Making contact: things to consider
Information about how to make contact, what might happen after contact is made, planning for the first meeting and having ongoing contact.
The first meeting
You have located a member of your family, you may have exchanged letters or emails, talked on the phone once or many times and now you both decide it’s time to meet. The first meeting may take place after one phone call or after a longer period of communication.
Below are some of the key things to consider when planning the first meeting.
Planning the first meeting
It is best to meet somewhere neutral, a coffee shop or a quiet area of a public park, and preferably not at someone’s house. It is vital that this be a place where both parties feel comfortable.
In many cases the first meeting can be very emotional for one or both of you, so try to meet at a location that is not overcrowded.
While having a support person may seem like a good idea, often it is best to meet alone due to the special nature of the initial meeting. This meeting has been a long-awaited moment and should be enjoyed by the people who are directly involved.
It can be overwhelming when too many people are involved in the first meeting and other family members can meet later on. You may want someone to drive you to the first meeting and pick you up so that you can de-brief afterwards.
As this is usually a very emotional time, often people cope better if the first meeting is no more than a couple of hours. This provides time to adjust to the initial emotions and start to feel comfortable with one another.
Experience shows that in cases where the initial meeting was lengthy, those involved came away feeling exhausted, emotionally drained and unable to remember in detail what was said.
Your feelings after the first meeting
After the first meeting it is normal to feel a range of emotions, from joy to sadness or even anger. It is important to acknowledge your feelings and to be clear about future contact and wishes. Misunderstandings can easily occur in such an emotionally charged environment.
You may feel happiness and joy at the outcome of the meeting. You may have felt an instant connection to the other person, interacted easily and shared your life stories. You may feel rejection. Maybe the other person didn’t have time to prepare themselves for the meeting, or they might have spent many years trying to forget the adoption and couldn’t deal with the reality of the meeting. Others may find it difficult to cope with the disruption to their lives. Some people may not feel any connection, as they may just be too different from one another.
You may have found out some unusual or shocking information during the first meeting. For some people searching involves learning about some very distressing situations. Some adopted children are conceived of rape or incest; others find parents with extensive criminal histories, severe disabilities or mental illnesses. For birth parents, it can be very distressing to find out about a grown-up child being in jail or severely disabled.
You may have found that you were comparing yourselves with one another. Some people feel very surprised to find someone that they look like. Research has found that some people even feel sexually attracted to one another. Comparing looks, touching and hugging is normal and healthy.
People experiencing a sexual attraction to one another should seek assistance in dealing with these feelings.