Adoption Trauma: Farewell Charlotte Dawson

As a fellow adoptee my heart goes out to Charlotte Dawson in her tragic passing. She has been on my radar for many years now, since I found out she was adopted at birth and now, here in memoriam, I can again feel her a breath away from my soul.
A lot has been said about the reasons for her suicide and without wanting to butt in as a stranger where I am not welcome, I do feel I have a silent and meaningful connection with her as a fellow adoptee. There are often many reasons behind a suicide and Charlotte had complex, compelling, and overlapping traumas in her life that may have lead to her early death. However, I would also like to say, from my position as an adoptee, that Adoption Trauma is (as Von Coates has also posted on her Facebook page) still grievously overlooked and underappreciated in society today. I would just like to point out for all those commentators who are genuinely and compassionately trying to piece together and learn from her death (for a beautiful tribute and personal memoriam see Rebecca Sparrow’s article), that Adoption Trauma is real, debilitating, and life threatening. It can have an accumulative effect throughout life and society should not continue to underestimate or overlook how devastating ‘relinquishment’ can be. As Rebecca Sparrow suggests “We let her down’ but I would like to highlight that ‘letting her down’ also includes, and probably hinges upon, society’s lack of understanding and acceptance of adoption trauma in general.
Before every Adoption (no matter how loving the adoptive parents) there is first, from the baby’s perspective, a life-threatening Relinquishment. This is generally not only often forgotten but not even understood. It is for society an unthinkable, unspeakable moment that cannot even be referred to at great length – only in passing (only very recently have we begun to emerge from five decades of deadly silence surrounding adoption).
Being Relinquished is like being born on an Existential Precipice and it is treacherous to manage life from such a precarious position.
Indeed, relinquishment/adoption for the baby and subsequent adult is a dangerous and acutely painful business…
The 2012  Australian Institute of Family Studies report Past adoption experiences: National Research Study  on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices shows that quality of life is one-third lower for adoptees than the general population and that there is a “higher than average likelihood of having a mental health disorder than the general population.” (p. 121). I want journalists, commentators, therapists, and society at large (and sometimes adoptees themselves) to understand more fully the trauma associated with adoption.
I feel sad and deeply moved as so many are by Charlotte’s passing but perhaps I, and others like me, have a personal and experiential insight, a deeper understanding and primal connection to the tragedy with regard to the underlying and often forgotten and misunderstood effects of adoption trauma. I hope that society can learn, not only about depression, bullying and abuse but also, and I feel, most importantly and crucially, about adoption trauma and its primal position in the investigation and understanding of psychopathology.
Farewell Charlotte. I am so so terribly sorry…This fellow adoptee will continue to hold you in her heart always…
white rose 3

21 responses to “Adoption Trauma: Farewell Charlotte Dawson

  1. Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful comment, Kim. I did not know that Charlotte Dawson was an adoptee. I generally find that a person’s adopted status is not often mentioned, as if it were unimportant, and the few articles I have read about her did not mention it.

  2. Wordygecko, thanks so much. I agree that adoption as trauma is still not on society’s radar. Thank you so much for reading that and commenting. I hope that both of us in our work can bring adoption’s painful and still secret legacy into the light.

  3. excellent piece Kim. Well done. You make so many great points about how adoption trauma is dismissed by most who have not had to endure such a separation, and even denied by many adopted people themselves. Nicely voiced Kim.

  4. Very touched, by your article. I no that adoption has always left me with a feeling of people are going to “leave” in my life. It has influenced decisions, of leaving first before they leave me. It truly can be a small dark cloud that never goes away!

  5. Dear Elizabeth, thank you so much for your kind words and I agree that adoption issues can infiltrate so much of what we do. I relate very much also to what you say about relationships. It is so important to understand the psychological legacy of our stories. Thanks again. Take care…

  6. Thanks for such a touching tribute. I, too, did not know who Charlotte was until I found your article. You are exactly right about the toll relinquishment takes on an individual. If people could really understand that, I think adoption would diminish drastically.

    • Yes, I think that society has yet to understand the full impact of adoption trauma. You are right. Thanks so much for your kind and insightful words.

  7. Pingback: Adoptee Suicide | elle cuardaigh

  8. Reblogged this on FORBIDDEN FAMILY and commented:
    For many reasons, I’ve been thinking about adoptees and suicide. This dark subject haunts me. I battle depression and suicidal ideation nearly every day. The pain of my life as a bullied adoptee means that I must constantly renew my promise (not to kill myself) to those who love me. Despite the bullying directed at me, there are people who love me. People who would be crushed if I were to complete a suicide attempt.
    I made a promise to my cousin a few days ago, that I would not succumb to my thoughts of wanting to die. It’s strange how a call out of the blue can be both sad and uplifting at the same time.
    Though I never knew Charlotte Dawson, we had adoption in common. And being mocked, stalked, and bullied on Twitter.

    • I am so glad you have people around who love you and that the phone came through when most needed…I admire your bravery and courage in fighting off your depression every day. I takes a special kind of person to endure through such pain. You are an inspiration. I appreciate you visiting my site so very much – and for reposting my piece and your insightful and heartfelt comment. You will be in my thoughts…take good care…

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  11. Well written Kim, thanks. Am a 46 year old adoptee from Auckland NZ and am doing an art series on adoption and immediately thought of Charlotte. My thoughts exactly same as yours. Society completely looks the other way about this stuff. Sigh.
    THanks for this.
    p.s. not sure if my previous comment got through.


    Gareth Price

    • Gareth, sorry I missed your message (I am not sure if I got that…I will have a look…). How wonderful you are doing the art series on adoption. What sort of art are you involved in? And yes, society hasn’t the stomach for the type of pre-verbal trauma and profound wounding of adoptees. Thanks so much for your comment. It’s great to connect around such a shared silenced experience. Take care and best wishes for your art making…it is so important to create something from it all…cheers!

      • Thank you Kim, it’s mostly all at I wish there was more government funded psychological services for adoptees. Yes it’s my first attempt at tackling the big issue and I want to do a wee portrait of Charlotte, not that I ever met her. You have a lot of wisdom around this. Great to read xx

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