No matter how much you might steel yourself for Long Lost Family, it takes a robust spirit not to dissolve into a puddle of sobs.

The Born Without A Trace ­foundling specials on ITV were absolute ­corkers that walloped you with shock and awe and hurt the heart.

A baby found in a wooden corned beef box. Another left in a phone box. A girl abandoned in a ladies’ toilet. A boy on the front seat of a car.

It was devastating and we hadn’t even met anyone yet.

These are people who don’t know their birthdays, don’t know the names their birth parents gave them, don’t know where they come from.

The first instalment gave us the biggest twist I’ve ever seen on the show, deftly handled by professional news-breakers Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell.

David McBride was left as a baby in a tartan bag in a car in 1962 in Belfast. He spent decades searching for answers.

Reunited brother and sister David McBride and Helen Ward

Then there was the usual LLF flip to the second story. Six years later, on the other side of the Irish border, Helen Ward was left in a telephone box. But here came the kicker – she was left in a tartan bag.

David and Helen were full siblings, abandoned six years apart. Had their mum put them in tartan bags to help them find each other? No one will ever know.

Davina, queen of the gentle pauses, drip feeding the details like quiet little ­grenades, told David the news.

“We look alike, don’t we?” he said, struggling to comprehend.

They finally met. How overwhelming to meet your first blood relative in your 50s.

David McBride with Davina McCall on Long Lost Family
Nicky Campbell with Helen Ward, who was reunited with her brother and half-siblings

Before long they had photos of their late parents and news of 14 half siblings – all hail Long Lost Family’s crack team of detectives.

And the second episode was just as ­hard-hitting. Simon Jeffery was left in a corned beef box at a Kent pub in 1963.

The sadness as he stood at that spot, now a McDonald’s, was heartbreaking. A neon hub of takeaway burgers, but for him, his only connection with his past.

He’d lived in the same house his whole life in case his family wanted to find him.

“It feels like you’d been discarded,” he said.

The news for Simon was a blow. His parents married and had lived nearby with his six older siblings. Imagine knowing you are the only one they left?

His reaction was devastating, admirable and gorgeous at the same time.

“Why did she leave me there if I’m the youngest? I was never mentioned? Do I look like them?”

When he hugged his siblings, one of whom had worked in the same shop as him, the tears rolled.

Honestly, this show never lets up. Always full of compassion and optimism, never exploitative, it is extraordinary TV.