We had a grief counsellor come in at work today– a psychotherapist that our boss hired to come in and talk to us about a recent event.
The recent event was that a barrister that I worked closely with commited suicide a couple of weeks ago. Details of how it happened are scant– the rumor going around from others closer to him is that he was super depressed, and at some point just decided to gobble down a bottle of valium.
In his last days, he was working on a case with us– complicated thing with international jurisdiction issues. I don’t think that it was something that was so bad that he had to kill himself, but then again, I don’t know the whole story.
The truth is, my life hasn’t changed that much. It’s not that I wasn’t shocked, but I think that that passed quite quickly, and more than anything, I was a bit wierded out by “what now?” because my coworkers were not taking it as well as I was.
In his last days, he was acting a bit paranoid about legal issues that didn’t matter. I didn’t know him personally that well, but we had spent several dozen hours working on matters in the past. It’s hard for me to say if he was acting out of the ordinary. I’m told he was.
I think the reason why I don’t react to these events very much is because I’ve seen so many people die before in hospitals, and these were people who I had become friends with. I hate to say it, but the more people go, the easier it has gotten for me. I don’t know if that’s normal or not.
People still get rile up about euthansia, because of faith or religion or whatever. But let’s just say that for a moment, if someone is in pain and wants to die, you might consider that it’s alright for them.
The strange way that we deal with this situation is that a lot of people would think to themselves, ok, that’s fine– they’ve had a good life, and now they’re making this decision that enough is enough.
Most people would say that their wish to die in these situations is something that you could grant– just pull the plug and let them go.
Suicide is, in some strange way, a different thing when it’s out of the blue– especially when it’s tied to mental health issues.
Somehow, there is a distinction between physical illness and mental illness. If someone is physically sick, say with cancer, and in pain, and it’s not going to get better, then for the most part, a fair number of people would say it’s alright. If the person wants to end it, they can do it.
So why is it that when someone has a mental illness, and has had enough, we have so much reluctance to accept an end of life decision? Why is it that a physical illness is more legitimate than a mental illness when it comes to justifying this final sort of release from pain?
A lot of the talk of death is because of the survivors. As survivors of those who die around us, we notice the holes in our lives (if any). Until the dying die, we also tend to hold on as long as we can– sometimes too long. In large part, this sort of love and want of a shared eternity? It’s a hubris. It is a selfishness.
To take responsibility for the idea, if I wanted someone to live through a lot of pain, it is my selfishness at a misconceived ideal of what the world is like if that person were still in it, while ignoring the fact that that pain might not be reconcilable.