Cheryl Burke Reveals Why She Was Initially Skeptical of Meeting Her Long-Lost Sister
As for Ina's involvement in her upcoming wedding, Cheryl Burke tells PEOPLE that the first step is for her sister to meet the rest of the family
Although the passing of Cheryl Burke‘s father was heartbreaking for the professional dancer, his death led to an unexpected blessing: a sister she had never known.
Nearly four months after Burke announced that her father, Stephen Louis Burke, had passed away in March, the Dancing with the Stars alum, 34, revealed in a heartfelt Instagram post on Monday that she recently found and met with her younger half-sister, Ina.
But before meeting Ina in-person for the first time on July 3 in Los Angeles, Burke had some initial skepticism.
“With this business, at least for me, comes trust issues. Is she reaching out to me for something that she may need? We didn’t know each other. I didn’t know if she was actually my sister. Just because your last name is Burke doesn’t mean that you’re my sister,” she tells PEOPLE.
“I was a little nervous meeting face-to-face because you just never know. And then we met face-to-face and it’s like looking at yourself in the mirror,” she says of her younger sibling, who currently lives in Seattle. “When you see someone on social media, you wonder do they still look like that? When I saw her in person, it was like looking in the mirror, like the freckles. We definitely look like our father.”
Burke also reveals that her father had told her about Ina years before his death, but it wasn’t until after his passing that the sisters came in contact.
“My dad always told me I had a sister,” Burke says. “He told me I have another sibling then I was a little caught off [guard]. It wasn’t jealousy, but I wished I was the only one, you know, that daddy-daughter feel. My father had a few different relationships and with that babies happen.”
Burke adds, “When my dad passed away, Ina couldn’t make it to my father’s wake in Thailand. But she reached out and wrote a long text message that was really sweet. I responded right away and said, ‘Thank you so much for reaching out. If there’s anything that I could do, I’m here for you.’ From then on, we’ve been texting and talking on the phone a lot.”
The Dance Moms star’s late father met Ina’s mother after her parents divorced when she was 2 years old. “He met Ina’s mom in the Bay Area. My mom and dad separated and he basically went straight into the relationship and had Ina,” the San Francisco native explains.
“My dad would be so happy. He really would be,” Burke says of her and Ina finally meeting.
In the Instagram announcement, Burke shared a smiling photo of the duo taken during their meetup as well as side-by-side throwback photos of them as children. Burke also posted a video from their time together, when she exclaimed, “Oh my God, I’m meeting my sister for the first time,” and added, “Do we look alike? Same dad, different mom.”
“With my father’s passing came a lot of darkness but there was also a lot of light – I found my sister who I had never known,” she captioned the post.
“We recently met for the first time and it was such a surreal experience to walk into a room to meet and walk out feeling like we had known each other forever,” continued Burke. “In her I see the same drive and passion that our dad had and there’s clearly a major family resemblance.”
She concluded: “It may have taken 30 years to find each other, but I am so excited to have another sister for life 💛”
She has two additional siblings: a younger half-sister, Nicole, and an older step-sister, Mandy.
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Burke announced her father’s death earlier this year when she shared a throwback photo of herself as a child getting a kiss on her head from her dad, who died March 9 — nearly a month shy of his 68th birthday.
“Dad, if I had one more chance to have you here with me today, I would do things differently,” she captioned a sweet throwback shot of the two. “Every day I would tell you how much I love you. I miss you so much already.”
Burke told PEOPLE in 2011 that she felt “abandoned” after her parents split when she was a toddler. Her mother remarried in 1993 — and Burke forged a close bond with her stepfather Bob Wolf, whom she calls Dad.
During a 2012 appearance on Bethenny Frankel‘s talk show, the dancer said she had been estranged from her dad for a decade but reconnected after he was in a bad accident.
“I just wanted to make sure that everything in my life was okay, and I felt like there was that void in my life,” Burke explained. “I have a wonderful stepfather who has been my father, but it was really important for me just to reach out to my dad. Just for me and to like, have some closure if anything really were to happen.”
Nearly two months after the death of her father, Burke announced the happy news that she was engaged to now-fiancé Matthew Lawrence, who surprised the pro dancer with a proposal on her 34th birthday.
Although Burke’s late father will not be physically present at her nuptials, she’s reminded of him every time she looks down at her stunning sparkler.
“While, obviously, I absolutely love the look of my engagement ring (come on who doesn’t love a little bling 😉), the story behind it makes it even more special,” Burke captioned an Instagram post in May when she shared the sentimental story behind her ring.
“Matt worked with my mom to get the original diamond that my late father had given her, and designed a new ring around that,” she continued the post, which included a photo of her ring and her mother’s original ring.
Burke continued, “It has two intertwined circles to represent our two lives coming together and has the words he used to propose, ‘Love you always & forever,’ engraved inside.”
“It couldn’t be more perfect. Swipe to see a throwback of what the original ring looked like! #tbt,” she concluded.
As for Ina’s involvement in her upcoming wedding, Burke tells PEOPLE that the first step is for her sister to meet the rest of the family.
“I definitely want Ina there and a part of it. It’s so tricky because I have my family and my other sisters and people who I’ve known for my whole life. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for sure. I think the first step for me is to have Ina come here and meet the other side of my family,” she says.