This post isn't about the kids, or our family- it is about me. A week ago I received terrible news- a client who I had seen 5 days prior was dead. He had died Friday- less than 48 hours after he was in my office. My first thought was that it was suicide, but his brother, who delivered the news, said that he didn't think it was. They were doing an autopsy but didn't have the results. I haven't heard anything more. The funeral was Saturday (I found the obituary online; it didn't say anything about cause of death) and we were out of town, so I didn't go.
I don't know if I should contact his brother to ask about the cause of death or just assume that since I haven't heard, I don't need to know. I have a fear that I will get to work to find some kind of subpoena or something suing me because it was suicide. I worry his family will blame me because I blame myself. If he was suicidal that day, how did I not know? How did I not stop him from walking out the door? How did I not assure him of the fact that there were better days ahead? I don't even know for sure if it was suicide, but I feel somehow responsible in his passing. He was sad when I saw him last, but many people are sad in my office.
I am also struggling with the fact that he is gone. Just gone. In the middle of a life that had so much potential. He was someone I had worked with for over 2 years, and while I always felt that he was keeping a wall up to protect himself, I knew him well. I enjoyed our work together, and he seemed to be doing well, and looking toward the future. Did I read everything wrong?
Last week, during his scheduled appointment time, I kept waiting for him to come, even though I knew, rationally, that he would not. I even scheduled another client for that time but found myself with my attention divided; waiting to hear the front door of the office open, a knock at my door. Of course he never came; instead, I found his obituary posted online immediately after that appointment. How can it be?
As a result, I am having a hard time feeling enthusiastic about my work. I feel like I am a fraud who isn't actually helping anyone and I should just close up shop and move on. I hope that this isn't the truth, but I can feel myself getting anxious and dreading my work. I feel a reluctance to be there and an eagerness to be anywhere else, which I tried actively to work against last week, but nags me constantly outside of sessions. I think, if only my clients knew how useless I am. How can I take their money and give nothing in return?
My supervisor, who is no longer legally required to supervise me but still acts as my supervisor and mentor, said she thinks I am the best therapist in our practice. Part of what she considers good about me, and what I am fighting with right now, is that I care deeply for my clients. They are important to me, what happens to them is important to me, how they feel is important to me. I valued my client, and his life, and all that he had to offer the world with his intelligence and humor. I feel his death as a personal loss, because although we weren't friends, he mattered to me.
So I sit with this, as I have for the past week. I no longer have the weight on my chest that I had for the first 24 hours, and enjoying my family over the weekend helped remind me that I am here, and life truly is good, and beautiful, and full of love. But work looms tomorrow, and I am afraid to go. For the first time in 4 1/2 years, I said I want to quit. Not because I think there is something better out there, but simply because I think I shouldn't do it anymore, because I'm not good at it like I thought I was, because what if everyone who comes to me ends this way? Crazy and catastrophic, I know, but that is where my thoughts go. I am hoping that the acute pain will fade with time, and that I can immerse myself in the wonderful aspects of my job and my work, but I can't feel them right now.