Sage Advice: DNA Testing Uncovers Terrible Legacy

By Amy Dickinson | May 22nd, 2019

Coping with the new reality


DNA Test Shock Image

Dear Amy: Like many others who have written to you, my sister and I recently learned that we have a half-sibling (through DNA testing).

Our father cheated many times before Mom finally left him. The possibility of finding another sibling was very real.

What shocked us, however, was finding out that our brother’s biological mom was 14 when she gave birth to him. Our father was 43 at the time. Apparently our father blackmailed her into having sex with him. She and her parents were neighbors, and she still lives nearby.

Our brother is 30 years old now. He found his bio mom five years ago. They have built a relationship. She is aware that he is in contact with us. Based on what our brother has told us, his bio mom loves him to pieces.

My sister and I wonder: Where do we go from here? Our father is dead and so we can’t express our outrage to him (we didn’t have much contact with him the past 20 years of his life because he was so awful).

I feel like I owe his bio mom an apology, but I’m not sure how she would feel about hearing from us. My sister, my mother, and I all believe her completely.

I want to express to her how sorry I am for everything that happened to her, but I’m not sure how to do this, or even if I should.

– Lost

Dear Lost: DNA testing has thrown many families into flux because of the long-buried secrets it can reveal. Your family’s story is especially challenging. You all sound like kind and compassionate people, and my main advice is to lead with that. You may make mistakes in your approach, but this is truly uncharted territory.

You should start by building a relationship with your half-brother. He is piecing his biological family together and you are part of a bigger picture for him.

Ask your brother if he thinks his mother would be open to contact from you and your family. If so, you should reach out via letter, FB message or email. Identify yourself. Say how happy you are to get to know your brother. Tell her, “We realize the circumstances surrounding his birth must have been unimaginably hard for you. We are all so ashamed of our father – he was an awful man on many fronts, but what he did to you was truly terrible. My sister and I – along with our mother – want to express our sorrow and solidarity. We would like to get together with you, if you are open to that.”


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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