elle cuardaigh

Adoptee Suicide


When L’wren Scott took her own life, those of us in the adoption community said, “Another.”

L’wren Scott Hated Adopted Life

It was so recent that Charlotte Dawson had done the same:

Adoption Trauma: Farewell Charlotte Dawson

These two celebrity deaths made us take notice of a recent study, although many of us did not need “proof”:

Risk of Suicide Attempt in Adopted and Non-Adopted Offspring

Adoptees are four times more likely than the non-adopted to attempt suicide. And those who attempt suicide are much more likely to actually die that way.

We are the lucky ones, aren’t we. The fortunate. The chosen. The ones who weren’t aborted, as we are so often reminded. So we’d better be grateful. By the same line of reasoning, we were thrown away. Abandoned. And to even think about “those people” is betrayal to the ones who raised us, our real parents.

So why are we killing ourselves?

L’wren Scott and Charlotte Dawson should have been Successful Adoption poster children. Both beautiful, smart, talented, with self-made wealth. Even if teetering on financial straits, they had earned money before – they could certainly do it again. They could overcome. They could triumph. But they didn’t. They opted out instead. Why?

I cannot tell you what was in their minds or their hearts when they made their fatal decisions. But I can tell you how I have felt.

First, you should know I was much-loved by my adoptive parents, and I loved them. My birth mother loved me as well. And I love her. I never felt abandoned and was never made to feel abandoned. We are enjoying a reunion that will never end. And even though my birth father rejected me, I am at peace with it because I understand the circumstances.

I’m not rich, or beautiful, or talented, like L’wren or Charlotte. But I understand why they could end their own lives.

Because adoptees often feel as if they were not born. And when you were not born, it’s not so hard to die.

It was Betty Jean Lifton (“Twice Born”, “Lost and Found”, “Journey of the Adopted Self”) who first wrote that adoptees feel they weren’t born, only adopted. I remember reading that line in one of her books as a teenager. I was sitting in the shade of our golden chain tree in May when I read that sentence and it hit me like lightning out of a clear blue sky. It was why I hated my birthday. It was why I could not imagine having children. It was why I felt expendable. Because I had not really been born, only adopted.

When you are not part of a chain, it is so easy to just float away. To go back into nothingness. To that void that you were, before your life began – the day your adopted parents brought you home. Before you were Real.

In the movie “Blade Runner”, I identified with the android. She was not born, either. She was merely the collected memories of another person. She couldn’t “die” but existed with the knowledge that her time was short, regardless. She would just cease to be. The main character could treat her like a human, and love her, but she would never be as “real” as he was. So it didn’t matter if she was “off” or “on”.

When you are adopted at birth, as I was, you are taken from your life-giver. It is incomprehensible as a baby that your mother – your everything – is gone. To then be given to genetic strangers is even more bewildering. “The Primal Wound” by Nancy Verrier has become the adoptees’ bible, as she speaks to this very real, severing pain.

I never felt my mother abandoned me. I never felt abandoned. But I have felt keenly alone.

Enough to kill myself.

Hope that there was “something” worth living for was the only thing that stopped me. Having children, being responsible for them, is what kept me from it in my darkest hours as an adult. But that plan has always been in the back of my mind. My emergency escape clause. Even after reuniting with my mother. Even after finding the love of my life. Even knowing that killing myself would certainly break my adoptive father, who had done so much for me, more than most fathers would for their biological children. Even then.

Because really, it’s so easy to die when you were never born.

Elle Cuardaigh is author of The Tangled Red Thread and contributor of The Adoptee Survival Guide