Adoption Loss and Suicide

Kohla driving his first car.

Kohla driving his first car.

I’m sick of adoption loss. My husband and I went to the accountant to file our 2014 income tax. Since our son passed away last year and we are his next of kin, we are expected by the IRS to file his last return. I’m not sure why this hurts more than some of the other things we’ve had to deal with since his death, but for me it’s severely grievous.

I remember the conversation Kohla and I had once about his adoption. “I hate orphanage, Mom. You have nothing. If you get something, someone steal it.” The orphanage told us that he and his sister had more than many of the children there; we had sent them a few things before we arrived. What they had didn’t fill a small backpack. Kohla was weeks away from turning 15 years old when he was adopted and moved with us to The USA. He was eager to be part of a family and since the orphanage showed the kids a wide variety of movies ranging from Disney to R rated flicks his expectation of family life was skewed, because movies was really all he had to compare to his new life. My husband and I were older when we decided to adopt; I hated the empty nest and loved having the children with all their enthusiasm, ideas, and issues. There was never a boring day, hour, or minute. Kohla said he never dreamed once of owning a car of his own in Ukraine; then he thought about it briefly and said, he would have never learned to drive there either. Orphans have a bad rap in Ukraine, many find themselves in prison, and those who don’t have a difficult time finding employment because they are extremely discriminated against. Alcoholism, poverty, and suicide are extremely high there.

Learning to drive was terrifying for him since he had seldom ridden in a car. Three days before the class began we broke the news that he was registered. He spent those three days in a depressive state where he would barely leave his bedroom. After completing the course, he had to laugh himself at how easy it had been. Then he sat in another funk when we purchased him a car with a stick shift. It only took him a few weeks to learn to drive it without the support of someone in the car with him. He got very good at it and liked being able to do something so many traditional American’s couldn’t do.

All of the transitions were tough for him to make, but some appeared easier than others. He was a scholar in Ukraine, and once he understood English became a scholar here who was dual enrolled in high school and community college; he graduated with honors and earned a scholarship at high school graduation. He had his associate’s degree in less than a year after graduation.

We knew that Kohla struggled with depression and took him to see a variety of different counselors which only seemed to irritate him. He would sit with his arms crossed and tell them what he thought they wanted to hear. He was afraid they would tell us what he said; maybe that’s how things are handled in Ukraine. Maybe not. We told him it was confidential, and the counselors told him the same thing. As an adoptee, he had trust issues.

For the more than ten years Kohla was in our lives he was a loving son. He wasn’t always happy with the decisions we made and he would let us know, and we certainly weren’t always happy with the decisions he made either. But, what family is always happy with each other all the time.

Suicide may be preventable, but what they don’t tell you is that some adults are excellent at hiding it and they don’t all tell you they are thinking about it. You can look back after they are gone and see a few of the warning signs and feel guilty about missing them. But frankly, the trauma adoption and the events that precede and follow it are severe. If adoption brokers were all upfront and honest wouldn’t it be heavily regulated and brought out of the closet. The most ignorant of human beings has to know that trading kids like baseball cards is tragic and inhuman. Darkness, greed, and covetous behavior breeds sinister conduct. Hind sight is 20/20, but if based upon the suicide posters you looked at me today, you might think that I’m suicidal too. Since Kohla’s death, I struggle with sleep deprivation, I’m definitely withdrawn, I have severe mood swings and tune out to those around me, and I’m an adoptee.   They are all danger signs. I’m not.

I was an infant adoptee in a bad adoption. I honestly thought my adoption was a fluke; the internet wasn’t as evolved years ago as it is now, so few of us spoke out because we were blasted as ingrates and bastards. Years before we adopted any of our children, I had tremendous amounts of counseling to heal from all the trauma and while I was dealing with it struggled with suicidal issues too.   All adoptions are severe loss; no child should ever be put through an adoption if it isn’t absolutely necessary, poverty isn’t good enough. But at the same time not all adoptions are bad; I’ve seen some children who age out of our system without even slightly supportive family or other relationships who have it worse.

I carefully placed Kohla’s final tax information into the envelope with our own tax information. I had a piece of paper that included his social security number and his birthday. It also included a copy of his death certificate, his W2, a 1099, and one other document. It all fit inside a small paperclip. My son was reduced to a few pieces of paper, but his social security number will remain his indefinitely. It’s probably the last business I will conduct for him.

Kohla knew we were here for him and we loved him. He could no longer deal with the pain of abandonment and loss. Even though I can sympathize and understand, it doesn’t make his death less bitter or painless.

God keep you safe, my son, until we meet again.

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