Lessons In Family Disownment (5 Years Later)

Five years ago my dad told me I was not welcome in “his” home because I’m queer. I’ve been on quite a multi-layered journey since then and still am. I want to share a few things I’ve learned along the way for anyone else who has experienced something similar, for others who have not been to learn what it is like, and because I believe in talking about what is hard and the power of one’s voice.

1.Grief has many forms and we do not handle it well as a society.

It took me a long time and many conversations with my therapist to realize that it was grief that I was feeling in the midst of all the pain, sadness, and hurt. Our culture thinks of grief in such a cut and dry way. It’s not as well accepted in forms other than death and even then we expect that to be a short term process. To grieve the death of a relationship when the other person is still alive is complex to navigate. It feels like it should still be alive, but that is not what is always best for both parties. Having language for this type of hurt, feeling it, and honoring it is helpful. It is okay to miss someone even when they’ve hurt you deeply.

2. What happened is not my fault, but it is my responsibility to heal from it.

This is the hardest thing about any kind of trauma in my opinion. Dealing with all the aftermath that occurs. Not only did an awful incident happen, but it does not end there. In fact, that’s only the beginning. It takes time to realize all the ways it has affected you. All the ways you have coped that weren’t healthy. The responsibility of the traumatized person is to not continue the patterns of the people that caused the trauma. Cycle breakers we are called then. No one else can do it but you, and it takes time.

3. Not everyone will understand.

Some people think I should try to make amends. Others think that I should just let it go. The fact of the matter is that I have to choose what is best for me, and the reality of the situation is that it is more complex than just those two options. It is okay that not everyone will get it. What is important is that those I choose to love and have in my life support my decisions.

4. Some days, times, and seasons will be easier, but this is now a part of my story that I always carry with me.

As anyone will tell you who has experienced something similar, not a day goes by that I don’t think about this. I still have so many questions about how this could have happened, why someone would do this, and if our relationship before meant anything. Some days are harder than others to think about this. However, what is easier is how to cope with it. It’s forced me to rely on myself and my community in ways I did not know I could receive support before, and for that I am grateful. I’ve learned to recognize and communicate about my feelings, trust my intuition, and find ways to find joy that I did not have before.

5. This does not define me, but it does impact me.

For a long time, I thought that the first thing people would think about when thinking of me was that I was the girl who was disowned by her family. Maybe this was me thinking too small of my loved ones, but more so it was me boxing myself in. There is so much more to a person than anything that happened to them, and this is harder to remember when it is in regards to yourself.

6. Even when it does not feel like it, at my core I am worthy of love, belonging, acceptance, and goodness. No one can take that away.

When I was disowned, it was not only the relationships I lost, but a community, beliefs, and so much more. It was a church rejecting me, an old version of a god I believed in, and morals I was taught. Forging my own path forward and starting from scratch was the only thing I knew I could do. Taking back core truths about one’s self is something that no one can take away.

7. I can choose to rewrite any narrative.

It’s cliche to say, but everything that has happened has made me stronger and I’ve grown from it. It’s dangerous to play that what if game, but it’s possible I would still be connected to toxic people and not be able to move on with my life otherwise. Part of me knew this would happen, but chose the courageous path to be myself anyways. I am rewriting the narrative in a way that also remembers the good parts even though it’s painful to.

8. Family is not always blood, and the definition of it can change.

Who I consider family has changed over these past five years. I now have other blood relatives who have come out, groups of friends that I have deeper relationships with than I ever knew I could, and a beautiful support network of my partner’s blood family. The people I consider to be family push me to be the best version of me I can be, hold me accountable, love me for my true authentic self, and strive to be better themselves. I could not be where I am today without them, and I am forever grateful to have them in my life.

There are countless other lessons that I have learned throughout this time, but these seem the most standout. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way. There are too many people to name, but I am immensely grateful for you all!

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Activist. Wanderer. Gardener. Tea Addict. Musician. Queer Lady. Arts Administrator. Fundraiser. St. Louisian.

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Sherry Nelson

Sherry Nelson

Activist. Wanderer. Gardener. Tea Addict. Musician. Queer Lady. Arts Administrator. Fundraiser. St. Louisian.

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