Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Sep 2019

What To Do (And Not Do) When Faced With Rejection Or Alienation

One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.  ~ Author unknown

You’ve done everything right, followed the best advice you could find. You have been respectful, discrete, and kind, and yet you have been rejected.  Your family member refuses to speak with you.  Or, at some point after connection, they stop communicating and cut off contact, ignore your emails, and don’t return your phone calls.  What do you do now?

First, the “do not’s” ~

Try not to take it personally or get angry.  Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it’s not you, personally, they are rejecting.  (How could they?  They don’t really know you, after all.)  More likely, it’s the shock of suddenly having to come face-to-face with the pain and heartache stemming from whatever caused the separation that they have suppressed for so many years.  If you become upset and lash out, you risk losing whatever hope there may have been of repairing the connection.

Do not internalize someone else’s trauma and dysfunction. Absolutely nothing will be gained if you do.  You cannot solve other people’s problems for them, and you will only compound your own by taking on theirs, making it more difficult for you to improve and maintain your own emotional and physical health.  

Don’t try to go through this alone.  Go to a counselor or psychologist, if you can afford one (hopefully someone who is qualified in adoption loss, abandonment, and rejection issues); find an in-person or on-line support group; confide in a close friend or share with your partner or spouse – a “true friend” who will double your joys and halve your sorrows.

Do ~

Read Why Isn't My Mother Looking For Me?for some of the reasons mothers and other family members might be unable to make a connection. And understand that none of these things have anything to do with you.  You were not responsible for their hurt and pain, and it is doubtful you can fix it.  All we can hope to do is eventually work through it.

Allow yourself to grieve.  And bear in mind that at least you know more of your truth now.  We can never get beyond the unknown; we will continue wondering, fantasizing, worrying until we know.  On the other hand, we can always get beyond the truth.  If it’s good news, we can wrap our hearts around it, celebrate it, and move on, happier and wiser.  If it’s bad news, we can analyze and understand it, grieve it, put it aside, and move on, sadder, but wiser. 

Decide whether to reach out one more time.  Send a pretty card by post with a note (in your own words) along the lines:  “I’m sorry if I upset you.”  “I realize this must be a terrific shock after all these years.”  “I did not mean to intrude and certainly would not intentionally do anything to make you unhappy.”  “I have always thought of you with love and longing to know you.”  “My door is always open.”  Enclose photos of yourself and your spouse and children.  

Continue your research on the family and decide if there is anyone else to take a chance on contacting.  I know of several adoptees rejected by their mothers, who eventually made contact with grandparents, siblings, aunts, and uncles and were warmly and happily received. One heartwarming example is Holly, whose elderly mother would not accept contact.  Holly eventually called her mother’s ex-husband, who turned out to be very kind and receptive, and although he had not spoken to his ex-wife in 50 years, took it upon himself to call her and plead with her to open her heart. Thankfully, she did; Holly and her mother have enjoyed five years of very loving reunion.  Another adoptee, Michelle, decided to call her mother’s mother when she saw a newspaper article relating that she and grandma shared a love for, of all things, sewing historical costumes (no such thing as coincidence!).  The grandparents were ecstatic to have Michelle back in their lives.  Mother, not so much.  The damage wrought by losing her first-born to adoption was just too great; she simply cannot face Michelle.  Most amazing, Michael, an adoptee who was cruelly and nastily rejected by his parents, has been joyously united with full-blooded siblings.  The parents had married after giving up their first-born as unmarried parents over 45 years ago, have become prominent and successful members of their community, and are afraid of the public shame and disgrace if anyone knew.

Do your genealogy.  Invest in a family history database.  Sign up for classes on-line or at your county genealogical society or local LDS (Mormon) Family History Center.  If you cannot afford a membership in genealogy databases, work from your local library where access is usually free.  It is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.  The ancestors will never reject us, and you will learn about your background at the same time meeting relatives and other genealogists who will share your enthusiasm for history.  

Participate in the DNA Family Matching programs (see my article What You Need To Know To Start Your Family Member Search for details), and you will be matched with relatives from close to distant cousins, who will be welcoming and forthcoming (why else would they be participating in genetic genealogy databases?).  Before you know it, you will have many new relatives and friends and, hopefully, some new treasures to cherish.  I have amassed several family heirlooms since beginning my genealogy journey 30 years ago. The best was from a distant cousin who drove 300 miles to bring me in person the first photograph I ever saw of my great-grandmother.

Above all, be kind to yourself.  Know and believe in your heart that it truly is their loss.  Know when to walk away, and try to forgive them, for they really “know not what they do.”

Sep 2019

What You Need to Know to Start Your Family Member Search

Sign Up on Free National & State Registries

First, before beginning any search, we encourage everyone to sign up on the two most important free registries:

The official state registry where you were born and/or adopted, if there is one, such as the New York State Adoption Information Registry (NYSAIR), or PAIR, the Pennsylvania Adoption Information Registry.  Google the words “adoption registry” and the state you are searching in to find the link.

What Information We Need to Begin the Search

When contacting a Search Angel for help, have ready at hand every piece of information you know about the birth and/or adoption.  We understand there might not be much to go on.  Most adoptees are forbidden by archaic, cruel laws from receiving their original birth certificates and knowing the names of and other identifying information about their mother and father; however, they are entitled in most states to “non-identifying information” from the adoption agency or state or court files.  This is basically socio-economic, ethnic, education, and health information gathered by the agency from the relinquishing parent(s) at the time of adoption.  

Search Angels can pick out certain pieces of this information and scour public records such as census, city directories, birth and death records, obituaries, high school and college yearbooks, etc., to identify and trace the right family.  I have solved many cases with just non-ID alone.

Exciting New World of DNA Family Matching

If there is no non-ID, as in many private, attorney-handled adoptions, or illegal “black market” adoptions or abandoned baby cases, we recommend the searchers participate in DNA Family Finder databases to be matched with relatives from close (siblings or parents) to distant cousins. In fact, these DNA databases are proving to be so successful I am recommending them immediately as soon as adoptees contact me.  They are all "non-invasive" tests (i.e., not blood-related) using cheek swabs or spit samples.  In particular, we recommend four companies:

Ancestry Cost is $100, but goes on sale several times a year usually around holidays.  With over ten million participants on this site, we have been having some exciting successes lately, mainly because most participants on Ancestry are genealogy-oriented and usually willing to share family information.  This one is most effective when you know at least one side of your ancestry, for example, if you know who your mother is and are searching for your father.  You can build a family tree for your mother to compare with matches.

FamilyTreeDNA offers a variety of tests.  The one most frequently used is the "Adoptee - Family Finder" or autosomal (atDNA) test, which will identify both maternal and paternal relatives.  If you do not want to buy a separate test on this site, you can upload your Ancestry raw DNA data for no charge.  Other valuable tests on this site are the Y-DNA for males only (father's father's father's father and so on back 40,000 years) and the mtDNA (mitochondrial) test (maternal lines: mother’s mother’s mother’s). 

23andMe Cost is $100 for just ancestry testing and matching or $200 for ancestry and detailed carrier status and other health reports.

MyHeritage is becoming a major player in the DNA world with its kit for $79, or you can upload your Ancestry raw DNA data for no charge, but you will have to buy a membership to review and communicate with matches.

If you want to expand your search efforts even further, there is a site you can load your raw data to called GEDMatch, which will allow you much higher levels of comparison with your matches.  There are donations and small fees for certain applications.

There are tutorials on all of the sites and on YouTube to help you understand the complicated processes, as well as user groups on Facebook.  Also look for blogs like CeCe Moore's Your Genetic Genealogista nd Richard Hill's DNA Testing Adviser for help.  A good beginner's guide to DNA can be found at Beginners' Guide to Genetic Genealogy.

If you are not scientifically educated, be prepared for a long, steep learning curve.  Above all, be kind to yourself.  With patience and perseverance, each day will bring more interesting insights into your biological family and genetic makeup.