... OR NOT TO BE?
On a warm sunny day about nine months ago, a new client, crossed the threshold to my cozy consulting room. She told me:
“J.J. had been depressed for a long time. Then overnight, or so it seemed, he perked up, became more animated, carefree and accepting. Eight days later he was dead.
In our next session, Karella said:
I can’t believe I was so naïve as to believe J.J. was getting better. He was stock-piling pills. Yet he seemed to perk up, life became fun again. Now of course I realise he was so relieved to have finally made his decision, and he would enjoy life in the knowledge that it would end at a time appointed by him. I suppose he relaxed knowing nothing else could touch him now.
Karella was J.J.’s wife. Sadly, the person who commits suicide stuffs his psychological skeleton in the survivor's emotional closet and Karella is now struggling to deal with the symbolic bag of bones left behind.
She had ‘no idea’ he was planning to end his life. True, her husband was accident prone; he crashed the car three times, he fell down an escalator and broke his collar bone, he broke his arm on a drunken night out, smoked 30 cigarettes a day, drank too much and he was forever nursing one injury or another. But it never occurred to her that these “accidents” could be self-destructive acts, perhaps indicative of his unconscious wish to kill himself? It seems J.J. wanted to punish his parents for perceived acts of childhood cruelty. He told Karella “One day the parents will be sorry…” So, he choose a brutal way to die – he hung himself with a rope (the unbilical cord? In so doing was he severing forever his link, his lifeline, with his mother?). Someone once said the suicidal state is one in which an individual cuts his throat and cries for help at the same time. And is genuine on both counts.
So Karella has now been my client for about nine months. She has tortured herself with the idea she should somehow have prevented her husband’s death. “If only I had…” she would cry in anguish. However, in time she has come to realize that she cannot take responsibility for another’s choices in life and death. “She made me do it” just doesn’t ring true. Nobody makes anybody do anything. There is always a choice. A wise guy points out “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom”
J.J. had a choice and made his own decision. Karella has to make hers. She alone is responsible for the choices she makes.
She has chosen to live.
(details given with the agreement of my client whose identity is not Karella)