This Guide is not all-inclusive nor meant to infer that you will have all of these experiences. We are working hard to include as many relevant points as possible in order to provide the most comprehensive things to consider when your NPE status is a new one. Use the contact us page if you have something additional to offer and check back; we plan to update this list as often as needed.
items within your control
o STOP!!! As best as you can, RESIST the overwhelming impulse to immediately contact the individuals involved in your NPE story. In emotionally charged situations, spontaneous or haphazard responses are not in anyone’s interests. Whatever information you have just discovered, and soon will discover, has existed for probably decades; your instant actions are rarely warranted. Be kind to yourself by allowing sufficient time to absorb the information and craft sensible responses.
o Believe your DNA test’s results. Mistakes are improbable. If you have serious and rational doubts, test again with a different company.
o Find support. Whether it’s your spouse, a trusted friend, a partner, or a therapist willing to listen to your concerns as you embark on this likely unexpected journey.
o Plan. Prior to any actions, reflect on your short-term and long-term objectives, risks and benefits of the action. Repeat this step as often as needed.
The Emotional Overload
preparing for the potential highs and difficult lows
o Brace to learn that your biological parent(s) may be a person(s) you have known your whole life
o Prepare to see a photo of someone you strongly resemble, perhaps for the first time in your life
o Prepare to finally understand something that has perplexed you your entire life, for example, why your parents or other relatives treated you differently than your siblings
o Prepare to learn additional information that may make you incredibly happy, despondently sad, or any emotion in-between those extremes
o Understand that newly discovered relatives may embrace you with joy and happiness, fear and wariness, or not embrace you at all. Moreover, their embrace can considerably change over time in either a positive or negative manner
o Prepare to learn that your biological parent(s) is/are deceased
o Prepare to learn that your biological parent(s) have never known you existed
o Prepare for life-long relationships to be strained by uncooperativeness, accusations, lack of empathy, or pleas to withhold the truth
o Prepare to possibly learn of a terrible harm perpetrated long ago against your parent(s)
o Prepare to feel betrayed by the damage that secrets can cause
o Prepare for people to ignore your correspondences, despite your repeated, reasonable, or even urgent requests
o Prepare to have your self-identity questioned, by yourself and others
o Prepare to learn that you are of an unexpected heritage as well as to lose whatever heritage you knew
o Prepare to feel “robbed” of the years you could have had a relationship with other relatives
important information to accumulate QUICKLY
o Download or screenshot DNA test results of yourself and other relatives as a precaution against some records “disappearing”
o Screenshot any family trees from the online ancestry sites before they may become “private”
o Contact courthouses, medical providers, schools, or other institutions where pertinent records may be available such as birth certificates, death certificates, or marriage licenses, among other documents
o Google obituaries (and take screenshots) for a treasure trove of information about family members and connections
o Determine genetic relationship when unclear. Search the internet for a “DNA Centimorgans Chart”, then learn how to determine your relationship to someone via centimorgans
o Make a list of individuals, especially from your childhood, who could provide relevant histories; communicate when and how seems appropriate
o Checking Google, Facebook, or other social media sites can provide valuable information, both current and historical
o Take notes of anything that feels pertinent to your new medical history
Support and Additional Resources
o Consider searching for a therapist, or search this group to see if an NPE therapist is in your area - MPE Counseling.
o Consider joining an NPE support group: For example, Togetherness Heals~NPE Only on Facebook. Others can be found by searching for NPE groups on the Facebook website. These are private groups and you will be expected to answer a few questions before entry into the group.
o Hiraeth Hope and Healing offers in-person retreats twice a year.
o Listen to NPE Podcasts - NPE Stories , Everything's Relative with Eve Sturges , Sex, Lies and the Truth or peruse other podcasts related to DNA discoveries where you get any of your podcasts (e.g. Apple, Spotify).
o Read NPE information from other sources such as Severance Magazine .
o For guidance on finding relatives through DNA, Search Angels or google "DNA Detectives" to find organizations skilled at navigating and solving DNA questions. Search Angels are also accessible through Facebook.
o Recently published: NPE - A Story Guide For Unexpected DNA Discoveries .
Additional Ideas to consider
o Consider improving your communication skills, for example, read the book
o Whenever needed cry, exercise, listen to music, read, sleep, talk to someone you genuinely trust, or do whatever healthy coping action you can sensibly do
o Expect to grieve and mourn relationships in your family of origin as well as with the newly discovered family
o Know that some people have felt tremendous guilt for feeling relieved about their discovery
o Understand that your parent(s) is/are not perfect, as is true for all human beings
o Recognize that an intensely important belief(s) you hold will probably soon be shattered
o Ponder your definitions of “parent”, “sibling, “mom”, “dad”, “brother”, “sister”, and “family”
o Understand that second-guessing yourself and others is normal
contacting new relatives
Initial communication with newly identified relatives – who are usually strangers - can be awkward and uncertain. Some may gladly communicate with you, while others may refuse to acknowledge your existence. However, in our experiences most people are some combination of surprised, confused, and skeptical or have concerns about your “real” intentions (for example, are you going to ask them for money). To help increase their willingness to communicate with you:
recognize your primary goal with an initial communication is building a foundation for future discussions
as best as you can, imagine yourself as the person receiving your communication; writing with their interests in mind can help optimize your message. Try to avoid the temptation of focusing on your anguish, your sorrow, or your needs, since these risk alienating the recipient
instant message services (cellphone texts, Facebook) are poorly suited for serious, emotional, or in-depth conversations. Indeed, miscommunication – and hurt feelings – may be higher with these services; consider avoiding them, at least initially
an email or mailed letter are arguably the best options because
1) you can spend time (and solicit help from someone you trust) to write a few paragraphs that objectively outline the information you know, do not know, and seek, and
2) the recipient will have time to digest this information before responding.
Consider sending the letter via ‘proof of delivery’ mail. In your letter, perhaps ask if this person would agree to a phone call? If so, prior to the call create an outline/notes of questions you wish to ask
as best as you can, verify you have the current email address/mailing address; you may have outdated information
refrain from trying to ‘catch’ people in an ill-timed moment, for example, by calling them at work; such tactics risk mistrust and anger
finally, allow people sufficient time and space to comprehend the situation
Finally, feel free to use this letter - successfully utilized to contact previously unknown siblings - as a template for what you write: LETTER EXAMPLE