Kristen Hanff


I had no idea that when I resigned from a position I enjoyed, my life was on the verge of changing in a way I never saw coming. See, if you keep yourself busy enough, you have the ability to ignore the things you need to sit with and even some of the things you need to wrestle through. Eventually though, the pace of busyness caught up with me, and I could no longer ignore the urgency I had been avoiding. I had to lay that pace down in exchange for a slower pace: simple, intentional, & steady. When life changed abruptly, it allowed things to come to the surface that I had kept tucked deep in my heart for years, some my entire life. 

I started to question things pertaining to my very existence. In the end, after months of praying, I obeyed a nudge. I was watching TV, when I felt the Lord speak to me clearly: “Paternity test.” In one instance, I knew all the questions I had been wrestling through, pondering, and trying to make sense of, were leading me to ask my dad for a paternity test. 

I had no idea this nudge and simple swab of saliva would open up a door to a journey of healing. Life is a complicated mess, but it has a way of taking us exactly where we need to be, even if we never knew we needed to be there. 

You see, the swab revealed that the man I knew as my dad for 39 years was, in fact, not my biological dad. I still remember opening the email and feeling a punch to the stomach. All of the years of not fitting in, not looking like my siblings, and feeling rejection time and again, they made sense. Once I had wrapped my head around this, I did a 23 & Me Test. I discovered a first cousin. Then I did an Ancestry test, and I found my biological family. I had no idea there was this whole, gigantic, beautiful family out there that shared my DNA. 

This healing journey has allowed me to grieve a childhood that wasn’t what it should have been. It allowed me to appreciate the childhood I had, and the people who showed up to love that blonde-haired, bossy little girl trying to stay safe in a chaotic and unkind world. It invited me to open my heart to new relationships that I never saw coming. It allowed me to close the door on relationships that far-exceeded their expiration dates. It taught me so many lessons over the last couple years. 

This journey has not been easy. It has been painful. There have been countless days spent crying and questioning. Why did this have to play out this way? It’s what I like to call: hard and holy. Last year I had to learn to lay down expectations and grieve relationships that I always wanted – while still having hope that God’s timing is perfect & that God’s plans are far better than anything I can ever dream up. This year I’ve learned that this journey is really more about me and my own personal growth than it is about others. It’s a refining process. It’s a lesson in constantly learning to surrender my worries back to God. It’s a lesson in patience & grace. It’s a lesson in forgiveness & gratitude. It’s a lesson in learning to let go of control and trust that God knows best – that his timing is always perfect, never late, and never early. 

This journey has allowed me to use my voice to help others who walked through healing from childhood abuse and neglect. It has allowed me to come alongside many people who have had an NPE discovery* or other similar situations. I’ve been able to help them make the connections they need to start working through their own grief to uncover what life can look like on the other side. This healing journey has also allowed me to heal the parts of my heart and mind that needed healing. In doing so, I can be a better mother to my children and end generational trauma from decades ago. 

My story is still unfolding and will be for many years. However,  sharing my story will  help other people who might find themselves in a similar situation. While healing is hard and painful, it can have many beautiful aspects, too. If you are starting your journey now or contemplating counseling, inner heart work, or something along those lines, I encourage you to continue to move forward. You can do this!

If you’re needing help, or more guidance suggestions you’re welcome to reach out to me on any of my social media platforms & I’d be happy to connect you to some groups that provide free support, resources, searches & genealogical help. Right to Know assists people with FREE search angel help to identify parents, a mentor program, finding a therapist with experience in adoption, assisted reproduction, NPEs, and support. This journey can feel a bit overwhelming if you’re trying to navigate it alone.