My 47 year old daughter now says she’s lesbian. She has always been heterosexual. Please use your wisdom and experience to help me. I’ve never known anything like this close to me.
I pray for you and Susan, Rabbi. Please pray for me just once – I know your busy life.
Dear Shocked Mom,
Your poignant letter reached out and touched our hearts. We certainly pray for you and for all parents who are blind-sided when a grown child shocks them.
First of all, and we don’t mean this at all in a frivolous way—stop and take a few deep breaths. When news slaps us in the face, we need to give ourselves time to assimilate it. Ask God to support and guide you and be on the lookout for small ‘hugs’ from Him.
Second, and our reaction here may surprise you, we would like to encourage you not to overreact. You don’t tell us anything about your relationship with your daughter, but separating her and the interaction between the two of you from her behavior is terribly important. Is this one more grenade she is hurling at you or have you always been close and she is worried that you are going to reject her? Are a husband and/or grandchildren involved? Whatever the answer to those questions, she is your daughter and that is not a relationship you want to sever.
If I (Susan) can give a piece of advice from personal experience, get a hold of Barbara Johnson’s book When Your Child Breaks Your Heart: Help for Hurting Moms (I believe it might have been published originally as Where Does a Mother Go to Resign?). While none of us wish trouble on other people, it does help to know that our situation isn’t unique and that others have trod the road we are on, even if the details differ. When I was going through a tough time as a Jewish mother, I found the Christian Mrs. Johnson’s faith-driven words helpful in a way that secular books were not.
We are going to venture a guess that your daughter is hurting. We want to let you know that Biblically speaking, women with women is in no way comparable to men with men. Lesbianism today is presented as simply an alternative choice, but very often women “discover” this predilection in themselves after having been badly hurt by life, often in situations involving a man or men. Your daughter may very well be seeking love, companionship and affection in a society that confuses that, and much else, with sex. You are absolutely justified in feeling that this may be a poor choice and one that goes against your beliefs and values, but at the same time you are most likely facing a wounded child.
You need to find the optimal place between the two incorrect extreme reactions of, “As long as you’re happy, everything you do is fine with me,” and “I never want to see you again.” You cannot control the actions of a 47-year-old and you need to acknowledge that her choices at this point in life are independent from you.
Obviously, if this revelation includes walking out on a marriage and affects the lives of grandchildren, your response is even more crucial. We want to reiterate our advice to breathe, pray, get support and think through the situation with as much empathy, clarity and wisdom that you can muster. The film of your daughter’s life is still rolling and we pray that it concludes in a positive way.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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