome son with a smile that would light up a room. The picture was taken 5 years ago. Staring at me on the screen was a dark and handsome tall boy with a dazzling smile. He is standing at the beach in his swim trunks, wearing a blue rash guard and holding a boogie board. I remembered that moment and that vacation, the last one we took as a family. He had just come out of the water and he smiled as I snapped that picture.
It stabbed me like a knife in the heart knowing that he looks nothing like that picture now. Three years ago, my son stumbled into Internet groups that told him that the reason why he didn’t fit in socially, was not due to his Autism, but because he was really a woman, not a man. My son now thinks that he’s a woman and is taking hormones to try to achieve an impossible dream, that he can be a woman, fed by his own delusion and a world that tells him daily that he can.
I took a snapshot of the Facebook memory, with my phone’s camera, and added it to the ever-growing collection of my son’s pictures from those memories, that I’m keeping in the camera roll. I will never forget the dark-haired boy with the magnetic smile.
I remembered that it’s Sunday and I was excited to go to church. As a Christian, when I go to church, the music, prayers and preaching comfort my soul. The people there are like my family who have walked with us through many challenging situations for the last 30 years. I enjoy seeing these dear friends and socializing with them weekly.
As soon as I stepped into the church my heart was stabbed again. There, standing by his parents, was my son’s former best friend who was home visiting from college. He is a nerdy kid, like my own son, who is maturing into a handsome and delightful adult. Then his other former best friend, tall and handsome came in. His parents, our dear best friends of years, were sitting next to me. My mind flashed back when the three musketeers would sit together in church and then come to our home to play video games with other boys from church.
My heart broke into a million pieces and the sadness overtook me. Today, the music bounced off the walls and didn’t comfort me. As the music played and tears rolled down my eyes, my heart screamed to God “Why my son? Why our family? Why does he have to be the messed up one who wants to eradicate his identity and who is killing any chance to be a functional man one day? Why do my best friends have their SONS and I don’t have mine? Why? Why? Why?”
The tears kept rolling down. Today church was for lamenting, not encouragement. It felt right to do just that.
I feel so sad today. Church is usually so comforting for me but today it was one more reminder of our abnormal, fractured family, prodigal child, loss, emptiness, heart break and sorrow. I walked out as soon as church was over. I didn’t say hi to the college kids who used to spend Sunday afternoons at our home playing video games with my son. I didn’t want to face the awkwardness or see the puzzlement that they feel about their former friend (because he has cut off contact with them) as they exchanged polite pleasantries with me. I saw them talking to each other knowing that they will get together and hang out but my son won’t be there because he has rewritten history past and present about who he is. I fled before I saw my son’s boss from his work, with the sad blue eyes looking at me with such sorrow. I fled because I didn’t want people to say “how are you?” What do you say when your heart is bleeding from sorrow and no one can really understand what that feels like?
I love my supportive church community. They love us so well and, those who know, their hearts are broken for us. But there’s a special kind of sadness that comes with people knowing. Our own sadness reflected in the eyes of people who are not in our situation, is like a mirror that I avoid looking into. I am fortunate to be in a church that makes room for lamenting and grieving. I am blessed to have that support and love of people who weep with me and hurt with me. So, why do I cringe from the looks of sadness in other people’s eyes? Maybe because it reminds me that, at church, my family alone is living in the middle of our lives being broken by a cult, that we have a broken child who is systematically breaking his own body down because he’s looking for a cure for his broken heart and that we are surrounded by a society that tells him he will fix himself by breaking himself down.
So what do people with broken hearts do? They find other people whose hearts are broken for the same or similar reasons. I have found this tribe of parents who understands the grief and sorrow of having a child who wants to change who he/she was born to be. The same thief that stole my son has stolen their children too. I don’t shy away or cringe when I see the pain in their eyes. Somehow the reflection of pain in their eyes and the distorted faces from sorrow heal my pain because we are sharing the same burden across many backs. They carry my burden of grief for the loss of my child and I carry theirs. Somehow we lighten each other’s burden of pain. I’m able to comfort them and they comfort me. We are in this war together. We are the wounded from this gender war that has snatched our sons from our families. We grieve together but we also fight together. We cry today but tomorrow we fight.
We will keep fighting until this war against our children and your children is won. Because I have found that fighting is also medicine to my broken heart.