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You’ve Reconnected – Now What?

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months, or even years, the moment you finally find the contact details of your long-lost relative. With all the excitement and anticipation it can be easy to forget that the hard work isn’t quite over yet.

You now have to begin to build a relationship with this person, whether you knew them once or are meeting them completely anew.


Image By: Kyrre Gjerstad

This process requires a lot of time and careful consideration; rushing into any decisions may cause problems later down the line. So how should you approach the situation?

The following points will guide you through the development of your early bonding.

Getting to Know You

Everyone’s experience is different. For some of you, the address finder may have supplied you with the only information you know, their address, whereas others may of have access to years of anecdotes and second-hand photographs of the person you are trying to reconnected with.

Regardless of whether you’ve had a previous relationship with the person or not, turning up on someone’s doorstep announcing that you’re their relative is likely to result in some form of hostility on their behalf. Shock will do this even to those who are willing to reconnect, therefore it’s best to approach your initial communication with them from a safe distance.

Writing a letter is often the most effective method, yet you’re still faced with the question of what to include in such a letter. At this point you may not know if your relative is likely to want to rekindle a bond, so don’t bombard them with information about yourself and background. Keep it simple and concise, with an appropriate balance between friendliness and politeness. Remember, it is possible that this person isn’t even aware of your existence; hence it may be worth explaining your connection to them, naming mutual parties wherever possible.

How to Prepare for a Reunion

Your reunion will be something you’ve day-dreamed about for a long time, no doubt conjuring up countless idealised occasions, as well as a fair share of horror stories. Now that you know your relative wishes to meet with you, it is important to gauge from their response the level to which they wish to connect. Do they seem to have the same intentions as you, or is it possible that they are only wanting to meet you in order to find out something about their past, or tie up some loose ends in their personal history?

The next step is to find a suitable location. Meeting in someone’s home is unwise, as it may complicate or distract from the purpose of the reunion. You need somewhere calm enough to talk, yet not so quiet that awkwardness is inevitable. It is also advisable to take someone with you when you meet, partly for security reasons, but mostly to ease your nerves and ensure the meeting runs smoothly. Just be sure that this is a neutral third party who has no connections to the person you are meeting.

Dealing with Expectations

Setting expectations, however realistic they may be, is a guaranteed way to be disappointed. Although you may know some small facts about them, it is impossible to know what they will really be like and how they will react to the situation. Of course, not having any expectations is the best frame of mind to be in, but that’s easier said than done. To prevent permanently damaging disappointment, approach the meeting with the knowledge that it will be different from how you imagine. Remain open-minded and remember that your relative may not expose their true personality, due to nerves or they may intentionally keep their guard up around you in order to protect themselves.

Keeping in Touch

Once the exhilaration of the first meet is over, it can be difficult to know what to do next. To what extent should you keep in contact? And how long should you leave it before you meet again? This is largely down to your personal feelings and finding a mutual balance.

The most important thing is not to pressurise the other person, or feel pressurised yourself to get back in contact straight away. It is perfectly reasonable to feel confused and unsure. Find a method of communication that suits the both of you and your level of desired intimacy. And if, for the moment, that only involves exchanging Christmas cards, then that’s absolutely fine.

Possible Complications

Whilst a large number of reunions and reconnections are successful, it’s vital that you bear in mind that there are those that don’t go so well.

Although this is the last thing you will want to consider, you have to be wary because unfortunately, there are people out there who will pretend to be whoever they have to be, if they believe there’s a possible benefit in it for them. This is why it’s a good idea to take someone with you, and be sure that this is the person you think it is before you give away too much personal information.

Additionally, there are occasionally legal obstacles, such as custody issues or relatives that may have been denied contact with their family for various reasons - so you need to make sure that you’re not crossing any legal or emotional boundaries in your attempt to get to know that person. There’s no right or wrong way to approach a long-lost relative and everyone’s situation and experiences will differ. What advice would you add for anyone who wishes to contact their distanced family member?