Adoptee Commits Suicide

When I got the tragic news that a sixteen-year-old girl died, I was horrified. Jumping to conclusions, I assumed she had been in a car accident. A victim of a drunk driver. Or perhaps she was drinking behind the wheel. Why are sixteen-year-olds driving anyway? Or drugs. Too many kids use drugs these days. This was not just any sixteen-year-old, however. This girl was the daughter of a man my husband had been friends with many many years ago. A man who also passed away, way too young. We wanted to know why, how, she died. My husband, who hadn’t been in touch with the girl’s mother for years, couldn’t ask. We looked up her name online. Her obituary did not list a cause of death. But it did list her age and her school. She was my granddaughter’s age. She attended my granddaughter’s school.

I called my granddaughter to find out if she knew any details. She was the one who told me it was a suicide. The school was providing counselling for the students. Now that we’ve ruled out driving, drinking and drugs, my mind immediately leaped to another conclusion. “She was adopted,” I said to my husband. That’s all I had to say, as if the word “adopted” covered it all.

Why did I link the suicide to adoption? I don’t know what type of relationship this young girl had with her family. With her adoptive mother. Most teenagers are filled with angst. With existential angst, wondering why they were born. An adoptee has the additional angst of wondering why she was given up. Abandoned. Is that enough to cause someone to commit suicide? There must be more.

When I was a teen, I often thought about committing suicide. I even got as far as holding a razor blade in my hand. Dumping a bottle of aspirins (I know, very lame) on the bathroom vanity. I was brought back to my senses when my mom, my adoptive mom, yelled, “What’s taking you so long in the bathroom?” I stopped my foolishness and reminded myself, if I killed myself, I’d never know how things would turn out. Maybe it gets better.

Since this suicide, I started thinking about how many events in my life revolved around my mother. My mother criticized me. My birthmother might have done the same. My mother hated that I did things differently than her. That I looked so different than she looked. She tried to change me all the time. She even tried to get me to dye my hair like hers when I was 12! We fought over trivial things all the time. I might have fought the same with my bio mother. We also might have been very different. I’ll never know. She passed away before I learned who she was.

I married when I was only eighteen, to get away from mother. Is this common among adoptees? I married an addict. Is this common among adoptees? After my divorce I remarried right away. Was this my fear of being abandoned because I was given away at birth? I only have questions. Not answers. But it still haunts me that I immediately jumped to the conclusion, adopted, when I heard about a suicide.

The point is not that adoptions cause these problems. The point is, how can we avoid potential problems that might be brought on by adoption? First and foremost I believe that adoptive parents must remember that their child is unique. Their child has a different bio-identity. Different blood. Do not try to mold the child to your ways. Teach right from wrong, as you would with any child, but embrace their differences. Embrace their uniqueness. They might be brilliant, creative, talented in ways you’d never had imagined. Ways you’d never have expected. Their DNA might lead them in directions you’d never dreamed of. Enjoy your children. Love them. Let them be the best they can be. If they want to know their heritage, let them. Encourage them to learn who they are. Where they came from. Never feel threatened. If they grew up knowing you loved them, that won’t change.

What were some issues you faced as an adoptee? What would you like to tell adoptive parents?

I discuss my own adoption issues and my twenty-four year search in my memoir, Call Me Ella. This is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook, iBooks and more. I’d love to get your feedback.

4 responses to “Adoptee Commits Suicide

  1. I so agree with this. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I am a birth mother. I gave my son to a loving couple who could not have children because I could not financially provide for him and thought I made the best decision at the time. I spent the next 14 years regretting that decision and looking into the face of every little boy who was the same age as he. I met my son when he was 14. I was told he was curious and then after the meeting his adopted mother said not to contact them again. This broke my heart again as I never knew what he thought or if he wanted to have more of a relationship. Over time, he developed a relationship with his brothers and they were able to hang out and spend time together but I always stayed in the background so not to cause any problems between him and his parents. I wanted to scream to him how much I loved him, to talk to him one on one and explain, and to have him know how much I missed him. I will never get that chance because he took his life when he was 20. I will never forget his last message on FB apologizing for being a horrible son, boyfriend, friend…and in an instant he was gone. I will go to my grave feeling the guilt of my actions and knowing that he felt I threw him away. I have so many what ifs… what if I had made contact, what if I had the chance to talk to him… why did I wait? It is a devastating feeling to know I failed my son. Saying goodbye to my son for the second time is the hardest thing to do and I am not sure if I am ready for that even though it has been 4 years. Not all birth moms are horrible people who didn’t love their children. We are not all abusers or druggies. Some are like me who love their children so desperately that they can admit they need help never truly knowing how things will turn out. If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now……

    • Catherine, my heart is breaking for you and your son. It kills me that you were unable to keep your child. Why do we give financial incentives to adoptive parents and not to mothers who can’t afford to raise their childen. Adoption should be for orphans. Or for those who cannot raise the child because of drugs or addiction. But for lack of money? I wish someone had been there for you to offer help. I wish I could say something to help. This really breaks my heart.

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