First, I want to tell you that you are not alone.  There are others, too, with that looming question mark in their hearts: that place reserved only for familial strangers who chose a piece of your destiny however many years ago. 

A longtime friend of mine reached out to me about someone she knew who was just contacted by a member of her biological family for the first time since childhood. I told her to please give her my phone number. I was excited and nervous to listen to her story and offer my experience as a little bit of insight.  My soul lit up when I listened to her speak through some of the initial shock and confusion that came with holding that precious first letter. Two of us strangers, unfamiliar voices on opposite ends of the phone—but so chillingly connected by our histories.  So here I am writing to you and any other adoptees battling with the great question of reunification.

1) Pray about it.  My very first piece of advice is short and simple: Let God in. Yell, cry, or simply just be, but do so first with Him. He will offer you more clarity than anything else in this world can offer. He knew this moment was coming. Lay it before Him first (1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 91:4).

2) It’s okay if you’re not sure that you’re ready. Remember that your birth parents may have chosen a life for you when you were born (or maybe a while after), but YOU hold the key to the life you want to pursue from this moment forward. The beautiful thing is, it’s on YOUR terms this time. Nobody else can take that away from you.

3) Don’t be afraid to feel.  And by feel, I mean don’t be afraid to feel how you feel.  Everyone is going to feel something different when grappling with this decision. It’s okay to feel confused, excited, curious, pissed off, melancholy—maybe even a mixture of all five. The best way to get over the feels is to acknowledge that they’re there and truly learn them. It’s okay if you don’t know how to feel. There is no “should” and “should not” in our unique situations. Everyone’s stories are different. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a “how to be adopted” handbook or a “what to do when your biological family wants to meet” pamphlet. This is a time for you to experience a new territory of emotions—and learn how to discern them.

4) Ask for help. The family, friends, and mentors who raised you love you, and probably want to experience this time in your life with you. They are your closest allies. Lean on them, fall into them—God gave them to you for this moment. Ask God for guidance and trust Him. He has strategically placed people in your life. They may not be able to relate, but they can certainly listen. And sometimes, having someone just shut up and listen is all the clarity you need.

5) Take your time. Regardless of who reached out to who, don’t rush into anything you are not ready for. It’s a sensitive thing, facing who made you and chose the beginning of life for you.  And it’s totally normal NOT to be ready for it. Consider starting out by writing a letter. Maybe you send it, maybe you don’t—but it’s a start to creating the words you wish to say. That’s why I wrote my Catalog of Questions. It was the beginning of a long series of conversations, and it felt good to get it out of my head and onto paper. Writing it down clears your mind; it gives you more room to process.

6) Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know for me, the week before I met my biological family I was an anxious mess. Will they like me? Will I live up to their expectations? Stop. Just stop. The only expectations you should be worried about are your own, and even then—tread lightly.  Remember that these strangers are beautiful humans like you, each with faults of their own. A personal mantra: if you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed. If you are reaching out to your biological family, expect them not to be ready. If they reached out to you, they are probably expecting the same thing. Expectations are always a mind game—and it’s a game rarely won by either party.

7) Give yourself a break. Remember how I said there’s no rush? Seriously, give your heart and brain a break. You don’t need to come to terms with everything right away. I met my “bio-fam” five years ago this month and I’m still mulling things over. Time for processing is so important. Time for not worrying about it is just as important. If you’re a retail therapy shopper . . . just do it (responsibly, of course). Have a chick flick night with girlfriends. Go bro out with your brosefs. Unwind and take a break from thinking for awhile. When you’ve got a clear head again, begin again.

The days, weeks, months, and years leading to meeting your biological family is an absolute roller coaster. Put on your seat belt and enjoy the ride. Feel and keep feeling. Talk about it and most importantly—PRAY about it. God has put you in this unique situation because, believe it or not, you can handle it. Without a doubt, it will be trying, but you will learn so much about yourself. Whether or not you choose to reunite with your biological family, the process of processing it will grow you and mold you in ways you never realized you could. Take heart, dear adoptee. You are not alone.

If you’re ready to begin your search, start here

For adoption training and guidance in your search to find birth parents, visit the new search and reunion website.