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January 15, 1997

Dead Reckoning: A Therapist Confronts His Own Grief

Author Affiliations

Elizabeth General Medical Center Elizabeth, NJ

JAMA. 1997;277(3):264-265. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540270090035

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Centered around the suicide of his 47-year-old mother when he was 20, David Treadway's memoir is of his grief, its subsequent treatment, and its resolution. The psychotherapeutic Odysseys and cures (sometimes) of the mentally afflicted are a well-established genre. Literature, theatre, and motion pictures provide many examples, although most are not as closely autobiographical as Treadway's account.

The self-reports of troubled souls have a long and respectable literary history and include such bestsellers as The Confessions of St. Augustine, Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, and de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Even the Egyptians have left us a papyrus, The Dispute With His Soul of One Who Is Tired of Life, on a contemplated suicide.

The author of Dead Reckoning, an accomplished marriage and family therapist, was 45, nearly his mother's age at her suicide, when he sought treatment. Feeling vaguely and deeply troubled despite "a good