DNA discovery reveals long-kept family secret

When Erika Lougheed bought herself an at-home DNA test for her birthday earlier this year, she acted on a « gut feeling » she had had all her life. Lougheed, who lives in Corbeil and has lived in different parts of northern Ontario throughout her life, said she always had a sense of not belonging, not least because she didn’t share a strong family resemblance to siblings or other family members.

Despite this gut feeling, the DNA test results still came as a shock.

The results have been broken down to show information about each parent. She indicated that she had one parent with approximately 90% Irish ancestry and the other was 100% Irish.

« And I sat and looked at it for a while and thought, well, that’s weird, my dad’s parents are from Denmark, » Lougheed said.

Lougheed initially said she was « in denial », ignoring the information staring her in the eye – that the man who raised her is not her biological father.

But in the months that followed, Lougheed had time to process the news, and she says the discovery helped her understand herself better, and even strengthened family relationships.

Uncover an old family rumor

The first person Lougheed shared his DNA results with was his brother. As she was out for lunch in mid-September – about a month after the results came back – she casually mentioned that she was getting messages from people in a small town in Ireland, who were apparently linked to her.

You are holding these coins that make no sense, they don’t fit into the holes in front of you but you don’t know why.— Erika Lougheed

She said that’s when her brother started ‘crying with tears’, revealing there was a long-standing rumor within the family that another man could be the father of Lougheed.

This other man was from Ireland and had moved to Canada. He has since passed away, and Lougheed said seeing his obituary and photo there was no doubt in his mind.

« You can’t deny that man was definitely half my genetic makeup. I look a lot like him. »

Growing up, Lougheed says she looked at her blonde family members and wondered why she didn’t share a family resemblance. (Submitted by Erika Lougheed)

Lougheed said the discovery was a revelation. But she said she didn’t feel the need to know the details of what happened four decades ago. She said she was « completely disinterested » in focusing on past transgressions or the « morality » of what happened.

« I have no interest in shaming anyone in the past for their life or what they did or didn’t do. I’m just much more interested in that feeling than I’ve had all along. my life…and just acknowledging it, and really that’s what blew my mind. »

“I held this huge secret to him”

Lougheed said the biggest concern on her mind was how this news might affect her father, with whom she has a close relationship.

« I really didn’t want to hurt my dad, » Lougheed said.

« But the secret itself was what hurt me the most. It wasn’t the fact that my dad wasn’t my genetic makeup, it was the fact that I had this huge secret from him. And every time I ‘he called me, every time he checked in, I just had a stomach ache. »

A woman in a black dress and a pearl necklace and a man in a suit and a bow tie smile at the camera, their heads close together.
Erika Lougheed says she and her father, Joel Anderson, have built a solid foundation for their relationship over the years, which has helped them process the news of his DNA test results together. (Submitted by Erika Lougheed)

When she shared the news with him, it was a weight on her chest. And luckily, he took the news well.

« He was like ‘Erika, you know, being a part of your life has been one of the biggest sources of pride for me. … I feel so lucky that even though it happened, like I had you still come out of it all. I feel like I won.' »

Lougheed said that despite the injury, they were able to process the information together, which she considers a testament to their relationship.

« If you have a strong foundation, you can really get through a lot together, » she said.

The story resonates with others

The popularity of home DNA testing means that more and more people are making discoveries similar to Lougheed’s, often revealing long-held family secrets.

Lougheed decided to share her story online and said it was quickly clear that so many other people could relate to her story.

« Almost instantly I would get these messages saying ‘Hey Erika, you know, I didn’t find out I was adopted until my mid-30s, this story really stuck with me’ or ‘Hey, I’m going through it’s the exact same thing right now, I can’t believe you just shared this, » or « I’m an adopted child and I’m just starting to get over this heartbreak. »

A girl smiles at the camera as she plays in open water.
Now a mother herself, Lougheed says she focuses on being open and honest with her own children. (Erika Lougheed/Twitter)

Lougheed said the dozen messages she received all had a similar thread of long-standing feelings of emptiness, and that « something was wrong. »

« The best way to explain it is like you’re standing on the lawn and looking into a house that you don’t really feel like you belong in. Or you’re holding these rooms that don’t have sense, they don’t fit in the holes in front of you but you don’t know why. »

Lougheed hopes her story will encourage more people to share openly with loved ones and walk away from secrecy.

“My hope is that more people ask for help, [and] rely on each other. »


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