|photograph © 2012 mothermade design|
Her mentor, Rhea, is my “little sister.” I first met Rhea in 2008 at a gathering for Indian adoptees that I led. I saw in Rhea a sweet, giving spirit so it didn't surprise me she had chosen to give back by mentoring another adoptee along the way. On the day of the funeral in March, I woke with a heavy heart – sending love, strength and prayers to the family, Rhea, friends and extended community members that gathered to honor this young teen's life. In April, I stood beside and hugged Rhea close, as any big sister would, while she bravely shared at a conference about the place in her life and heart that her mentee occupied.
In an age of technology and social media, heartbreaking news travels fast. Since October 2012, our Indian adoptee community has lost six lives to suicide that I know about - they were ages 13, 15, 16, 21, 23 and 31. They were sons, daughters, sisters, brothers — all gone too soon. Each suicide shook our community with a devastating ripple effect as we reeled from one to the next. The suicides also often brought three companions — silence, shame and stigma.
As a trusted confidant and insider to the Indian adoptee community, I listened, counseled and coached adoptees and adoptive parents through their varying stages of shock and grief. As a social worker clinically trained in individual and community crisis management, I know the importance of creating brave spaces for survivors of suicide – family and friends left behind – to cry, grieve and be heard on the journey ahead. Everyone grieves differently – some want to talk openly while others need privacy. Anniversaries can be triggering when loss and heartache resurfaces.