A consumer DNA test can hold unexpected surprises about who people are related to. I’ve shared stories written by individuals who have learned the man they knew as their father was not related to them biologically. You can read a few NPE stories here, here, and here - and more in the “Resources for You” tab.
A non-profit group called NPE Fellowship has sprung from the efforts of one person, Catherine St Clair, and a team that came together to help Catherine reach out to others who find themselves in these shoes. I met a few of the NPE Fellowship folks while on the set of the Megyn Kelly Today show during the taping of a segment about DNA Shocks. I spoke with Rebekah Drumsta, acting publicist for NPE Friends Fellowship, and she mentioned their group meet-ups.
Some members of the NPE community have found value in these face-to-face meet-ups after first connecting online.
I asked Rebekah to answer some questions to help readers understand what these meet-ups are like and how to find one.
Not everyone has interest in connecting this way; people are different and no two people react or recover from shocking news the same. It is great these in-person events are happening for those who do feel they’d benefit from attending.
Thanks for writing, Rebekah!
NPE Meet and Greets Rapidly Growing Worldwide
Guest Post by Rebekah Drumsta
Something magical is happening. All across the world people are becoming friends, both online and at pre-arranged Meet and Greets. They are making connections with others who’ve had an NPE (Not Parent Expected) event, just like them.
These fantastic people are all part of DNA NPE Friends, a free online community through Facebook. To date, the group is comprised of over 3,500 members. It is the support arm of the non-profit, NPE Friends Fellowship.
No longer alone. No longer in silence. This growing group of courageous people are stepping out of their comfort zones. It can be scary going to meet a group of strangers, but they know they already have something in common, they are NPEs.
A sense of family is being created. An added safe space to emote, ask questions, learn from one another’s experiences and find encouragement.
Personally, I have attended two Meet and Greets, and would love to share a bit of insight with you. Perhaps you’re on the fence about joining a M&G. Maybe this is the first you’ve heard of them! Keep reading, it just might be a step towards that emotional support needed in your own story.
Here’s what one Member, Cassandra, had to say about her experience at an NPE Friends Fellowship Meet and Greet…
“Upon hearing that Catherine St. Clair herself would be in New York City, I felt a sort of magnetism drawing me in. I felt the need to listen, the need to be heard, and the need to thank a force that has propelled our diverse NPE community and its struggles into a more respected and humanized place. I suspect that everyone in attendance felt that magnetism.
The thing that struck me was how Catherine just knew us all. She listened to my story with compassion, fascination, concern, patience, understanding, outrage, and wisdom. Just how she listens to all our stories. She openly confided in us and told her own story with emotional depth, trust, and honesty. In the midst of a group we held a beautiful, private, meaningful moment.
I met another group member who, like me, found out as an adult that he was donor conceived. We were able to relate our stories, reactions, and ethical opinions. After discovering only last year that I am ethnically half Jewish, a fellow Jewish member of the group gave me such beautiful thoughts and insight into my new cultural and spiritual journey.
The group discussed our unique trauma, the similarities to other traumas, and how we can create awareness for our less understood forms of abuse and grief. To see the smiles on fellow human faces and know the depth of what those smiles have overcome, and the secrets that lie underneath them, is an intimacy that is so hard to come by, and yet for us, in meeting other NPEs, it is effortless.
Just by chance, all varieties of experience happening to gather together -- really, truly together -- bonded in laughter like some sort of misfit family, even as strangers, even with our differences. It leaves you feeling like you not only have new family, but a new tribe. It allows you to set your grief aside in the arms and ears of someone who just listens and gets it. It is a priceless gift, a moment of relief, for a suffering human heart.”
What is a Meet and Greet like?
Like the people in attendance, each M&G has it’s own personality.
At first it can be slightly awkward as everyone tries to locate and recognize one another. Introductions are made, and sometimes pulling up your Facebook profile pictures helps for quick identification.
Often folk have driven quite a distance just for this event. Maybe they even flew in! It can help if a spouse or someone close to you attends too, that is, if you’re more of an introvert or fear an overwhelming emotional response. (Some may experience either an emotional high or an emotional crash afterwards.)
Depending on who has planned the M&G there might be name tags for everyone and often a generous individual orders an appetizer to share!
How many Meet and Greets have happened so far?
To date, NPE Friends have gathered in California, Texas, New York, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama and more! Talks for M&Gs in Germany and Australia have begun too.
The size of the group generally varies from a handful upwards to two dozen. Although, a M&G planned for December has sixty registered so far, with an expected attendance of over one hundred. This group will be in Washington state with members traveling from Alaska and Canada.
As people voice interest in gathering, more Meet and Greets are planned.
There is even a cruise in the works for next year for NPEs and their families! This will be a time of connection, education and healing. (You must be a member of the online community or the Fellowship in order to attend.)
It is all so exciting as the Facebook community has only been going strong less than eighteen months with NPE Friends Fellowship only being a few months old!
What do people do at a Meet and Greet?
Mostly, people share their stories. There’s just something cathartic about speaking your truth out loud to someone else who understands the pain, questions and struggles.
Again, each M&G is varies slightly. But you can chose to move around the table talking to individuals or stay put in your seat and mingle with those nearest you.
Often there are tears and hugs. People who connect exchange phone numbers. Occasionally an individual addresses the entire group, but that depends on the setting.
How do people find out about a Meet and Greet?
Usually, a Meet and Greet is organized by city or state. A member of the NPE Friends group will handle the organizing – choosing a date, reserving a location and announcing to the group(s) all the details.
Currently, only members of our secret NPE Friends Facebook groups or members of our non-profit, NPE Friends Fellowship, are alerted to upcoming Meet and Greets. Members are notified through a group post and the M&G will be listed under “Events” in the Facebook group.
In the near future, we are hoping to have public M&G times. Those dates will be posted on our NPE Friends Fellowship business Facebook page and shared via our NPE Friends Fellowship eNewsletter.
How might these groups evolve over time?
These groups are organic, meaning group members are the ones stepping up and volunteering to make arrangements or asking for a Meet and Greet in their area.
We see these groups as being a vital step towards building community and relationships. Finding camaraderie and a sense of normalcy also helps bring emotional healing.
We hope that as our online numbers continue to grow the expansion flows into the physical world too, with face-to-face support on a regular basis.
Also, we believe that professional counseling is an essential key towards finding hope and balance. Coupled with an enthusiastic team of fellow NPEs cheering one another on – all doing this phase of life together – we see amazing potential for healing and inner peace.