Thinking about reconnecting with a lost loved one? There's no time like today. The Locator's Troy Dunn on how to start your own search, what to expect and more.
Q: Why can't we ignore unfinished business?
A: Trying to walk away from "unfinished business" is like starting a bath and then walking away from it. If you wait too long for closure, it will eventually spill over into other parts of your life. That's when it gets messy. Closure in one area of your life will often bring serenity to other aspects of your life. Do not wait another day to start the cleanup.
Q: How can someone start their own search for a lost loved one? What kinds of resources are available, and how can a person access them?
A: The very first step everyone should take when searching for a lost loved one is to make themselves more findable to that particular person. So Step 1 is to list yourself on a registry. I have built the fastest-growing free registry in the world, and it is at TroysList.org. Simply register yourself and whomever it is you want to be reunited with. This mutual consent database will match you up if/when the person you seek is also seeking you.
Another one of my favorite techniques for locating people is to use the data contained in death records, obituaries and genealogical records. These three massive data piles all contain wonderful leads on the relatives of the recently deceased. So when seeking a living person, try and start by looking for a relative of the person you seek, who is of age to logically be deceased. Find his/her obituary, and you will likely stumble onto a record of all living relatives, which may include your lost loved one (or at least someone who can lead you to your loved one).
Q: Are there any dos and don'ts in starting such a journey?
A: There are several dos and don'ts when setting out on the search for a missing loved one. Here are a the ones I consider most important:
Don't assume that anything you have been told is 100 percent true, good or bad. Take what you know as opinion, and keep your mind open for new facts. It has been my experience that every story has more than one version. Please leave room in your heart for the possibility that the loved one who is missing from your life may actually have an acceptable (or at least understandable) reason for being gone. I have seen many families healed from simply keeping an open mind and a willing heart.
Do search with your eyes open and your mouth closed. Too often, those in search of loved ones tell each and every person they encounter along the journey who they are looking for and what their relationship is to them. By doing this, you may be divulging more than your missing loved one has shared with their family, thereby ruining your chances of a potential relationship. Respect the privacy of those whom you seek out, and you increase your odds of a long-term relationship when you do locate them.
Don't limit the scope of your search. Wherever you last knew your lost loved one to be is where you start your search, but it is not where your search should stay. Think far and wide. We live in a transient society where people can move across the country as easily as across town. Like tossing a pebble into a pond, let your search efforts ripple out from the most obvious place to the least. By process of elimination, you will locate him/her.
Q: When the seeker has located that missing loved one, how should she go about making first contact? Any advice for people nervous about the first meeting?
A: How you handle first contact will determine the likelihood of your future relationship with the person you find. Please be considerate of their privacy, respect their wishes and, above all else, take it slowly. You have been emotionally preparing for your first contact ever since the day you decided to seek them out—but they are caught off guard by your call, letter or visit. So ease into the conversation, be gentle, choose nonthreatening words, make your willingness to forgive and your desire to build a future obvious. Let them take some time to process what is happening, what is being said. Patience leads to long-lasting relationships. Some hearts heal slower than others.
Q: If the reunion is positive, how can both parties go about rekindling this relationship?
A: Spend as little time on the past as possible. Get whatever answers you need, but as soon as possible, turn your thoughts, words and emotions toward the future. The hole in your heart is in the past. It is the future that can make your heart whole.
Q: Many reunions are happy, but some end with the other person having passed away or not wanting to be located. How do you prepare yourself to deliver this information?
A: The majority of reunions end with a reasonably happy event. But from time to time, there are some unfortunate endings. If I have done my job right, we have been managing expectations from the start of the search. I never want people to think that all searches have happy endings. They don't. However, they all can provide closure. Closure comes when questions are answered. Answers come in various forms. Spoken and unspoken. Seek closure, and you will find it. Seek a happy new relationship, and you may be disappointed. But the odds are still in your favor that you will smile when it's over.
Q: How can a person still find closure and move on after receiving this upsetting information?
A: When the person being sought is deceased, the closure generally comes from the surviving family members. Through stories and photo albums, you can still get a deep look into the life of someone who is no longer with us. And your presence among family of the deceased can also bring some joy and peace as they see some of the traits of their loved one still living on through you. In the end, the only truly sad ending to a search is the case that is never solved.
Q: What are the greatest lessons you've learned from this calling?
A: I have learned so much from my life as The Locator. A lot of beliefs in our society have been proven to be nothing more than myth, based on the results from my 20-plus years of work on thousands of cases. A few of the myths I have uncovered are:
1. Time heals all wounds. Time doesn't heal wounds—proper care and treatment does! Take gentle care of your relationships, old and new, and hand out forgiveness wherever asked. You will find you will be granted the same gift when it is your turn to ask.
2. A leopard cannot change his spots. I have personally witnessed many, many people make brave decisions to change their lives through hard work, sacrifice and prayer. Never underestimate the power of man who has made the bold decision to change his life. With purpose, it can be done!
3. Blood is thicker than water. The word "family" is not defined by matching DNA. Not even close. No, the true definition of family is those people who loved you when you needed them most. I have witnessed some of the most extraordinary reunions between non-blood-related people. Love knows no DNA strand.
Q: You and your wife have seven children. What lesson do you most hope they'll learn about relationships?
A: Jennifer and I have tried to instill in our seven children the values which place family first. We live by the motto that: "No success in life compensates for failure in the home." I hope our children are keenly aware of how much Jennifer and I value the relationships in our life, by simply watching the silent sacrifices we make to sustain those relationships at times. I also hope the children are the beneficiaries of the love Jen and I pour over them and that each one of them can see by our actions and sacrifices how much we love them over everything else in life!
I could write hundreds of pages in hundreds of books about the endless blessings I have received during my 20 years rebuilding fractured families. It is an extraordinary blessing to have a front-row seat to these tender miracles that I witness every day of my life. I am forever changed by what I have seen. And for as long as I walk God's green earth, I will be on a mission to empower as many people as possible to build and rebuild every worthwhile relationship they have ever known. You can't have too much love given to you, and you will never run out of love to share. But you will run out of time to share that love. So stop pouting and start hugging! Tomorrow will be here before you know it!
Troy Dunn's miracle reunions
Printed from Oprah.com on Sunday, May 19, 2013
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