Life is about making choices, but what happens when life itself is a choice?

A few days ago I was fortunate enough to catch the SBS’s Insight program (10th November, 2015).  Addressing the issue of whether people have a right to elect not to be resuscitated, I was moved as a mother, Jess, recounted the death of her severely disabled 6-year old son, and the choice she made when he was only 3 years old to sign a do not resuscitate (DNR) order.   If you are able to source the program online, I highly recommend you watch it.

 Choice is at the heart of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  ACT teaches us that even during our darkest and most difficult times, we can choose to pursue what’s important to us. The key to doing so is willingness – willingness to accept and be present to the pain, sadness, loss and distress that are likely to show up along the way.  Jess didn’t let her own personal fear and grief stand in the way of her doing what she valued for her son, namely, for him to live and die peacefully.  The outcomes for herself and her family have been extremely positive.

 I was deeply moved by Jess’ story, and as mother to two sons I hope never to be in her situation.  But if I am, I’ll certainly be drawing on my experience with ACT.  Jess’ story is a powerful example of what is possible when we have clarity around what matters to us, are willing to take appropriate action, and at the same time make room for unpleasant and difficult emotional experiences.  Henry was a lucky little boy.

 I should mention that Jess’ wasn’t the only story on the program – there were several other participants in the panel discussion that had / were also boldly and bravely confronting their own mortality in ways that enabled them to pursue what mattered to them in life, and death.

I was inspired by all of them.

Written by Dr. Janine Clarke