Dr. Manges Ph.D. | Forensic Psychologist | Expert Witness

When we think back on our lives there are some watershed moments. Graduating, getting a car, getting married etc. Amongst the others, there was one case that has particularly been significant to me.

As a part of being a Forensic Psychologist, working with clients in Chicago, Miami and other cities across the US, I am often asked to evaluate the impact of trauma and loss. Sometimes the loss relates to the death of a family member.

In the early 1980s, I had a series of wrongful death cases to evaluate a plaintiff’s firm. We would fly to a remote landing strip in rural West Virginia, have an Enterprise car available and drive to the home of the family I was to evaluate.

I was investigating the impact of death on the surviving family members. Some families were very conservative in their recognition of their loss. They would have one or two pictures or a favorite object, like a recliner, and they would recall with fondness and tears the decedent.

Other families were more enmeshed with the loss and were hesitant to let go of clothing, belongings, pictures, and memorabilia.

More than one family would keep the room of their child intact, just as it had been the day they died.

wrongful death of a childOne family allowed me to go into their son’s room as they had kept it a year after the death. Permission to enter the room was an obstacle. There was a simultaneous pride and guilt. Pride about what they had nurtured and loved about the decedent and guilt over not being able to let go of the memories.

On one such occasion, I visited the family and their enshrinement to the memory of their loss. The bed was made, the dresser was filled with coins and keys. The closet was filled with clothes.

I asked about the remnants and asked about the meaning to the decedent and to the family. The keys on the dresser struck me as odd. They were hotel keys and plastic from sites where the child who was a man of 20 and his father traveled together when they went out on assignments as gas line repairs – the father survived the explosion in the field, the son did not.

After leaving the home and looking over what I had written about my experience, the keys took on significant meaning for me. I have since considered it a metaphor for what I seek to do with my clients, i.e. to unlock the emotions that represent the issues with which they are struggling. I have designed my logo around the concept and have been collecting keys and locks from around the world in keeping with my watershed moment.

And finally, and Final Argument should be practiced. Pace yourself, walk and talk your words, keep your gestures in concert with your concepts and approach the rail when you are talking softly. Do not practice in front of a mirror, practice in front of a reflective surface that allows you the room to express yourself as you will at trial. Let me know what works. If you find something you want to share forward it to the address given. Good luck.

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