I wish I could have done more. More for my client who suffered. More for his family who suffered. More for the pain, the emptiness, the despair. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep him to prolong his treatment. Not long enough to make a dent in an otherwise broken, hurt and lonely soul. I thought about him when he left. I thought about him when I slept. And now, I think about him as I type. Today was the first, but likely not the last time I will hear that a client of mine has died. My reaction was not of surprise or shock, but of sorrow. Sorrow for the man who had decided his time was up.
As therapists, we are faced with mortality. As clinicians in the field of addiction, we are faced with the cruelty and the hostage taking drugs and alcohol become. And yet, we still hold out for hope. We still strive to make a difference and we still have hope that our clients can obtain the ultimate recovery- inner peace. But like so many of the suffering, that task was not fulfilled.
I was angry when I heard the news. I was angry at myself, angry at others, angry at him. I was angry at addiction. I was angry at depression. I was angry at work. But my anger will not succeed nor flourish. My anger will be invested into what I know how to do best- work with those in need of healing. The only way I can grieve is to continue with the work I do everyday. The grieving means advocating for my clients when they cannot advocate for themselves. My anger and shortcomings will be met with a continued passion for treating those who have been unable to treat themselves.
My client’s passing is a reminder of the tremendous difficulties we face as soon as we walk into work. We work with chronic and persistent drug abusers and mentally ill men and women. We work with altruists, sinners and criminals. We work with the sad and the angry. The confused and the hopeless. And on this day, I am mourning the loss of the sad. I am mourning the loss of the angry. I am mourning the loss of the confused. I am mourning the loss of the hopeless. And I will continue to work alongside the individual who needs help.