The author Ms Susan Varga said something striking in an address to The Sydney Institute, an edited extract from which (the address, that is) was published in The Sydney Morning Herald last Saturday. So as not to be accused of taking out of context the part in which I’m interested, I’ll provide other parts as background: Ms Varga says early in the piece that her
mother died almost seven years ago. She threw herself under a train. Grief stricken and depressed after the sudden loss of her husband, she lost all will to live. She began to seek death with the same determination as she had once sought life. After several unsuccessful attempts at more peaceful means, she connived to go in secret to the train station. Her last attempt got her what she most desperately desired - death.
My mother was a kind of heroine. In the war years in Hungary she fought like a tiger to protect her small daughters, then battled to survive on her own after her husband's death in a labour camp. Postwar she came to Australia with a new husband whose first wife and two little sons had perished in the Holocaust and together they forged a new life.
She was the last person anyone would have thought would commit suicide. Yet in the end she was defeated by the accumulated traumas of her life. She had never had time to grieve, never indulged in introspection, never came to terms with all her losses.
Was she within her rights to say, ''enough, I want to go''? There is such a thing as genuine overwhelming grief or sadness that need not be medicalised as depression. Surely psychic pain can be as legitimate a reason to want to die as physical pain. We can also have good reasons for not wanting to be a part of life.