The world is a big place and there are billions of people in it. Everyone comes from different circumstances and some do not know where, or who, their parents, children, or siblings are. Because it’s National Adoption Day today I wanted to share some information about finding people who may be missing from your life. Not the mechanics of how to find them, but the real questions that not all “seekers” consider, like should you find them and if you do find them, what will the consequences be? And most of all, will they want to be found?
In my professional experience, I have worked with different types of “seekers.” Some are searching out of curiosity. Some are trying to trace their genetic history. Some are looking for closure. And some are searching for what they believe is their true identity. I’ve worked with adoptees looking for their biological parents. And I’ve worked with parent’s trying to find their children. There are a lot of reasons why people seek. But one thing remains constant.
For some, the not knowing can be the most debilitating factor to someone’s self-construction.
Others may seek to fill a void in their life or to make peace with decisions that have caused unresolved guilt.
Whatever the reason one may be searching, some questions remain the same.
What could have been? What should have been? Who would I be?
But what many seekers don’t consider is that after their search is done, what they find doesn’t only affect them. And expectations, whether good or bad, are not always met.
Susan Collins, who was adopted as a child, had always known she was adopted. As she became a teenager, graduated high school and moved out of state, she thought about searching for her biological parents, but never pursued it. It wasn’t until one day when a friend of hers revealed she too, was adopted and was in the process of obtaining her adoption records, that Susan became more curious about her biological parents. Susan’s friend passed on the information for whom to contact for more information on her birth and adoption records.
And Susan set out on a journey of a lifetime.
Susan, like many “seekers” explained that part of her initial hesitation to search for her biological parents stemmed from the realization that if she found them, there was a chance that they wouldn’t want to meet her. And that rejection would be more devastating than if she had never found them in the first place.
No harm, no foul. Safe.
She never realized how deeply rooted the fear of rejection was until she was faced with it. But she overcame that fear with the understanding that the results of her search could ultimately affect so many others. According to Susan, there were many more people to consider in the equation besides herself.
Her search and her findings would reach out into not only the lives of her biological parents, but potential step-siblings and extended family members. She also considered how her adoptive parents would feel about her finding her biological parents.
But armed with the support from her family and friends, Susan knew that she was ready to know where she came from.
Once the decision to move forward with finding her biological parents was made, she knew she would have to tackle her own expectations. Would they be met? Exceeded?
Susan anticipated her biological mother would be found first and, because of details in her birth file, she expected her mother to fully embrace her. She also expected that her biological father would be much more difficult to find and believed that he would not want to meet her.
Susan found her father first. Initially, he was hesitant, but assisted Susan in her search for her biological mother. And much to her surprise, he not only eventually met Susan, but fully embraced her.
For her 26th birthday, Susan’s greatest gift was having all of her parents wishing her a happy birthday and she continues to have relationships with both biological parents and their families.
Susan’s search resulted in a positive outcome. But not all reunions are rosy. Does someone’s “yearning” to find the truth trump a birth parent’s, or child’s, right to privacy?
Recently, I assisted a father in locating his adult daughter.
We’ll refer to him as “T”.
And “T” has not seen his daughter since she was six months old. Not as a result of adoption, but divorce. After over 25 years, “T” felt an overwhelming desire to initiate contact with his daughter.
Expecting that his daughter was “missing” him all these years, he sought to locate her.
I was able to quickly locate “T’s” daughter. But that initial phone call was anything but heartwarming.
In my role as the “connector”, I have an opportunity to revel in the positive experience of reuniting those who have lost touch or are meeting for the very first time. But I also have a responsibility to protect the privacy of those being found. So, I will never provide the “seeker” with contact information, or any identifying details of the individual they are looking for. No matter how compelling their story.
Rather, I become a facilitator – attempting to orchestrate a reunion.
And this is why.
“T’s” daughter was startled to learn that he was looking for her, and she made no bones about not wanting to be reunited. She stated that at the age of two, her mother’s husband had adopted her. And though she knew of a biological father, her adoptive father was the only father she has ever cared to know.
To her, parenting was more than just biology.
She referred to her biological father, “T”, as a “stranger” and asked that I relay only one message to him.
“Tell him I have absolutely no interest in meeting him. Ever.”
“T” was disappointed with the message. Unwilling to accept the truth, he vowed to establish a relationship at a future time, hopeful that she will reconsider .
Sometimes reunions are disappointing, as was this one – because of an expectation and a preconceived notion that there will be instant bonding because of blood-ties.
Those who are seeking never know how their journey will end. And it is important to accept the fact that although whatever is uncovered may be true, that truth may not always set you free.
While many reunions are successful, it is important to be prepared and consider all the possible outcomes (not just the fairy tale ones) before you embark on your search for the truth.