Understanding the suicide note – Part 2

Virginia Woolf

(Virginia Woolf’s suicide note to her husband Leonard)

TO: LEONARD WOOLF Rodmell, Sussex Tuesday (18th March 1941)

‘Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.


Obviously a very different suicide note to the one above. Highly emotive and not business like in the sense of setting the practical matters straight before the death. Like the previous note it does reflect a slowly developing desire to suicide over a extended period of time.

Instead of making a series of decisions that backs one into a corner in this case there was an accumulation of emotional distress over a long time. This could have been due to the pain of a significant mental illness where she reports that she hears voices and cannot concentrate indicating a possible significant deterioration of the Adult ego state functioning. This suicide attempt results from the progressive erosion of one’s resilience due to significant emotional pain over time.

This decision to suicide does have some merit. It is easy for psychologists and loved ones to say there is always hope for the suicidal. However they are not the ones suffering the devastating pain from depression, anxiety and the sense of going mad. At that time her quality of life would have been very low, no one knows how long that will last and how often it will repeat again in her life in the future.

Some argue that suicide is a selfish act. This suicide note presents the case against that view. Where the quality of life is very low and she knows this new bout of ‘madness’ will cause significant distress to those loved ones around her. That is a fact, it will. Loved ones may say they are prepared to endure that but they will suffer as a result of her mental illness and suicidal thoughts. When she dies that suffering by the loved ones does come to an end in that sense. It creates a new distress for the loved ones but it does end the ongoing and repeated distress that her mental illness and suicidal thoughts will cause them.

Thus one can understand the logic behind her decision to make a significant suicide attempt. Her times of madness cause her great pain and cause pain for those around her. No one knows how long it will last this time and how many more times in the future it will happen again.


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