Encounters with Suicide: A Psychotherapist Remembers Not to Forget

Encounters with Suicide: A Psychotherapist Remembers Not to Forget

by Catherine Ambrose

A psychotherapist treating a suicidal client struggles with memories--and forgetting--of suicide in her own family.
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Forgetting Begins

Back when phones had cords and I was sixteen, my mother’s friend called our house one afternoon and told me that she had a shotgun across her lap and asked me if I could give her one good reason why she shouldn’t blow her head off with it. I was alone in the house because I had not joined my family that year on our annual summer vacation in Maine. Instead, I was flirting with an eating disorder by trying to live on iceberg lettuce with low-fat blue cheese dressing and getting up each morning at 4:30 to ride my bike two miles to the Holiday Inn just outside town where I was working as a waitress on the breakfast shift. So there I was, all by myself, trying really hard to think of the right good reason. Already I was imagining the explosion roaring through the headset, the result of my inadequate and faulty answer.
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Catherine Ambrose is a psychodynamically oriented psychotherapist with 20 years of experience in private practice, mostly at The Temenos Center for Psychotherapy and Personal Growth. She specializes in treating women with eating disorders and couples with relationship problems. She recently graduated from New Directions: Writing with a Psychological Edge, a 3-year program in writing and psychoanalysis sponsored by the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. Her work has been published in Voices: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy.
Beautiful, touching, sensitive article. Thank you.
Anuradha Vittachi
Thank you for this moving, insightful, honest piece of writing. I enjoyed your vivid, tangible descriptions and thought provoking ideas. I was also touched personally as my father attempted a suicide not long ago and I remember the whole mixture of feelings I was thrown into.
S.H
Thank you for writing and sharing this moving, insightful, beautifully crafted piece. I found it incredibly powerful and relevant to me both personally and professionally. I, too, have a family history of suicide and am a psychotherapist who treats individuals who struggle with suicidality. Your sharing about your self-exploration regarding these themes was very helpful to me and provides a mechanism for my own growth and development as a therapist and survivor of suicide. Thank you again.
Karen S.
Your article is helpful to me for several reasons. I find your use of self, your willingess to explore your forgetfulness, brilliant. I also hear the intelligence of that the work is to probe the suicide narrative rather than to use therapy as a vehicle to move away from talking about suicide. Nice article!
Stephanie Sanger
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