Key words for reunion:  Caution, compassion, understanding, respect, responsibility, preparation and patience. Be open to outcome but not attached to outcome.


Even if you have done a lot of personal growth work you may not be aware of the possible pitfalls of adoption reunion. Even most well-adjusted people find themselves reacting to long buried trauma of grief and loss that raises its head during reunion. Neither the searcher nor the searchee is prepared for the emotions. Just being aware of the possible reactions will help you ride out the roller coaster of emotion.

We don’t know how the other person will react so it is wise to prepare for both joyous welcome and possible rejection. This will be a shock to her/him so give them time to process, take it slowly. Understand their point of view. It’s okay to take it slow. This is likely to be an emotional time for both of you.

For Adoptees:

I strongly recommend that you seek to understand what it was like for mothers forced by societal pressures to relinquish their child. The big shameful secret. How the grief, guilt and shame may still affect her today. What if she never told her husband (and children, if any) about your existence? Also, it’s not unusual for other family members/relationships around both parties to respond with jealousy and/or insecurity to the reunion. There are patterns to be aware of that are common to many reunions, such as cooling off/pulling back after the honeymoon stage of a joyous reunion.

For Mothers, Fathers, Siblings:

Find out from other adoptees what their reunion experience was like. Each person is unique, but it is not uncommon for adoptees to back off after an initially successful reunion. Have patience.

For All:

Being prepared will help you avoid some common blunders. Remember those around you – spouse, children, parents etc. – will be affected during reunion. Some may react with jealousy, competing for your attention during this time.

Search & Reunion Etiquette, by Monica Byrne:

“HOMEWORK” Preparation for reunion

BRAINSTORMING BY YOURSELF – Take some to sit quietly time by yourself, with paper and pen, and without distractions or interruptions. Choose one or more questions you will ask yourself one at a time. Use stream of consciousness writing on whatever arises as a result of the question. Write fast and without editing or censoring. Write by hand, not typing. Every minute or so, repeat the question out loud to keep the question and answer fresh. This technique helps pull unspoken thoughts from the heart/subconscious mind. You might be surprised at what you write.

Ask yourself:

  • “What do I want to know about my child/parent?” Fill a page or more, then prioritize top 10, then narrow down to the top 3. If you could ask only one question, what would it be?
  • “What do I want them to know about me?”
  • “What are my expectations/vision of the reunion?” (Many are unspoken – i.e. an adoptee’s childhood fantasies and dreams about mom. Secrecy, lies, lack of info = fantasy).
  • “What am I truly seeking? State your purpose
  • “What will I say or do if …”
    • mom denies she had a child or refuses contact?
    • if adoptee refuses reunion with mom (maybe because they feel loyal to adoptive family)?
    • if the person you seek has a lifestyle and/or values that are very different from yours (rich/poor, religious/criminal, drug or alcohol issues, political views, sexual orientation, etc.) How will you react? Can you accept each other?

Remember:  Happy reunions happen more often than rejection.

Take care of YOURSELF (body, mind and spirit)

  • Creative expression is therapeutic – draw, paint, sing, dance, write. Keep a daily journal.
  • Find a support group, counsellor or friend you can share your feelings with.
  • Go for walks.



Always ask:

  • “Is this a good time to talk?”
  • “Can you speak privately right now?”

Don’t hit them with an emotional bombshell when they have company over, or are with someone who doesn’t know their secrets.

If you reach a relative, friend or co-worker of the person you seek: When someone asks “Who wants contact?” Be DISCREET- without giving the secret away to others or causing a sudden emotional reaction from mom (crying/fearful no).

Some ideas:

  • Mysterious: “Someone she knew in ____ / Someone she was close to in _____ who would like contact with her.”
  • “She had a strong influence on who I am today.”
  • Direct: “……………. ” (your birth name) would like contact.
  • Provide a preferred method of contact (phone/mail), best times to call etc. to the person taking the message.



Do the homework! Read up on reunion issues, join a support group and/or get a bit of counseling. Preparation will make the “ride” smoother.


See Joe Soll’s article: Preparation for Searching: Why is it so necessary?  

and First Contact Tips