• Ferera Swan

Reflections On Shame & Secrecy in Adoption During Suicide Awareness Month

In May of last year, I obtained a copy of my adoption file and enclosed were additional documents that weren’t included with what I originally received when I was 15. Under “adoptive placement” I read and learned for the first time that my maternal family requested that I be placed outside of the Filipino community. I believe it was an attempt to conceal my mother’s pregnancy.

There are no words for the disbelief and heartbreak I felt in that moment—in addition to being separated from my mother, this was an intentional and specific request by my grandparents that I also be stripped from my own ethnic culture and community—all without regard for the lifelong trauma and impact on my mental/emotional health and well-being.

During reunion, the very first thing my late maternal grandfather said to me on the phone was “I’m sorry.” Even if he did what I believe he thought was best, from the tone in his voice, he also knew it would cause me great harm. If they only knew the harm that separation and secrecy would also cause my mother and others.

Lifestyle, privacy, and reputation are not more important than the mental/emotional health and well-being of the most vulnerable in adoption: adoptees. It should also never be our responsibility to continue bearing the shame and secrecy of others at the expense of our own health.

This has never been about blame—but about deeper understanding, education, and raising awareness for current & future generations. Too many of our lives depend on it.

A reminder as we approach the end of September that adoptees are at least 4x more likely to attempt suicide than non-adopted people. Please keep listening.