No Words

I am searching through the emails Bridget sent. Did I miss something? She sounded excited about her essay, the one that I thought was good enough for publication. I read over a hundred of these papers, part of an interprofessional competency course. Bridget’s was exceptional—reflective, revealing—a fine example of narrative medical writing. I didn’t see anything disturbing about it; I had often had the same feelings throughout my career. Uncertainty, loss, responsibility were all normal reactions to the practice of medicine, and I believed that writing about them brought them into the light and robbed them of their power. I was wrong.
I wondered briefly why I never heard back from Bridget after her essay was accepted and published. But it was time for Boards, graduation, and internship, so I thought she was probably too busy. I notified senior faculty about her success, and indirectly of my own, in that I recognized her talent and encouraged her to submit her work. Did my own selfish pride blind me?
Today I found out that Bridget didn’t graduate. In fact, she tried to kill herself, and was hospitalized. That was all the information available. We’re not supposed to talk about these things.
I re-read the essay. I re-read the emails. Was there a clue I missed? Could I have done anything for her? My stomach churns; my heart aches.
Having suffered from depression for most of my life, I know that there is very little anyone can do when someone decides to kill themselves. I never met Bridget; I only knew her through an essay and a few emails. But how I wish I had known her better. I could have told her she wasn’t alone, that it would get better (and worse, and better again). That she would have a good life. That she was unique and valuable.
I feel guilty about my own grief. After all, it should be all about Bridget. But she is somewhere I cannot reach, and all I have is my own sense of a missed opportunity.
I send her an email I don’t know if she’ll ever read.

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