Relationship Connection: I just discovered my biological father is alive

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Question

How do I proceed from finding out that my biological father is still alive? I grew up more than four decades with little or no knowledge of my biological father and relatives. I accepted that he was deceased as I was told. I discovered that he is still alive by accepting friend requests with people I have never met having the same last name. I have inquired knowing only the name as it appears on my birth certificate.

I have many more questions in my mind. But the feelings I do not know how to describe. My emptiness from fatherless to knowing he is alive, I don’t know how to proceed with all these emotions, even on how to maybe meet him at his old age.

Hoping for your advice to get me out to my comfort zone and eventually have more valuable discoveries to my biological father’s relatives.

Answer

What a shocking revelation for you to learn that the story you’ve been told your whole life about your father isn’t true. You’ve built your life around the belief that you didn’t get to have a biological father in your life, and it’s understandably challenging to now integrate that information into your life story. Let’s not get too far ahead with solutions before you get some clarity about what this discovery means to you.

First, please recognize that the life you created with the information you were given is your real life. That may sound like a strange thing to say, but it’s normal to question everything you’ve known and everything you’ve done in your life through this new lens of learning that your father was alive this whole time. It can throw you into a world of “what if” statements that leave you questioning how you think about your life.

Accepting that you’ve built your life without the involvement and support of a father says much about you and your character. It’s important to honor and pull close to those who fathered you and helped you become the person you are today. They can help you get your footing and decide how you want to proceed.

Our primal yearning to be fathered by our own biological father can overshadow the actual fathering that happened when you were growing up. I don’t know your story, but it’s likely you were given much of what you needed by committed and loving adults who stepped in to guide and support you. You’ll be less reactive and disoriented if you can hold onto the memory of those good people and even connect with them if they’re still available to you. They are your anchor and will help you approach this discovery from a place of security and balance. 

It’s also important to have compassion for yourself as you experience a wide range of emotions. It’s normal to feel a mixture of curiosity, shock, anger, compassion, abandonment, love and other emotions as you sort through these details.

Even though you’re an adult and don’t need someone to take care of your physical needs, we all need to know we are loved and important to someone else. This is especially true with our parents and our spouse. These primary attachments help us survive the squalls of life, so when you learn this attachment figure is alive, it can dial up long-buried feelings of hope coupled with grief.

This is a good time to journal, meditate and counsel with others to sort through the different emotions so you can better decide how you want to approach this. Perhaps your emotions will point you to a desire to meet in person. Or you might not want to meet him, but learn more about him from relatives so you can better understand his story.

You might even decide you want to start a long-distance correspondence with him. It’s also possible that you could get clear on what you’d want him to know about you and share that with him. Take your time and be gentle with yourself as you sort through these emotions so you can get what you need from this discovery.

Take this process slowly. You might feel an urgency to get to the bottom of this, but recognize that you’ve already gone 40-plus years living with the understanding that this person wasn’t available to you. You can take the time you need. If you’re ready to establish contact now or you feel like giving yourself more time, both options are perfectly fine. You get to decide how you want to approach him. He decided decades ago how he wanted to approach you, so it’s okay for you to be intentional and thoughtful about this relationship.

Regardless of what you choose to do, your greatest personal peace will come as you release him and forgive him for leaving you. This will not necessarily be easy or immediate, but it is the direction you’ll want to go. Even if you choose to have a relationship, it will be built on a foundation of a free and open heart. He can’t restore what was taken from you in his absence. So you’re free to release him and then decide how you want to proceed without bitterness and resentment. You get to decide if you want to make space in your life for him.

In fact, when your heart is freed from collecting this debt, you’ll be better able to learn about him – if that matters to you. It might help you to better understand his backstory and why he would abandon his child for all of these years. As you hold secure to your current and past attachment relationships, you’ll be in a strong position to extend curiosity and compassion to him as you add this new reality to your story. 

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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