Artwork for podcast Family Twist: A Podcast Exploring DNA Surprises and Family Secrets
How Community and Retreats Transform Adoptee and NPE Journeys
Episode 3421st February 2023 • Family Twist: A Podcast Exploring DNA Surprises and Family Secrets • Corey and Kendall Stulce
00:00:00 00:31:18

Share Episode


Have you ever wondered how connecting with others who share your journey could transform your healing process?

Key Benefits for Listeners:

  1. Community and Connection: Understand the profound impact of connecting with others who share similar experiences and the role of community in the healing process.
  2. Healing Through Shared Stories: Learn how sharing personal stories in a supportive environment can lead to significant emotional breakthroughs and a sense of belonging.
  3. Practical Insights for Organizing Retreats: Gain insights into the structure and evolution of Hyrith's retreats, offering a model for those interested in creating similar support networks.

Join us for this heartwarming episode and discover the transformative power of community in healing from surprising DNA discoveries.

How Community and Retreats Transform Adoptee and NPE Journeys

Benefits of Tuning In:

  • Connect on a Deeper Level: Learn how personal histories and family discoveries resonate emotionally and psychologically, impacting personal growth and identity.
  • Understand the Power of DNA Testing: Gain insights into how modern technology can unveil hidden family connections, changing lives by bridging the gap between the past and present.
  • Explore the Emotional Landscape of Discovery: Listen to heartfelt stories that illustrate the complex emotions involved in meeting biological family members, from the initial shock to the potential for newfound relationships.

Don’t miss out on this poignant exploration of heritage and healing. Click play now to uncover the deep emotional impact of DNA discoveries and adoption stories on Family Twist.

Guest link:

Listen, Rate & Subscribe









and the adventure continues.


Welcome back to Family Twist. Today we're excited to have a trio of guests from Hyrith, Hope and Healing. They are Annie Persico, Erin Cosentino, and Sandy McQuay. Welcome. Thank you. Yeah, thanks so much. Absolutely. So who wants to be the ring leader? Sort of just give us a little bit of background about Hyrith. That'd be Erin. Oh yeah. Yeah.


That's usually me. So we actually were all members of a very large Facebook group that their main focus is on DNA discoveries, these adult DNA discoveries. But at the time, they did have some members who were always known lifelong adoptees. And so that's how Cindy, Annie, and I first met. They were hosting a meetup in Philadelphia,


actually direct center of where Cindy and I both live. And we had gotten to know each other through the world of Facebook. And so we said, let's just do this. Let's go to this meetup and we'll get together and hang out. And it was nice. It was a couple hours long. And then we went out to dinner afterwards. Annie was not at that initial meeting. And almost immediately after we got back to the hotel, I looked at Cindy and I was like, that was really cool. But


meeting? That was in March of:


The Facebook group, did it have a specific focus? Was it just about connecting people or was it about healing? Tell us a little bit about the Facebook group and why that sort of informed the retreats. Yeah, that was one of the original Facebook groups for DNA discoveries. What was the focus of that initial meeting? Was it just to discuss each other's stories or kind of help each other heal? What was it all about? It was publicity for the creator.


of that Facebook group, which, you know, I mean, we no longer have contact with, you know, with that Facebook group because for us specifically, it's about healing. It's not about seeking out, you know, publicity. You emailed us, you know, we didn't say, hey, invite us on your podcast so we can talk about the amazing things that we're doing. We love to talk about the amazing things that we're doing.


But privacy is also vitally important to us because so many, not so much the adoptee side of things that we do, but so many NPEs are really still hiding. They're carrying the shame and stigma associated with their conception. Perhaps their mom had an affair or.


at we did hold was October of:


And that, I think, the concept then was formed for us to have, excuse me, more facilitators. So the healing, you know, the name and the concept sort of developed after that first initial retreat. What was it called? Like Jersey Shore? Jersey Shore Roundtable. Roundtable retreat, yeah. Like it was basically just, we have a little private.


chat group of the original people. We call it just a bunch of friends who rented a house. So. The OGs. The OGs, yeah. Well, but there's something really nice about that sort of organic feel and start, you know, to a group, I think. And that's also something that holds true and carries through to each retreat that we've had subsequent to that first one is that.


You know, we do now provide six, five, six healing sessions while we're in retreat. But we also talk about how we heal in the mundane. You know, so we heal over waking up in the morning and having coffee with folks just like us. We heal by playing cards against humanity that Annie forced us to play at the first retreat. And now we have to do it at every one. Good for Annie. You know, cooking, preparing meals. Yeah, yeah, for sure.


So it's just a weekend of community and togetherness. We say togetherness heals and it does.


Absolutely, I mean camaraderie I think is definitely just bringing folks together of similar stories or similar backgrounds and yeah, I think there's just opportunities for spending time together for healing. How open are the three of you about your own journeys? Can you talk a little bit about where you are?


I'm the adoptee among us. So I'll let the NPEs, cause I'm an open book all over the place. So I can let the NPEs speak first. Well, I'm pretty open. I think I have a little bit of uniqueness about my own ability to be open because I'm not really connected at all with family.


my old, my original family, but I will literally tell my story to anybody who will listen. You know, we joke about telling people like strangers at the grocery store, you know, and it just kind of comes out. You know, but I make no secret, like if I have to, if I do put something on Facebook, I'll make it global so that anyone can see it.


I'm not connected with my new siblings, but I don't hide from them. And I do have a connection with some cousins. So I kind of get a little petty in that way. When they post something, I'll say, hey, cuz, or things like that on their photos. So I kind of make it where I am as open as I can be with whomever asks. I don't hide anything.


I originally took my test in:


Yeah, we call Annie the grandma, grandma of the NPE. Lovingly, of course. It took me a couple of years into the journey before I would even share the work that we're doing on Facebook. I knew my biological father as a child. He disappeared from my life when I was around eight years old. I didn't know at the time he was my dad.


Um, but I did know him and he was in my life. And when I made my discovery, I had just lost my dad eight months prior. Wow. Um, and he was at my dad's funeral. So when I reached out to him, you know, I said, we didn't, we didn't know this information, you know, when I saw you back in February, but we have this information now and.


let's see what happens. I would love to reconnect with you and get to know your other children. And we chatted for a few months and it was a lot of small talk on his end. Maybe when the weather gets nicer, we'll get together. Maybe when this happens, we'll get together. And when I, it was about four months and I said, you know what, I'm a grown adult and I don't need your permission to do anything.


And so I emailed my siblings without asking permission. And that didn't really sit well with him. And at that point, he told me that I was selfish and self-centered and that my behavior crossed the line with him. And he had no use for me and he probably never would. So that really was the end of any communication with my biological father.


I was able to meet his two children that came after me. I have a brother and a sister, half siblings of course. I'm the only child of my mother and my biological father, so I have all half siblings now. They're super nice people, but we're at completely different points in our lives. I'm the oldest of that set. My children are grown-ish.


They have young children and they're super nice when I reach out and check in, but there's not a lot of, hey, let's get together, let's hang out, let's do this.


I mean, I wouldn't change it, but we don't hang out often. Yeah, and did you, well, it's a selfish question for me to ask just because I'm curious, but was that surprising to you, or that that would be the way that it ended up?


Was it surprising to me that we're not in quote, reunion? Right. Yes. I had a very romanticized view of what was going to happen. I was going to have this amazing relationship with my biological father. And I was going to have an amazing relationship with my new siblings. And everything was going to be beautiful and perfect. And we were going to ride off into the sunset and live to be.


happily ever after. I am completely with you and I have romanticized thoughts about everything in life. So this to me was the absolute extreme. The way that it's turned out for me is probably, not a 180 from what I expected, but it's not at all what I expected. I have great relationships with, I would say three.


of my six half siblings and the other three don't seem to care that I'm around. And that's just shocking to me because that's just not the way I'm wired. So it's bizarre to me that you wouldn't wanna get to know somebody that you missed most of your life from. But anyway, that was just an aside. That's because I'm, like Cindy said, I'm kind of an open book and probably can't shut up even when I should.


All right. So I'll turn it over to Cindy now. That just blows my mind, though. Like you said, Kendall, that these family members don't want to get to even kind of know you. You know what I mean? Just even kind of. So my story is boring, as I always tell everybody. I'm an always known adoptee.


Older brother was also adopted, then parents had two bio kids. We're all very close. I have cousins that were adopted, neighbors that were adopted. So I grew up around tons of adoptees. Had my records opened when I was 18. Connected via DNA.


I want to say seven years ago. And, um,


I have only been in reunion only with a few cousins, aunts and uncles. Bi parents and siblings want nothing to do with me. And hey, I'm okay with that. That's their loss. In fact, I recently, two weeks ago, was in Florida and met up with a first cousin once removed. Meaning we share the same grandmother. And the first thing she said to me was, oh my God, you look just like my mother.


You know, so, and she and her husband kept sitting there going, yeah, and she looks like your cousin. So those kinds of things are pretty cool, you know, to hear. You know, as an adoptee, you know, we grow up with no genetic mirroring. So to see or hear somebody say you look like somebody is fascinating. So I'm going to get back to the retreats for a sec here. The original meetup that Erin and I met,


I was the only adoptee in attendance. And Erin, this may jog your memory. Erin felt so bad about that. Like I was pointing things out that they were doing that I actually was unable to participate. You know, so it was kind of like that school assignment, do your family tree, adopted, can't do it. So Erin and I were like,


Well, we've got to make sure that at our retreats, that all the communities, you know, the trio that we.


are a makeup of the adoptees, the donor conceived folks and the NPEs and the late discovery adoptees. So we are extremely conscious of making sure that everyone feels included. And when we interview our facilitators, that's a major component. Don't just talk about the adoption trauma. You gotta talk about trauma as a whole because


These other folks also experienced trauma. I'm very curious about the evolution of the retreats. So let's go back to that OG retreat, aside from Cards Against Humanity. What else happened on the Jersey Shore? We actually didn't play that at the first retreat. That came later. That was the second retreat after we were all comfortable with each other. Yeah, so I mean, the first retreat was...


It was amazing. You know, none of us knew each other with the exception of Cindy and I. And so I know with certainty that there was trepidation for folks that were coming. You know, they were trying this new thing out with us. So Annie actually was, and I love to tell this story. I tell this story all the time. Annie was one of the first people to walk through the door. You might have to put like a warning on this particular podcast, you know, that little E for expletive.


And so Annie walked through the door and I said, do you fucking curse? And she said, yeah, I fucking curse. And I gave her a hug right away. And then Annie, tell him your part of the story about how you felt at home. If you met me, you might think I was lying, but I'm really not very...


extroverted. You know, when I'm around new people, I tend to be quiet. I'm not a very good small talker. But I said to Aaron later on, I said, you know, like to everyone that was there, I said, you know, when I walked in, I just felt like I knew these people in my heart. You know, like it was just so...


inclusive, like, like, you know, like you meet someone and you just know you're going to be like their friend or like you just you just click. And it was just like I clicked with everyone, like that first few minutes. And I've never felt anything like that. You know, when I and I never actually said this, but as the weekend went on, I almost forgot why I was there. And somebody I


I think it might have been Heather, one of the attendees, was we were just sitting around the table because we really didn't have much of a structured weekend. There were things planned and little groups and we kind of split off into little four or five people groups, but we were sitting at the table and Heather, one of the attendees was telling part of her story. And I was sitting there and I'm going, wow, that's, you know, that's, and I said, wait a minute.


This is why I'm here. You know, like I almost forgot why I was there. You know, I was just so comfortable with everyone. You know, like you just know, like we just kind of all like meshed like right away. Even a few of the people that don't attend anymore, we still all have a connection with those people as well, with the original group at that very first retreat.


Yeah. So that very first retreat was, um, let's meet on Friday night. And actually that very first retreat pre COVID, you know, everything kind of changed during COVID too, but, um, so that very first retreat was pre COVID. And so we met on Friday night, went out to dinner and then we were, we call it in session. So we were in session all day, Saturday from, I don't know, 10 to 10 to two with


a facilitator who, as Cindy had said earlier, is my husband's aunt Sue, who is a trauma educator. And so she talked to us about the effects of trauma on the body and how we process trauma and what happens to us in crisis and the different ways that the brain functions in crisis.


And after that, we broke up into what we called round table groups where we had somebody asking questions. And then as Annie said, they were four or five people in each group. It was a small retreat, our first one. And then we had dinner and then we got up the next morning. We had breakfast and we left. And as I said earlier, too, like that's where my greediness comes out. I was like, that wasn't enough time. So.


let's get together on Thursday evening, find more facilitators, be in session Friday, be in session Saturday, and then head home on Sunday morning. And I think we did that once. And I said, that's still just wasn't it. No, I that's, that's not true. We did that twice. And then somebody had said, gosh, I felt so alone when I was at the airport going home, I'm sitting in the airport crying all by myself. And so Cindy and I said,


we like we that didn't even occur to us like we need to add it a day at the end so that we can decompress in community because we're in these heavy duty sessions. You know, we, we are bringing in licensed clinicians. We are bringing in people that have, um, extensive training in holistic recovery options. Um, and so it's, it's a heavy weekend. It really is. It's, we laugh.


we cry and we laugh, but to just be surrounded by people that inherently know your struggle and feel that same struggle for two full days, and then basically just say, okay, bye, see you later. It wasn't working. And so we added that last day where Cindy said, let's call it relax, renew, refresh. And so we bring in a massage therapist, we'll bring in a medium Reiki practitioner.


We watch movies. Yeah, we just have it at home. I know. Yeah.




I grew up around adoptees, so I was very familiar with having that camaraderie among my people.


I was shocked, just shocked at how many adoptees I have met via the rise of Facebook groups that have never met in person another adoptee, as would be same with obviously the NPE group. So like how Annie said, she just felt at home and with her people.


And again, I love seeing these new people come to retreats and feel that they can let their hair down and not be judged about crying or saying something. So I get that. And it's so important that people recognize that a Facebook support group, yes, is great and awesome.


the original gang. We, since:


we've gotten, we're getting together in a few weeks in New York City. I mean, we have developed not just the original group, but the the retreat folks, we've developed these lifelong friendships because of our commonalities, our allies and intersections, you know, I like to call them. So it's just, it's just been wonderful.


question about the structure of the retreat. So are there, for instance, with each one, if you know you have people that have never come before, are there things that are really directed toward them and then for the people who are able to have come several times, you know, is there that sort of programming involved? I can kind of speak on that. Aaron and I are very...


deliberate in who we place in what groups. So we don't want the OGs to be in one group and the newbies in one group. And we're even more deliberate in which OG, you know, like personality wise, oh, this one will be good to have paired with this one. None of our treats are ever the same.


So each retreat is entirely different. It may be the same facilitator, but they are going to facilitate on something different. We never want them to be a cookie cutter, McDonald's type of pick your menu. Because we want people to, three times a year they're offered. And at any given three times of the year, if a person feels that they need



I've only missed one so far. And I had complete FOMO about it. I was in a bad mood at home the whole weekend. My wife was like, what is wrong with you? And so it was not good for me to miss, honestly. No. That speaks volumes though, you know? Yeah, I mean, I totally felt not being there. So we, well, in a-


were just texting you didn't make it. No, no texting me. I think it was Sunday afternoon. I just, I get a FaceTime thing on Facebook and it's like connect. I was like, so I did. And one of the women was like, oh, you just have to say this thing and this is what we're doing. I'm like, I don't wanna see this. Yeah. This is not helpful. That's what I'm missing. Right, what I'm missing. So as I mentioned, we get together.


Thursday evening and we have dinner together and there's an icebreaker and we hang out that night and then we get up Friday morning and on Friday we have what we call our small group sessions. So that's where as Cindy was speaking about we break the attendees into three groups. Now is probably a good.


place to tell you that we max out at 30 attendees. We are not trying to be a humongous retreat. You know, we don't want to be at a hotel and have conference rooms. To us, the size is very important because we want to form those connections. So we have a max of 30 attendees. We break them into three groups. As Cindy said, you know, we'll put OGs and newbies together because


The OGs need to act as mentors to folks that are just coming into the community or maybe, my gosh, found us a month after they made their discovery and really just need that person to walk alongside them. And there are three rotating sessions on Friday. We have a session at 10 a.m., a session at 1, and a session at 3.30. So everybody attends all three sessions just at different times throughout the day.


And then we have dinner together and we play a game in the evening. Sunday, we have a final session all together. Excuse me. Saturday is our whole group day. Skipped over a whole day. So we typically have two to three facilitators on Saturday. Um, most often it's one four hour session and one two hour session, but we're all together for all of those.


And Saturday evening is typically Cards Against Humanity. That's our Cards Against Humanity night. Friday night is Eve's game. We call it Eve's game. And then Sunday morning we get up, we have our final session together. And we have brunch and some people make the decision to leave at that point. You know, I have to, I can't take off Friday and Monday, I have to get back to work. And the other half of us.


hang out and decompressing community. And then Tuesday morning happens and we're in our group chat that we have with every attendee who has ever attended a High Risk Open Healing Retreat. And we're saying, I'm back at work. I miss you guys. I can't wait to do this again. So yeah, it's for me personally.


Doing this work has been so incredibly healing. I tried therapy. It didn't work for me. Like I just didn't feel like I needed therapy for this discovery. What I needed was to be around people who got it. I think everybody should go to therapy at least once in their life. I'm not saying that therapy is a bad thing. I believe in therapy. I love therapy. It's amazing. But for me, for this particular issue, it just didn't work.


Um, planning these retreats, hosting these retreats, being among folks who get it. Um, that's really, uh, what, what helped me to, to heal in my journey. So much so that, uh, I'm entering a master of social work program. Starting, uh, in the summer and, um, you know, maybe at some point I'll facilitate it, one of our retreats, who knows more to be revealed.


Hi, it's Cory. Kendall and I decided this was a good stopping point for the first part of our Hyrith Hope and Healing episodes. Don't worry, we'll have Erin, Cindy, and Annie back next week for more great information about their wonderful organization. I hope you join us. Family Twist features original music from Cosmic Afterthoughts and is presented by Savoir Faire Marketing Communications.




More from YouTube