FINDING OUT MY DAD WASN’T MY DAD AFTER HE’D DIED

EMOTIONAL, MENTAL HEALTH, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

Wow. I’m still trying to get my head around this list by Indiana Murphy, so I can only imagine what she must be going through.

When she found out the man she had called Dad was not actually her biological father, the foundations of her world were completely shaken. Not only that, but when she made the discovery, sadly both men had died and so it means she will never get to meet her biological dad. And tragically, he will never know Indiana was his daughter.

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  • I had gone to get a blood test to see if I could be a match for a friend who needed a kidney transplant, and I knew that my blood type would be a match as I knew my parents’ blood types.

  • During the first lockdown I got an email back from the kidney clinic saying that unfortunately I wasn’t a match because of my blood type, which didn’t make any sense.

  • I frantically tried to call the hospital my dad had been at when he was getting treatment for cancer and where he had died, maybe I had misremembered his blood type. Even as I called the hospital, I had this voice in my head saying, “Your dad isn’t your biological dad”. The hospital obviously wouldn’t give me that information and I would have to do a freedom of information request.

  • I immediately called my mum and she seemed very confused, and we were wondering if I had misremembered dad’s blood type.

  • I got off the phone to her and then 30 minutes later she called me back. Before my mum and dad had had me, they had separated for a while as my dad had been having an affair, what I didn’t know was that in those few months my mum had gone on 3 or 4 dates with another guy, called Chris, a few weeks before getting back together with my dad. A few months after they got back together my mum found out she was pregnant with me and never thought anything about it.

  • I was completely in shock and didn’t really know what to think.

  • I told my sister, M, and we decided to do a DNA test as we waited for the hospital to come back to us with my dad’s blood type (Just FYI freedom of information requests take ages).

  • The DNA test came back, the day before my 27th birthday, as inconclusive. There was a 19.7% chance that we were full siblings as opposed to half siblings but that’s not enough to be conclusive.

  • We then decided to do a 23andMe because it compares a lot more of your DNA than a traditional DNA test (another handy tip I learned from the internet in my crazy search for answers).

  • In this time my mum also contacted a friend of a friend who she had met Chris through. It turned out that Chris had died 15 years previously, but he had had children.

  • I managed to find his children, his sister and his mother on social media and I poured over their pictures and showed them to people to see if they could see any similarities.

  • The weird limbo was only compounded by the fact that we were in the middle of the first lockdown in the UK and everything felt completely upside down.

  • Eventually the hospital came back to me and confirmed that my dad’s blood type was O+ which is what I had remembered it being. This meant that he definitely couldn’t be my biological father.

  • At this time, I was very shut down, I had no idea how I felt about anything that was going on.

  • I spent a lot of time googling “what to do if your dad isn’t your real dad” or something along those lines.

  • I soon realised that there really wasn’t that much on the subject that I could find, and I found it even more isolating. And what was there wasn’t very helpful for me.

  • My mum reached out to Chris’ sister and they ended up having what I can only imagine was a very weird video chat.

  • Then a few weeks later when I was ready, I had a video call with her myself.

  • She told me she had informed Chris’ oldest daughter, Sarah, and that she wanted to do a DNA test which I agreed to.

  • She also sent me pictures of Chris and it was so strange looking at pictures of a stranger and seeing parts of myself in them. Our face shape, our mouths and the way the insides of our cheeks show when we smile.

  • I had always said I look nothing like my dad and now I knew why.

  • It turned out Chris had 5 children, all of whom lived halfway across the world practically.

  • We found a lab in Canada that would do our DNA test but because of the pandemic it took over 40 days for my sample to reach them.

  • Suddenly one evening, an email arrived with the report.

  • I was shocked by its sudden arrival, but it confirmed with 98.9% chance that Sarah and I were half siblings.

  • My 23andMe also came back which confirmed M and I were half siblings and that I was 65.8% Ashkenazi Jew (Chris was Jewish and my mum had a Jewish grandfather so that made sense).

  • After the results confirmed it, Sarah told the other siblings and Chris’ mother.

  • I had video calls with all the siblings, which was so lovely but quite overwhelming.

  • I also decided to go back to therapy at this point.

  • I also told other people in my family about the situation, including my half brother (my dad’s son from another marriage) and he said it didn’t make any difference to him.

  • Despite everyone being so loving and saying it didn’t make a difference to them, things were different now.

  • As it got to the November of 2020 and it looked like we were going to go back into a full lockdown again, a wave of depression hit me.

  • I sat with the sadness in silence for a lot longer than I needed to.

  • Six months after the email, I cried for the first time about everything.

  • I cried for who I had thought I was, I cried for my dad, I cried for the biological dad who I would never meet but mostly I cried for the fact that my biological dad would never even know that I had existed.

  • It felt weird to feel grief for a person I had never even known or would know but suddenly there was this undeniable link to them that I could never explore.

  • When the sadness became overwhelming, I would sit at my desk, listen to music and write letters to my biological dad and then my dad to try and help process my feelings.

  • I had so many contradicting thoughts going on in my mind that I feared talking to my family about because I didn’t want to upset anyone.

  • I felt like everything was the same but then somehow completely different. I was the same person, but I was also someone totally different too.

  • I would wonder what it would have been like if I had known Chris was my father and what kind of person I would be.

  • It made me think about my dad, Tony, a lot as well and grieve the relationship that we never really had. We had never been close, and this situation brought that into even sharper relief.

  • I felt really alone, and it didn’t matter how much I spoke to others they didn’t seem to get it. It was almost like I was speaking a language that no one else understood.

  • I felt more alone then when my dad had died.

  • At least when my dad died, I knew loads of other people who had had a parent die and there is so much written about it that it was easy to find support and resources if I needed.

  • Fortunately, I was able to speak to my mum’s friend who had discovered a few years previously that her dad wasn’t her biological dad.

  • It was such a relief to have someone understand the contradictions and say, “I totally know what you mean”.

  • Eventually the depression started to ease.

  • I also got to meet Chris’ sister (who lives in California) who came to London in the summer. It felt nice to be able to meet someone from the family in person.

  • It sounds so cliché, but it almost felt like I had known her for a long time, the zoom chats probably helped with that.

  • I know at some point I will meet my new siblings but obviously so far that hasn’t been possible due to the pandemic.

  • I’m now at a point where I don’t think about it all that much.

  • I am fairly open with people about the situation and have already had a few people ask if their friends can speak to me because they recently discovered the same thing.

  • I was also able to go to Ireland recently and see my dad’s family and tell them what had happened. I really wanted to do it in person but obviously that meant I had had to wait because of the pandemic.

  • Again, all my family were super supportive of me and the only thing that mattered was that I was OK.

  • I know that my feelings about who I am or who my dad is will continue to grow and change as I do.

  • Working with my therapist around all of this has been unbelievably valuable to me.

  • I have realised that it is ok for me to not know how I feel about the situation as it is something that is so out of the ordinary and individual.

  • I also know that I am extremely lucky to have been so lovingly embraced by my “new” family and in a way, it has been amazing because I have even more family in my life.

  • It has been fascinating to look at the way that family shapes our narratives and informs who we are as people.

  • Now the answer to the question “Do you have siblings?” is a much more complicated one these days as well.

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** ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ and “But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now  and also on audiobook.**

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FANCY SOME MORE?

–  READ this incredible list Not Your Average Family about how a couple became Special Guardians to their niece and nephew after the sudden death of their mum.

–  READ Gay Dads And Their Adoption Story, an uplifting list about the process Tom and his husband went through to adopting their son.

–  READ Mel Johnson’s story about Being A Solo Parent. Her desire to have a baby was clouding her judgement when dating so Mel decided to follow a different route.

–  LISTEN to Robyn Donaldson talk about Estrangement on Honestly podcast as she unpicks the taboos around the subject. She’s also written a list Estranged From My Mum about how it’s shaped her outlook on life.

 

OR HOW ABOUT WRITING A LIST?

Find submission guidelines here.  All writers and topics  are welcome.

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