No one wants to talk about suicide. But NO one wants to talk about adoption and suicide. Because, as Judith Modell writes in her book A Sealed and Secret Kinship: the culture of Policies and Practices in American Adoption (2002), “Adoption is a benign, pleasurable and apparently uneventful event–except to those who are involved.”
I’ve heard more stories than I want to hear about adoption suicides, and all that led to them: the isolation, the feelings of ‘otherness’, the taunting, the name calling, the calling out, and the bullying. Adoptees have had their foundation ripped from beneath them. Placing them in a brand new home doesn’t mean that foundation is immediately recreated and placed there as well. Adoptive parents need to understand they didn’t replace birth parents, they didn’t replace their environment with a new, better environment, they didn’t save a child from whatever background the adoptive parent feels he or she was saved from. Adoptive parents need to think about their role, understand their role in relationship to the children. They need to check in with the schools, their kids, and listen to their kids’ friends.
Adoptive parents need to be open to having all those conversations that get hidden behind adoption as “benign” and “pleasurable”, and entirely understand that, at times, they are neither.
The Delicate Dance of Writing About Suicide (and Adoption) explains why.