DNA Results: Coping with the News of New Relationships

Modern Genealogy sites online have started to include the results of DNA testing that has produced many unintended consequences. Many people who did these tests to find out more about their heritage find out more than they may have wanted to know, such as that they have a different biological parent or sibling. Sometimes the outcome is the result of someone's search for a biological parent.

Many people are overwhelmed with feelings when they get this information. Navigating this new world can be an emotional roller coaster. It can be joyful to find a lost connection, or painful to find out that someone kept a secret from you. Either way there are few models of how to handle this kind of situation.

Here are some of the common feelings that occur when you get unexpected news. They include shock as your world reveals itself to be different than you thought. People who find out that they have a parent that they have never met, have to summon up the strength to see if this person is willing to communicate with them and faces the possibility of rejection and hurt.

In addition, there is often anxiety, partially as there is the lack of social norms about how to handle this new relationship. It can be very bittersweet, with the loss of time in a new positive relationship as well as the joy of making a connection.

People who are searching for someone can be disappointed to find out the person is deceased or wounded by the found persons' unwillingness to talk about things.

Here are some thoughts about how to approach reaching out to someone who you think you are related to.

Be prepared for all possible responses, as you approach someone who is a stranger but biologically related, remember that there may be good reasons that this person is not in your life. How this person responds to you is a reflection of who they are, especially in the beginning of a new relationship, they don't know you, so if you are rejected it is important to reflect on the fact that this person does not know you and a rejection or unwillingness to connect is not due to who you are but more a statement about them.

A helpful perspective to have when you are reaching out to a lost relative is that you are doing this to explore an option which takes courage, and that there is value in having the courage to do it. If the outcome is good great however managing your own expectations can provide more peace as you go through it.. A good approach to these situations is to have an open mind and see how things unfold in the relationship. Healthy relationships evolve over time. Meeting for the first time in a casual, neutral space is a good idea. Building a connection may need to be done slowly over time.

Many people decide to do paternity testing before meeting someone who might be their child. This is wise for both parties as it offers reassurance to each person.

There are some online support groups for people who are going through the emotional roller coaster of finding lost relatives, they may be helpful to explore.

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Norwell, MA Therapist

Marguerite Wood, LICSW