AURORA, Colo. -- Commercial DNA tests can open the window to a world of new information about family history. But that information isn’t always welcome and can have the potential to upend one’s life.
Amber Malin of Aurora knows the power one test can have. About one year ago, she set out in search of answers after years of questions she could not ignore.
“My dad has dark skin. My tias have dark skin and all my cousins the same. And I always wondered, 'Why I am so white?'” Malin said.
She ordered a DNA test through My Heritage, one of several wildly popular commercial DNA testing options on the market.
“I was kind of thinking that I was going to come out Hispanic. It came back and there was no Hispanic blood,” she added.
Malin says the results show she 75 percent German, 20 percent English and 5 percent Ashkenazi Jew. She knew what it meant. Suddenly, the man she called "Dad" all her life wasn’t even related to her.
Feeling alone and shocked, she turned to the only people who could understand. She found comfort in an online support group.
“That group was life-changing because it’s thousands of people all over the world in situations just like mine,” explained Malin.
“This is an unexpected whole new world of people dealing with family secrets, surprises,” explained Dr. Shelly Smith-Acuna with the University of Denver School of Psychology. She says the onslaught of DNA tests upending lives is astounding. “We don’t have a standard for this in our culture. There really is no set of expectation or standard way of dealing with this."
Smith-Acuna says similar to Malin’s case, shocking DNA test results can leave an individual feeling lost.
“What is this going to mean for my relationships? What does that mean for my identity? It's really confusing,” explained Smith-Acuna.
After processing shocking information and having several difficult conversations, Malin now has a strong relationship with both the dad who raised her and her biological father.
“I would have never gotten to know my sisters my nieces my nephews. So, I would absolutely do it again even though it’s been incredibly challenging and emotional,” explained Malin.
Dr. Smith-Acuna hopes people consider the consequences before embarking on DNA exploration.
“What would I do if I got bad news? Who would I turn to?” she says everyone should ask themselves.
Ultimately, Smith- Acuna says the knowledge one learns can be powerful. As for Malin, she learned a precious life lesson.
“Family is who loves you. Family is who is there for you, and that's it,” Malin said.AlertMe