As the old saying goes, you can't choose your family.
But Jenna MacFarlane, a 40-something-year-old woman who had a falling out with her biological family and opted for a new one, has done just that.
She took out a personal ad and was adopted by a new family. Now, she is providing support to estranged sons and daughters everywhere.
Happy Childhood Turned Lonely Adult Life
As a child, MacFarlane had a happy home life with her two brothers and parents. A rift within the family developed after her parents forbid the kids to see their extended family.
MacFarlane missed her grandmother deeply. When she was 33, she defied her parents and made contact with the older woman. The two rebuilt a loving relationship, and MacFarlane was able to be there for her during the last three years of her life.
"I had written a poem for her. And I read it, and she was already in a coma," MacFarlane said. "I said, 'It's OK. You know, I'm going to be all right. … And you can let go,' and she did."
While MacFarlane made this vow to her grandmother, she couldn't have been more estranged from her immediate family.
MacFarlane's relationship with her mother had reached its breaking point. After years of ugly disagreements and icy silences, her mother finally told her, "I will always miss you, but I never want to see you again."
"I think there was a lot of pain and loneliness," MacFarlane said. "There was a finality about it. It was just clear that my biological family didn't want me in their lives anymore."
With equal parts courage and offbeat originality, MacFarlane took out a personal ad that read, "Single white female seeking family."
Though her friends called the idea crazy and potentially dangerous, MacFarlane didn't look back.
"When you really feel like you have nothing to lose, and you feel like the worst is behind you in terms of your hurt. … You can only go up," she said.
Of the 90 letters MacFarlane received, one from Karen and Steve Kesler stood out. The two had lost their respective spouses six years earlier, combined their families, and wanted to let in another member.
"Here was someone that was reaching out, and we thought we had enough love in us to share what we have," Steve said.
MacFarlane first met the Keslers at a Sunday dinner. Over spaghetti and meatballs, the three felt an instant connection. Slowly, MacFarlane became part of the family, fitting in with Steve's two grown children and Karen's 29-year-old adopted son.
Though the Keslers welcomed MacFarlane into their family, the transition wasn't without obstacles.
"Especially at the first holiday time, I felt like I had a meltdown," MacFarlane said. "There was sort of a moment where I thought, 'I don't know what to do here.' I knew I needed to accept it and change, but I was scared."
Now that time has cemented bonds, MacFarlane feels at home with the Keslers. She feels she has found a true family.
"A family, for me, is a place where you know you're at home," she said. "You know you're accepted and you're loved. And you can be yourself."
Read more of MacFarlane's story in the February issue of Glamour magazine by clicking here.
For more information, visit MacFarlane's Web site, familywanted.com.