WARM-HEARTED. FORGIVING. INFLUENTIAL.
My story began in January of 2017. The loss of my father was shocking, devastating, and heartbreaking for me. I looked at my father like Superman; non-destructive and unstoppable. Although my mom and dad never married and were not together at the time, his presence was always felt by me. Rather it be through visits to his hometown, Chicago, gifts sent in the mail, or simple phone calls I always felt connected and special. I was daddy’s little girl and the thought of him leaving so suddenly was incomprehensible.
During my father’s funeral, I noticed a few looks and loud, yet subtle, intentional snubs directed towards me. One that spoke the loudest was the location of my name in the obituary. I was named after my step-brother, who legally was not a real step-brother, not next to my birth-brother Eli with whom I share the same mother. My family photos with my husband and children were not included, although all of my siblings were. I found this to be very odd and extremely hurtful. My goal was just to make it through the day without having a full breakdown. When I approached my mom with my concerns and hurt, her response was, “Well they don’t like you because they don’t like me.” But internally I knew it was deeper than that.
My grief for my father seemed as though it was never-ending. On top of that, I could not seem to get out of my mind the disrespect I had been shown by his family, specifically his wife and other children. This would all soon be understood six months later when I received a call from Ann, whom I’d known all my life as my half-sister.
Ann called to express some concerns about legal documents sent to her by our other sister Fatima, regarding the disbursement of our dad’s assets, and how upset she was regarding the changes in Fatima’s behavior after she signed the documents. I was shocked and confused as I had not received any legal documentation. I asked why I hadn’t received such documentation even though all our other siblings had. And just as clear as day she said, “Oh, that’s because you’re not dad’s biological daughter.”
Talk about heart drop. I could not formulate words after hearing such news. How could this be? If she knew, who else knew? Did my dad know? Does my mom know? I felt grief on top of grief and didn’t know how I would overcome it. Months went by as I fell into a deeper depression. My hair was falling out to the point of bald spots forming and loved ones around me started to notice a shift in my typically happy personality.
I went to my mother with the news, who was in denial about it all. Her perspective was that they didn’t want to share what my dad left behind and their disdain for her was being forced onto me. It angered me however because I knew deep down inside that was not the full story. I reached out to my brother Eli and asked if he would be willing to do a DNA test to see if we in fact shared the same father. Within weeks of waiting the results were in. And just as Ann said, we were in fact half-siblings. My heart sunk. How could this be? So the man I looked up to as my hero was in fact not my dad?
After finding a therapist, at the request of my husband, I began to unpack the possibilities of finding my birth dad. I knew that receiving the help and support I needed from my mom was very slim, based on the responses I was already receiving.
One day I received a random message from a family member about a support group of people who were experiencing the same type of devastation I was. I reached out to the group and found out that I was not alone. There were many real-life stories of people struggling with the fact that they had no clue who their parents were. After reading other stories for weeks I decided to share my own. To my surprise, I received a ton of support and motivating messages from others.
I was approached by someone from the group I call My Angel Alesia. She reached out and wanted to extend her help in assisting me in finding my birth father. Although a little apprehensive and scared I decided to take her up on her offer. The best decision EVER!! She was able, through DNA databases, to help me figure out and connect myself with my paternal side via the internet. So here I am, looking at a screen, and seeing the names of family members I never knew existed. What an exciting yet overwhelming feeling. I thank God for this Angel brought into my path.
After a few days of searching and through My Angel, finding out my surname of Johnson, I was able to start my social media search. I took the names I matched on the DNA databases and searched on different social media platforms. I was not having any luck finding profiles. The heaviness started to creep in again and it seemed as though no revelation was near.
And then it happened! I found that one of the family members I shared a DNA match with had commented on a page. That page was called, The Johnson Family Reunion Page! I was floored! Could it be that I had embarked upon not just one family member but the entire family?! This was too good to be true. I opened the page, immediately opening the members’ list and finding multiple names, similar if not exact, of those I had DNA matches with. This was a totally different type of overwhelming. What to do next? I was feeling an emotional outpour I had not experienced in the past.
Questions started to fill my head, What if they are not receptive? What are they like? Will they like me? Is this really my family? Is my birth dad alive? Too many questions and too much anxiety had me temporarily frozen. I had to dig deep inside for the exercises my therapist and I had practiced for months. Now was not the time to give up! I had to push through the feelings and find the answers to the questions I had pondered for over a year.
Reaching out through social media to unknown people was very scary. You have the anticipation of their response and the fear that their response may not be what you desired it to be. Thankfully the response I received was just what my heart needed. I found out quickly, within fifteen minutes of my sending the message to be exact, that the woman on the other end of my message was in fact my cousin Renee. Renee had a very calming and sweet demeanor. She was very helpful and even walked me through the entire family tree to determine where I fit.
After coming to the determination that my birth father, based on the DNA analysis, had to be one of two brothers Justin or Oliver. One deceased (Oliver) and the other alive and living in the same state as me. Another wind of overwhelm filled my space. Wow! She connected me with the daughter of Justin named Trina. I was so excited to reach out to Trina and find out if she was in fact my sister or cousin. But yet again the fear started to creep in.
I received the call I had been waiting on. Trina was finally on the other end of my phone. Talk about connection! This lady had a sense of humor like me, she was kind and just as excited to talk to me as I was with her. What a relief. After many conversations and questions, she was able to talk to her dad with details about my mom.
She called me back after that conversation yelling, “It’s true, we are sisters!” I was so happy about the fact that I had finally found my birth family. We verified our connection through DNA testing and have been building a beautiful sister bond ever since. I have met my birth father once via video chat. Although he is working through some substance abuse issues he is very kind and we had a great meeting. I look forward to getting to know more about him and his life. However, I feel at this point if all I get out of this is the reality of knowing where I come from and that I have a loving sister that I connect with, then I’m pleased and all is well.