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Have you ever gone a long trip away from home? You might have all kinds of lists before you go, likely including a ‘To Do’ list in preparation for the trip. There are things that need to be taken care of before you can comfortably leave home. When someone is seriously considering suicide, they are preparing for the most important trip of their lives – one where they would not be able to return.

The warning sign we’re discussing today is “putting one’s affairs in order.” This is someone’s ultimate ‘To Do’ list, and it could be longer or shorter depending on the timeframe they have set for attempting suicide.

In some ways, putting affairs in order says “my purpose is done.” Once the primary life mission is complete, the person reasons, all that is left is ‘wrapping up loose ends.’

The value assigned to the tasks or items on the list might end up resembling a parabola – high on the ends and lower in the middle.

The items at the top of the list were the highest priority. Those entries might be attached to, or represent, the most critical people, places, or things where something was seen as incomplete.

The items at the bottom of the list may be the ones that were close to the person’s ‘heart,’ and the hardest to accomplish. Those entries represent the hardest people, places, or things that the person felt they had to say ‘goodbye’ to.

While someone’s final ‘to do’ list may look random at first glance, once the crisis has passed we can examine the list in more detail and not just have it be collapsed into a single generic warning sign of “They were putting their affairs in order.” We can ask “Why were these affairs in mind at what was seen as the last days of their life?” What broader values and priorities can be gleaned from the affairs they wanted to ‘put in order?’

I would love to learn from your experience too. What recovery insights have you encountered or discovered in working with clients who had (started) putting things in order as they prepared for suicide?