By Michelle Talsma Everson | Digital Free Press
“Healing is possible. We try very hard to heal ourselves of the generational trauma and the trauma of our experiences,” says Erin Cosentino. As a co-founder of Hiraeth Hope & Healing, Cosentino is referring to those healing from surprise DNA discoveries that most often come in the form of misattributed parentage.
It is estimated that more than 26 million people have taken an at-home DNA test such as 23 and Me, AncestryDNA, and others. And this statistic, which is one of the most recent numbers available, is actually from 2019 — so it has likely grown. A Pew Research Study cites that more than a quarter of DNA test takers have found an unexpected close relative.
The people who make these discoveries have acronyms such as “MPE” (misattributed parenting event) or “NPE” (not parent expected/non-parental event) to help them label themselves and the experience. Cosentino made her own NPE discovery four years ago. She shares that she knew her biological father as a child and, when the discovery was made and they connected, he didn’t want to be involved in her life.
“That was so hard and life altering,” she says. “I decided to heal in the best way I knew how — through education.”
Alongside friend Cindy McQuay, an adoptee who she met at a retreat, she runs healing retreats for adoptees, donor conceived people, late discovery adoptees, and NPEs through Hiraeth Hope & Healing.
“To be in the same room as others who have experienced this same trauma, which feels so lonely, is healing,” she says. In addition to the retreats, they run a Facebook group for NPEs.
This summer, they are bringing their retreat to Phoenix from July 7-11. While room to stay on site is limited, there is plenty of space for Valley locals to attend the retreat’s many helpful workshops and experience the unique healing that takes place.
“We have traditionally been East Coast-based but wanted more people to be able to experience an in-person retreat,” Cosentino says. “Many people in our private group asked about a West Coast venue, so we selected Phoenix.”
The upcoming retreat in Phoenix includes: Five days and four nights in a private space with carefully chosen facilitators who are experts in their fields. Cosentino says the retreat includes 10 meals, six workshops, time to relax, renew and refresh, and foster friendships both old and new.
“Come join us and experience the safety of being among folks who understand you before they even know you,” Cosentino says. “No other retreat exists like this.”
“While there are many resources online, many adoptees and NPEs have never met one another in real life,” she continues.
“The retreat provides unconditional acceptance and immediate friendship because we share a specific bond. We find healing in even the mundane tasks like making coffee or loading the dishwasher. We cry but we also laugh a lot because laughter is healing too. During our very first retreat, an attendee explained how nervous they were to come but then said that as soon as they walked in, ‘I feel like I know you in my heart already.’ There really is immediate comfort!”
For those who can’t make the in-person retreat, Cosentino invites them to connect online.
“Togetherness helps the healing process,” Cosentino says. “If you can’t be present at retreat, join a Facebook support group. Ours hosts Zoom discussions twice a week!”
More info on the Phoenix retreat can be found here. To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org. A list of resources for those with surprise DNA discoveries, courtesy of therapist, writer and podcaster Eve Sturges, can be found here.