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Forums / Multicultural experiences / When families put religion and traditions over their children.

Topic: When families put religion and traditions over their children.

8 posts, 0 answered
  1. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
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    Donte' avatar
    845 posts
    4 March 2018

    When my partner died five years ago at the age of 39 it was an unfathomable experience and one no one prepares you for.

    Death is unfathomable no matter what culture you are from and whatever belief system you hold. It’s one thing to have ideas about death and it’s a totally another to have to face it, especially in the eyes of your soul mate and life partner.

    Things can be tougher when you are gay and your relationship is frowned upon by your family and relatives. And when you are in a cross cultural relationship. And when your partner dies of AIDS. And when you are forced to face your own mortality as a hiv+ person together with the death of your loved one.

    I met his mum and twin sister and his older brother and the numerous relatives of his at the funeral.

    For two decades he hadn’t spoken to any of them due to their religiosity and the stigma attached to being gay with certain religious circles. He was also from rural area so there was additional pressures and challenges. Was kicked out at 15. Caught in the act with another dude. He never returned. He hated them all. He hated their religion and their god. But above all he hated their small minds.

    After a week in intensive care and when the prognosis was very bleak, I was wondering when to contact his family. I was the next of kin. His partner of almost a decade.

    After his death I contacted his mother and sister for the very first time, introduced my self and told them the news. They asked me to do the eulogy at his funeral as no one they said, knew him better than me. They were deeply devastated for his premature death but relieved that he had found love, a family and a home for all these years.

    Wish he was here to see how they’ve embraced me and treat me now. Better than my own family whom I have almost nothing to do with.

    Yet, this young man died without family supporting him, excommunicated and abandoned by his parents and relatives for being born gay. Simply because their god didn’t accept him. He died with the pain of the stigma engraved deeply within his heart. He had internalized their homophobia and had turned it into self hatred and destructive addictive behaviors which eventually claimed his life.

    Often, families do not realize the destruction they do to their children or they’re too indifferent to care as religion and culture and traditions become more important than the lives of their loved ones. My family is no different. I’m sure you know others in the same predicament.

    2 people found this helpful
  2. Peppermintbach
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    5 March 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    What a powerful post. I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Losing your soulmate/life partner must have been heart wrenching. Then again, far be it for me to pretend that I truly understand how another person feels...

    So many topics came up in your post: family, rejection, illness, pain, love, survival, sexuality, tradition, culture, connection & disconnection and loss.

    My instinctive reaction was that I just wanted to give you a hug (not sure if you’re into hugs though. It’s okay if you’re not) and ask “are you okay?” As in “really” and “truly.”

    It’s what I might ask if it was someone offline who had revealed as much as you did. Don’t worry, I’m not actually expecting an answer...

    All I’m saying is I feel for you or as much as a stranger can anyway.

    Thank you for sharing and challenging us to think harder about things that we may overlook or take for granted. I feel it’s sad and painful (and causes much grief) when some families will only love and accept their children on the condition that they must live and behave in accordance with a narrow set of “rules” and norms.

    Conditional love (or “love”?) and acceptance.

    Caring thoughts,

    Pepper xo

    1 person found this helpful
  3. White Rose
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    White Rose avatar
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    5 March 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hello Donte

    A huge post and one I have read a couple of times to get my head round. It is always heartbreaking when families become divided. I am certain your partner felt this keenly and quite possibly would have been ready to see them one last time. But of course he would have been afraid of a second rejection and who can blame him.

    Twenty years is a long time to be estranged from his family and during those years public opinion, social mores, legislation etc have changed public attitudes, though of course there are plenty who have not changed.

    I'm not sure from your post if you meant your partner's family went to church and/or their attitudes were due to public opinion. Not that it matters. Wherever his family learned that it was shameful to have a gay person in the family it does show far we need to go to end this sort of situation.

    I am disappointed you feel the church has played such a large part (which is probably true) in the vilification of gay men and women without recognising the church is trying to change. In my local (Anglican ) church there is compassion for everyone. I don't mean compassion for a gay man or woman because they are gay, but a genuine regard for the well-being of all.

    I think this is similar to MI and other conditions such as homelessness, lack of enough money to eat every day, and general discrimination. Twenty five years my church set up an emergency relief group to help people in need. Our clients were all low income earners, with many simply relying on CentreLink payments. What sexual orientation they had was irrelevant.

    I'm not denying the pain experienced by many and it is a huge fault of the church and other institutions. Not all bigoted people go to church and not all churchgoers are bigoted.So what can do? Well it is happening, especially in law. I see this as similar to the plight of the Aboriginal people. They had an apology but it didn't heal their hurts or make people immediately change their opinions. It will take time as we let go of our prejudices. Please give the church, government and people time to change and accept their willingness to do so. Also accept that this sort of change is difficult.

    Please accept any tentative gestures of goodwill. And make your own overtures. While we are talking we are learning about each other.

    Mary

    1 person found this helpful
  4. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
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    845 posts
    5 March 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Hello Pepper,

    Thank you for your lovely response. Yes, many issues unfold simultaneously as they take place and impact us. Life doesn’t have an order or a written formulated agenda to follow and often all happens at once. It is challenging to find balance and prioritize in the midst of crisis. This story or similar ones are common amongst many of course even if certain religious or cultural groups choose not to disclose or have no words or ways of expressing it.

    Five years later, I’m ok and I’m not. It’s all relevant. Depends how we see it. Grief of course is different to depression or plain sadness however the impact of the loss remains. My depression is not caused by my loss as it pre-existed for decades, however, this significant event has added a huge impact on top of it.

    When it comes to loss we eventually normalize it in order to continue function. We learn to live with it. There’s no other way. We can’t bring back the dead. A part of us die with them. A part of them lives in us.

    The first years I was unable to function or work or get any motivation at all. The deep sorrow was followed by anger and rage, then apathy and indifference, then I became cynical. Grief manifests itself unexpectedly and in a variety of ways. A smell, a sound, a place can take you back to a very dark place. A hug can help or may infuriate you. Often people try to fix things, to relieve pain by telling you their version of death and life after it. They say ‘oh he’s just in the other room’ or ‘he’s in a better place’ etc and that used to drive me mad! I don’t want him in the next room, I want him in this room with me! And I don’t care if that place where he supposedly is, is a better one! It’s not where I am! Others would say ‘oh don’t cry, move on! He would want you to be happy and move on!’. I find these statements offensive and infuriating! I don’t want to ‘move on’ I want to ‘hold on’! And I don’t care what he would wanted of me. I care about what I want for me! Sometimes I feel like saying ‘and how do you know that?’...

    Nowadays I’m ok with the thought that some things may happen only once in a lifetime. I’ve found other interests, hobbies, passions and I don’t mind if I don’t repeat the past. I’ve been married, I’ve been in love, I’ve lived and lost.

    I’ve now learnt to love me and to live in the space between the moment that expires and the one that is about to eventuate. It’s all ok. Now.

    2 people found this helpful
  5. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
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    845 posts
    5 March 2018 in reply to White Rose

    Thank you Mary,

    It’s true. Many social reforms have taken place in the last few years as we are becoming a more secular country and embrace diversity and multiculturalism. There is no State religion in Australia and this is one of the best things about this country - the separation of religion and state.

    Unfortunately as history clearly proves whenever the Church has ruled there has always being discrimination and victimization of minorities. That is precisely why it is called ‘The Dark Ages’. Renaissance brought new light in regards to human rights, evolution and progress simply because religion was pushed to the side and science and humanism took its place.

    Of course, not all religion is bad and not every bigoted person is religious. Churches often do a lot of social good mostly as they’re tax exempt and need to justify their existence. It is their duty.

    Yes, some people need a church or faith in god to keep them going. I respect that and acknowledge their need. However, the church and religion in general has a lot to answer for.

    Currebtly we have 135 religions in Australia. (Census data) More than 5000 gods are worshipped globally. Clearly that shows a need for humans to believe in something. As long as these beliefs don’t discriminate others and disadvantage the ones who don’t partake in them that’s perfectly fine. As long as religious beliefs don’t affect legislation and politics that’s ok. As long as people’s faith stays private and doesn’t affect the human rights of others then people can worship whatever they want. But the moment their faith impacts others and destroys lives spreading prejudice and hatred governments have an obligation to step in and put them in their place.

    Yes, there are some very good religious people and institutions who help and support people as well as some amazing kind-hearted atheists and agnostics who equally make a huge contribution to society. We all have potential to do good. Let’s keeo on doing it. :)

    2 people found this helpful
  6. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
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    845 posts
    5 March 2018 in reply to White Rose

    Hi Mary,

    I’m glad you have found a place (your local church) where you have fellowship and feel a sense of belonging. Additionally that you can be involved in many beneficial community projects that make a difference to vulnerable and disadvantaged people within your area.

    We all find ways that are meaningful to us and try to make a difference. Also being in this forum is one of them. Thank you for sharing your experience and trying to understand.

    kind greetings X

    2 people found this helpful
  7. Peppermintbach
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    4566 posts
    8 March 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’, Mary and all,

    I agree with you that the way a person deals with grief, loss (or any other cause of pain) can be such a personal journey. I feel there really is no one “right way” of dealing with our emotions and difficult losses/life events; it boils down to each of us doing what is personally meaningful/effective.

    Thank you again for sharing such a personal post(s) here. All very poignant and thought provoking...heartfelt.

    It must be frustrating and feel even hurtful at times to hear people say well meaning but perhaps inappropriate things. Perhaps often they had great intentions but just not the right “delivery” or “execution.” Regardless, I get the overarching theme (please feel free to let me know if I’m way off mark) is that it’s about not wanting others to tell you “how” to feel, “how” to cope or “how” to “be.”

    Sometimes, as a loose aside, I feel people accidentally make certain remarks/express platitudes because they are uncomfortable with another person’s pain and so they rush in with their desire to “fix” you, “mend” you, etc...I suppose my point is sometimes I feel people’s comments reflect more on their own sense of “helplessness” or discomfort around another person’s pain. Granted, I realise knowing that doesn’t diminish your own pain/loss/difficulties of course...figured I would just share an observation.

    Kind thoughts,

    Pepper xo

    1 person found this helpful
  8. Donte'
    Multicultural Correspondent
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    8 March 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Hello Pepper,

    You are spot on! Thank you.

    Loss and grief is a personal journey indeed, perceived by the individual within the parameters of their cultural or religious contexts even though they are universal human experiences. The loss of a loved one, aging, our own mortality, illness and its impact, are all experienced by everyone no matter where they come from or their gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity etc. But the response to these could differ depending on the cultural setting. Of course not two individuals would react the same even within the same context.

    Often we speak from our own experience. At a funeral everyone mourns for different losses. Pain is personal. When we respond to it, even to someone else’s, it’s usually through our own filters and belief systems. It’s the only way we can make sense. Many find it as an opportunity to preach and pass on their views or ideas in order to proselytize you. I find that offensive. To use someone at their most vulnerable so you can project your views and beliefs is simply arrogant and callus, to say the least.

    If it’s unintentional it can be easier to forgive. If trying to capitalize on ones pain for your own benefits then it’s morally wrong.

    The way we speak is also important as very well you’ve described. Not everyone is able to deliver the right message no matter what the intentions as the other person will always also interpret it in the way they can depending on numerous factors that are not related to you. I often prefer to remain silent and if appropriate smile or look at the person, hold them and comfort them without polluting them with my views.

    I think in times of pain and desperation it may be better to listen actively, repeat what you’ve heard so you can validate the person and acknowledge how terrible, even horrific it is, without trying to offer advice, guidance, opinion, or attempting to minimize the impact of the loss. Certainly not trying to fix or mend or make it better, because you simply can’t. Just be, be there with them in their journey of loss.

    As Mary mentioned, we are all learning from each other and about each other. It is a sacred experience to be there and with a person during these raw, vulnerable times of pain when loss is all they experience. It’s an honour to be able to just be with them at those moments. X

    2 people found this helpful

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