Reunions - work best when they go at the pace of the slowest person.

Decisions and Feelings


Deciding to search and then, perhaps, eventually meeting relatives does involve taking risks. Some people who have searched in the past have likened it to opening the door to a locked room where you have absolutely no idea what is inside. Jigsaw is experienced and sensitive to the needs of everyone affected by adoption and, if you feel uncertain about your readiness to confront these unknown factors, it can be extremely beneficial to talk to us.


Many people affected by adoption who decide to search, see it only as a quest for information. They quickly find that it is a journey of self-discovery that unlocks a Pandora’s box of emotions. All people affected by adoption have a need for information and one of the best things to do is to acknowledge this need. Be aware of your feelings as you set out on your individual search – and the feelings of the people you are searching for, and their families.


  • Any preconceived ideas you may have had before commencing your search are best put aside.

  • Having some prior knowledge or idea of what could await you, is highly recommended.

  • Jigsaw could be the right place for you to prepare yourself...even before you make your decision to search.

  • There is always a 'dominant story' and an 'untold story'.


Preparing for Adoption Reunion

First meetings


There is no way of knowing in advance how the first meeting with your relatives will unfold, regardless of the preparation. No matter how well you have prepared, how many books you have read, or how often you have listened to others share their experience of reunion, your first meeting will be an extremely emotional one for all parties.


  • Remember that you have most likely been thinking about and planning for this meeting for a long time, but the person you are approaching may not have had time to prepare himself or herself emotionally. Be sensitive to their needs and wishes, particularly any call for more time and space to adjust.

  • Some people will want to meet only once, perhaps to discuss relevant medical history. Others may be looking to enter into a longer-term relationship. Some will not express what they want out of contact because they fear rejection.

  • Exchanging letters, photographs or telephone conversations is a good way to break the ice in the early stages. A meeting can come later down the track when both parties are ready. When you do agree that the time is right, try to arrange the meeting on neutral territory, somewhere acceptable to both of you. Usually, people find that meeting in a public place, such as a coffee shop, affords some degree of privacy.

  • Meet each other alone the first time. While bringing a ‘support’ person along seems natural, it is hard to maintain neutral ground, and it can create an artificial situation in which there are imbalances of power and expectation. Later on you can arrange to meet other family members such as spouses, children, parents, grandparents, nieces, nephews or cousins.

  • Always consider the other person, remembering that your contact may have been a long time coming. You don’t want to ruin your chances of forming a relationship by rushing in without thinking.



The Stages of Reunion

Information Sheets

Interaction or Honeymoon


Participants often describe an overwhelming experience with intense preoccupation between those reunited.


This stage is usually short-lived.

Sequence of Reactions


Those in reunion find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster.


This usually takes place one to six months after the reunion and includes relief, confusion and negative feelings that wax and wane before positive feelings peak at six months.




This involves a shift from preoccupation with internal states towards external realities, as the relationship reconnects with the demands of everyday life.


New roles and identities have been successfully negotiated and expectations clarified, or it may become evident to one or both participants that a close relationship is unlikely to eventuate.

Managing Expectations


Now that they have met the person they were searching for, the searcher may be on a high, which may last for some time. Reality, however, has a habit of bringing people back to earth with the recognition that normal daily living does continue, people need to go to work, be parents and so on.


It's normal to experience a range of emotions as a reunion progresses - some positive and some negative. Here are some points to consider:


  • Some people find they have an immediate rapport when they first meet the person they were searching for. They seem able to lay the foundations for a strong and long-lasting friendship.

  • Often people are simply confused about how they feel.

  • The best thing to do is to let the relationship develop slowly and naturally. Don’t make hasty decisions and don’t jump to conclusions. Any initial tensions may dissolve as the relationship proceeds.

  • If you are considering terminating the relationship completely, it may be helpful to reach out to a support service such as Jigsaw Qld to talk through your feelings.

  • If you are worried about privacy issues, it is better to make this known to the other party, rather than simply cutting off contact.

  • The need for privacy ought to be respected at all times; however, most people find that the long-term (sometimes lifelong) emotional stress of maintaining secrets often outweighs the short-term impact of honesty.

  • It’s normal for contact frequency to reduce after a year or so. Don’t be discouraged by this, simply negotiate a level of contact that is mutually acceptable. 

  • It is important to remember that the decision to search and make contact carries with it the need to accept responsibility for the impact your decision may have on the other person’s life.

  • It is possible you will want to incorporate your newly found relative into your life. Patience and understanding will again lead to positive outcomes. It’s best to not rush anyone, especially where the existence of an adoptee has previously been a secret. How and when to tell others remains a choice for that person.

  • Late-discovery adoptees may be angry that their adoptive parents and other relatives had not told them they were adopted. Special efforts may be required to rebuild trust. Often, members of the extended family are grateful that they no longer have to carry the burden of secrets. See the desire to keep secrets for what it was, a human failing, often based on fear and doubt, and usually motivated by an over-paternalistic love for the child.

Call Jigsaw today on (07) 3358 6666

Call Forced Adoption Support Services on 1800 21 03 13

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