Michele O'Mara

How to Deal with Family and Friends Top Ten Tips #5: Have Patience

Filed By Michele O'Mara | September 23, 2008 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, family and friends, LGBT community, patience, top 10 lists, top ten lists

Loss is defined as anything that is different than you hoped it would be.

Typically, being gay or lesbian is not something our friends and family "want" or hope for us. Therefore, they may be experiencing a sense of loss - loss of their own dreams for us and sense of loss for the person they thought we were. Giving friends and family time to adjust, time to grieve, and time to accept is important.

I knew something was "different" about me as early as age eight. I didn't associate it with my attraction to other females until I was in middle school. It took me another eight years to accept that I was a lesbian. That's a total of twelve years that I spent getting adjusted to the fact that who I am, and who I was becoming was not what I had hoped for myself.

When coming out to friends and family, many of us grow very impatient, very quickly, and expect that our families and friends will get with the program immediately. Everyone has a different timeline for their grieving. My mom responded well almost immediately. My father, while supportive and loving, held tightly to his hopes that this was just a phase I would outgrow. It took him much longer to adjust than my mom.

Being patient does not mean, however, that we tolerate mistreatment, or that we become responsible for the pain our friends and family are experiencing. Their grief stems from their hopes and dreams for us and for themselves. We are not responsible for, or capable of, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of anyone except for ourselves. They are in charge of their hopes and dreams, and they are in charge of how to manage this new information. Being patient means that we give them the space and grace to grieve, and that we respond to their pain with the same compassion in which we hope they will respond to ours.

Tip # 5. Have patience.

Be sure to read the rest of this series on "Top Ten Tips On How to Deal with Family and Friends":

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One of the most common refrains I get from younger adults who write is "Mom and Dad just can't see I've spent a long time thinking about this and accept me for who I am!" I always respond, "Perhaps they need some time to think about it as well..."