“This too shall pass”

Two people I know have shared with me their experience of losing a loved one to suicide… both within the past 24 hours!

… which made me think of my pregnant patient Karen (named changed to protect her privacy).

Karen learned months ago that her unborn baby would be born with severe birth defects, specifically, missing limbs due to a condition known as amniotic bands. Basically, the sac that holds the pregnancy ruptures early on, creating numerous strips of twine-like bands that can wrap around various limbs – fingers, toes, hands, and feet – causing some of them to be destroyed.

Understandably, no expecting parent wishes for anything other them a “perfect” baby. To hear that severe deformities and lifelong disability is guaranteed from the start can spark an agonizing process akin to the five stages of grief (Kubler-Ross): Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally – Acceptance.

My patient seemed to go straight into Depression (and severe anxiety), where she “lived” for many, many weeks. Now, with her date of delivery fast approaching, she finally seems – mostly anyway – to have found some semblance of peace. Along the way, her immense suffering has been palpable. But today, for perhaps the first time since I delivered the ominous news, she was able to look me in the eyes to see another human being’s eyes reflecting back on her own. Today, Acceptance has finally become a realistic proposition.

Life is filled with challenges. Anyone who has not experienced some pain along the way is either very lucky or very young. Death, divorce, physical or emotional health disruptions, chronic pain, infidelity, loneliness, financial stress, are just a few samples of the myriad of difficulties that can confront a person on their journey. Joy, ecstasy, pleasure, fulfillment, meaning, and love are also common human experiences.

What do these examples have in common? They are all temporary states that weave together like threads to create the tapestry called “life.”

Depression is treatable, as awful and hopeless as it feels to the person going through it. Thus, taking ones own life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Please never do it, no matter how bad you might feel. Seek help instead, for as long as it takes to heal.

To the two men I heard about who found life so hopeless that they ended their lives this week, God bless your souls.

And to Karen, who faced her suffering and torment with courage and dignity, bless yours too. You are a hero in my book.

Even in the midst of suffering – especially then – never forget the prophetic words: “This too shall pass.”

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