Learning to Just Breathe – Helping Parents Navigate the LGBTQ Journey with Their Child

Heather Hester

Do you have a child or loved one who has recently come out, or who is struggling with being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer? Do you feel alone and overwhelmed with where to find accurate information and support? I can certainly empathize with you, which is why I’ve created Learning to Just Breathe. 

When our oldest son, Connor, came out to us as gay in February 2017, to say we were blindsided is an understatement. We desperately wanted to support him but had no idea how. We didn’t know where to find support or accurate information. We didn’t have any gay family members or friends with kids who were out. Our movie reel had just blown up, and we all existed in a horrible place where we vacillated between being overwhelmed and fearful. 

The learning curve was steep, and we were consistently five steps behind Connor. Anxiety and fear ruled our lives, and we felt so alone. We struggled to find tools specific to the teen LGBTQ experience.

While societal acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ community have shifted positively over the past decade, we still live in a world where outing yourself or your child can draw harsh judgment and cruelty. As we moved through the first couple of years of our bumpy journey, we never knew if we would be met with compassion or condemnation. It was heartbreaking to encounter such misinformation and fear. As I became more grounded, educated and empowered, I realized there were many families like ours who felt the same isolation.

I couldn’t bear the thought of others enduring what we had, so I created Chrysalis Mama. This unique website is the product of our family’s journey through depression, anxiety, substance use and, most of all, embracing Connor. It is filled with valuable information, resources and support for those on a similar journey of loving and raising an LGBTQ child. Transforming this conversation starts within each one of us, blossoms within our families, and then grows into our communities and beyond. My principles, the pillars of transformation, are simple: to embrace, educate, empower and love. 

The more I learned, the more passionate I became about this mission. As my husband, Steve, and I recognized the beautiful shifts occurring within ourselves and our family, we knew I needed to work to reach more people. Growth does not happen without discomfort and, in our case, crisis. And so, my podcast, Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen, was born. 

Just Breathe has created a lovely space for incredible guests to share their wide-ranging knowledge, for me to share our lessons learned, and for so many parents, siblings, friends, and allies to know that they are not alone!  

As Just Breathe approached its first anniversary, and the number of people reaching out to me weekly increased, I decided to create a digital course. Learning to Just Breathe contains everything Steve and I wish we would have known when Connor first came out. It is the culmination of hundreds of hours of research, soul-searching, talking with professionals and life experience wrapped into one organized, delightfully presented course. The waitlist is open now and registration will open on Feb. 7. I am excited to connect with others through this course and to continue spreading the message that you are not alone!