As a psychotherapist, one of the last things that I want to hear is that one of my clients has killed himself or herself (or someone else). It is not because of a personal feeling of failure, but more so because of a sense that somewhere in the process, my client has lost hope. As therapists, one of our most powerful intentions is to at least instill hope. It is not a starry wish, but a sense of purpose and encouragement.
When I was in graduate school, I was drawn to the more intense subjects such as traumatology, addiction, and crisis stabilization work. I loved them! I remember sitting in a crisis intervention class and hearing my professor clearly state, “In all your years as a therapist, all of you will lose at least one client to suicide. Be prepared for it. It will happen. Oh, and those of you who are working with trauma and addiction, you can definitely expect it to happen.” He spoke those words with a matter-of-factness that revealed long years of personal experience. I did not want to believe him, but I also knew that there was some underlying realness to what he said.
Even with this warning, I pressed on and continued down the path to become a licensed therapist. I did not and could not lose hope in the long-lasting positive impact of the work we do. I believed that following my passion and helping others to see their inner light was worth much more than living in fear of those who might not see it.
And here I am… 6 years and 2 client deaths later.
I will not get into too much detail about the 2 client deaths; however I will say that both were due to overdoses. They were very sobering experiences for me. I re-learned that suicide shows up in many forms. It can be a drug overdose, hanging, gunshot wound, stabbing, train, car, traffic, etc.
For a little while, I even worked for a crisis hotline. Some of the callers were blatantly at the point where they had chosen to end their lives. I encouraged some to rethink their situations and to see that life might actually be worth living. However for some, I do not know if they did or did not take their lives…the calls simply just ended.
Ironically enough, I didn’t feel disappointment, but gratitude. How might one be grateful for such a thing? I fully understood that the conversations that I had with the callers may have been their last conversations ever. I was at least thankful to talk to them in the present moment and be some type of positive, loving voice before they departed (or decided to live).
A spiritual reality about suicide came to me as well:
A person’s exit from this world is not an accident. The way we transition may serve a greater purpose, just like the way we live. It is true that sometimes a person’s life purpose may not be easily understood or clear. But be aware that every life, no matter how short, undoubtedly leaves a precious legacy on this planet.
Every day that I choose to continue working as a psychotherapist, the possibility of losing a client to suicide/overdose/something exists. Yet, if a little piece of hope surfaces, then I believe there is a chance that the person will see tomorrow. I Know the power of hope. It starts as a glimmer, and then it becomes a belief. Belief is when the person sees more light and direction. Then a belief transforms into Knowing. Knowing (in this context) is when the person is aware that Life Is.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm, please Know that There is Hope.
For nationwide support in the United States you can contact: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Your life Is valuable. Be blessed today.