by Annette Bridges. ©2010. All rights reserved.

Did you know that it really is possible to find a needle in a haystack? I truly believe that anything can happen if your search is on Facebook!

A few days ago I had the surprise of my lifetime. But that is not where this story begins.

My mom divorced my dad when I was nine years old. Then he passed away a few months later. Sadly, communication was lost between her and my dad’s family.

In the meantime, my mom and I moved several states to the west and started a new life. Years past without me knowing my aunt, uncle and numerous cousins — forty-two years to be exact!

Children of divorce often get the raw end of the deal. And I don’t know that I can offer the perfect solution. I do applaud parents who strive to maintain a relationship with their ex-spouse’s family members — when this is possible. I have no doubt that this task is not always easy, consequently, I do not intend to pass judgment. Furthermore, I also know there are many sides to every marriage and divorce that impacts communication among families. I know it was not so simple for my mom.

Still, I can’t help but wish that I could have grown up knowing my dad’s side of the family.

Needless to say, it’s never too late to know your cousins. This was my Facebook post after I received a message from a gal who turned out to be one of mine. She was sending Facebook messages out to several “Annette’s” that shared my maiden name. Fortunately, I had added my maiden name to my contact information.

I couldn’t believe it when I received her message. In fact, I could not even read it aloud to my husband. Every time I tried, I started crying. It felt quite miraculous to be found. Actually, it was the idea that my cousin wanted to find me which brought my tears. Facebook messages were followed by phone calls which will hopefully — eventually — be followed by in-person visits.

But just feeling a connection to my cousins has rekindled my relationship to my dad. I’ve so missed having a dad. There was something about talking to the daughter and granddaughter of his sister which made me feel close to him — a feeling I wasn’t expecting.

I wish parents whose marriages end, could learn how to co-parent in such a way that children never feel separated or isolated from their family. I’ve heard they even have counselors these days that will help parents learn how to do this. Sounds like an endeavor worth whatever the cost!

I’ve not walked in the shoes of a divorced parent. So I may not be in the best position of giving advice to such parents. But I have experienced divorce as a child of divorce. And just maybe that gives me some authority to speak on this subject.

I know the pain, anger, resentment, confusion and loss that children feel when their parents separate — especially young children. And while I have no doubt that divorce is the right thing to do in many cases — I’m certain it was right for my mom — I think it imperative that divorced parents be able to see beyond their own feelings and attend to their children’s. And if they don’t think they are up to the task, then they need to get help from someone who is.

I like to think that if my dad had not died, forty-two years would not have passed before I had the pleasure of spending time with cousins. But like I said, it’s never too late to start. And I thank Facebook for giving me the opportunity!