If You Stick Around (A Letter To Suicidal Teens)


Dear Hurting Teenager,

I know you want to leave.

I know the horrible, endless walks through the hallways that you endure every morning, near vomiting.
I know the afternoon bus rides to Hell where you sit frozen with fear, praying to just become invisible.
I know the locker room beat-downs and the lunch room stares and the wounding words behind your back and the hateful taunts in your face.
I know how it takes every bit of strength you have just to paint on a smile and pretend you’re OK and to hide how much it hurts and to act “normal”.

I know that all of this has left you exhausted; that you’ve numbed yourself and hurt yourself and starved yourself, in the hope that their voices will become silent and their fists will be lifted and you can finally breathe again.

I know that right now you’d rather leave than live.

And even though I’m not standing in your shoes and even though I don’t know you and even though I have no right at all—I’m asking you to stick around.

I’m asking you to stay; to endure your incredibly painful, totally senseless now because I can see your glorious, blindingly beautiful then, if you do.

You see my friend, if you stick around your giants will shrink. All those monumental terrorists whose daily words fall heavy upon you like boulders, will begin to get smaller and smaller and smaller as you walk deeper into your life. Their names will fade from your memory, their power will be drained to nothing, and those whose opinions and accusations now loom so very large and important to you will be but specks that you brush from your shirtsleeve on the way to greatness.

If you stick around, you will see just how big the world is, and just how small the minds of those who once tried to ruin you were. You will understand how much hatred they had for themselves, and see the weakness that tried so hard to look like strength; the insecurity that masked itself as arrogance and as unbelievable as it is now, you will actually pity them, realizing how very wounded they were.

If you stick around, you will travel to amazing places that will take your breath away and see sunsets that have yet to be painted in the evening sky.

If you stick around, you’ll eat that cheeseburger; the one that will cause you to make an actual audible noise in public (and you won’t regret it).

If you stick around, you will hear that song that will change your life and you’ll dance to it like no one’s watching (and then not care that they are).

If you stick around, you will hold babies and see movies and laugh loudly and you’ll fall in love and have your heart broken—and you’ll fall in love again.

If you stick around, you will study and learn and grow, and find your calling and find your place and you’ll lay in the grass, feeling gratitude for the sun upon your face and the breeze in your hair.

And yeah, there will be other stuff too; disappointments and heartache and regrets and mistakes. You will screw things up and be let down, you’ll face terrible pain, and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever make it through.

But then you’ll remember how you got through the hallways and the bus rides and the locker room and the lunch room, and you might remember this letter and you’ll remember how freakin’ strong you were—and you’ll realize you’re gonna be OK.

So I guess this is just a reminder, from someone who sees what you may not see from here; the future, one that will be a lot better with you in it.

This is a plea and a promise, a dare and an invitation.

Hang on.
You are loved.
Things will get better.
Trust me.

Cry and get angry and ask for help and punch a wall and scream into your pillow and take a deep breath and call someone who loves you.

But whatever you do…

Please, stick around.


(Note: If you’re struggling with depression, desire to self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, talk to someone.

Help can be found here and here and here now. You are worth fighting for.)


89 thoughts on “If You Stick Around (A Letter To Suicidal Teens)

  1. I wish someone like you would have told me this when I was a teen. I stuck around and I am 44 now. I am glad I stuck around. I had friends who didn’t stick around and many people still grieve those losses to this day. They didn’t realize how many people loved them then and still do now. If you ever, ever t think about hurting yourself, PLEASE tell someone who can help you!!!

      • No offense, but, it seems that of course you’d say that. I’ve seen people grow into a life of pain, and go out just the same. I’m not 19 yet, but I’ve had people shoot me straight. I also know that no matter what you say, you write of moments, and you live a life of success.
        Please enlighten me on how holding on is worth it to a random no one, who barely passed high school and doesn’t like anything?

        • When I was 18, I did not think I would be where I am today. It was a long hard struggle but I kept pursuing at what I wanted and tried to ignore the ney sayers. Today at 62 I finally have come to be worth 1/2 million dollars in assets. No, thanks to any human. Only my faith in God. If it were not for my love of God I do not believe I would have survived all the trials that were sent to me. Praise the Lord, I am so blessed. I guess I just kept reading about Job thinking one day I will be so very blessed.

        • He is trying to say that while life is painful now there is a lot of beauty ahead. Trust, have faith that things can get better even if it doesn’t feel that way now. Please speak to your doctor and tell him/her how you are feeling. A good therapist can help you figure things out. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but you will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Always remember you are someone. You are someone’s daughter, someone’s friend, a future partner, mother etc. Keep holding on.!

      • Thank you John, this is such a beautiful letter. My nephew is in the hospital at barely 13, because of his 4th attempt at suicide, this time he almost succeeded. I will share this letter with him, since it resembles his feelings from my conversations with him.

  2. Awesome letter John……thank you!! I pray that young people will read this letter. For those who are suffering with these issues, I pray they hang on. For those that aren’t suffering, I’m sure they know someone who is and I pray they will share this letter with that person.

  3. This is so beautiful. Thank you for writing it. I hope it reaches the person(s) who desperately need to see it.

  4. I wish every school newspaper would publish this, every hurting teen { and even those who are not teens } would read this.

  5. im in tears right now ,, lol ,, Im this close to leave the world , and you just JUST MIGHT gave me hope to hold on a little bit more ! 🙁 not enough hope tho , thanks , and sorry <3

    • Hannah,

      You are much more than “The Ugly Girl”. You are original, and beautiful, and loved.

      Read this post again, and sick around.

      I promise, life is worth staying for.



      • Maybe I am , Or maybe not ! ,,I named myself the ugly girl because I felt ugly at that moment ,,and at this moment I feel grateful cause I found your website , and I’ll re-read the post again and again … thank you , thank you a lot 🙁

        Love ,

        The Beautiful Girl ? 🙂

        • Read it as often as you need, and keep hanging on. You ARE beautiful, and you need to stay until you believe it, and then keep staying. Nobody else can bring to this world what you do. You’re not alone – hang on to that.

        • Hi there… Don’t think there’s ugly people, just ugly hearts. And that is unseen to most. If life gets ugly, believe that you have the power to make it beautiful for yourself and others… Stay strong ya…

    • People always tell me that it will get better… with time. But honestly I sometimes I don’t feel like it will get better because the people that I lost from them taking their own lives in different ways I won’t EVER forget and I won’t ever understand. And I won’t ever forget how I felt at that time or all the time about them. It hurts everyday and I don’t plan on that feeling ever going away. That will never go away. And that will never get better because it happened and what makes me sad and miss them and what happened will never disappear and I will think about it forever. I think about it everyday. But recently I have been only thinking about myself and what I can do in this pretty much really screwed up world to make myself happy because I am living and I am me. I know I will have different experiences and I know it will take time for me to do what I want. All my money goes to bills and I spend all my time working. I don’t understand how I will ever travel or gain experiences or save money with all the bills I have to pay. But I know that in a few years I will make more money and I will be able to have those things. Not now. Which sucks because I want it NOW. I want everything NOW that will make ME feel better or make me happy. But I will work to live. Not live to work. So I am just using my job that I dislike on a daily basis, and I can’t find or get an interview for a different job, to live. Work to Live and do what I want. I know I will have great moments in my life ahead. I see little bits of that here and there right now but not to the extent I wish I could. They won’t be great moments everyday and I get that… People always say live everyday as if it were you last. But honestly I don’t have the means to live that way as I would picture it. But keep going. Live for the moments that you will love forever. The moments that you are just so happy and smiling truly even if it is for only one day. But that one day you will have more than one. And live because whatever hurting you you are stronger than and you know that you can find amazing things in this world to do. You are beautiful. If someone is saying you aren’t F them. Leave them. Its not worth it to have them around. Surround yourself with people that will only love you. Love you for you and everything about you. And ones that will call you out for being lame. Just be you. And if people don’t like it it doesn’t matter anyways because only you needs to love you and there are people out there that will get you and get all of you. We are beautiful in our own ways. Anyways. I just felt like I needed to write something. This world is screwed up but I am finding my own bits of happiness through it and that more than makes up for it. LIFE IS WORTH STAYING FOR.

      • Very well said! Hang in there. Things will begin to fall into place. There is no reason to rush in life. Going back to what you said… enjoy the little things in life.

      • When you’re filled with pain, anger, desperation, depression, hopelessness, and feel like there is pretty much no point to hang on, do something for someone else who needs help too. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, be a force of good to help someone else who needs it too. This way, you can feel purpose in helping another person.
        Purpose is what we need to feel to stick around. Find your purpose, we all have one, and shove every ounce of time and energy into it that you can. You will be glad you stuck around. And there are ways to find your purpose and feel better NOW. There are endless amounts of volunteers needed for kids, big brothers big sisters, children’s hospitals, homeless shelters, animal shelters. You can go there right now, unannounced, and will give you purpose.
        I’ve been there, not so long ago even, and I found my purpose in my children. They are my reason to stick around. I’m 31 years old. You don’t need to be a teenager to struggle.

    • I was the ugly girl too. I was the school freak. Nobody liked me and everyone taunted me. Getting beat up was an expected part of the daily routine. Against all odds, I stuck around. I dug deep inside of myself and found the strength to keep going. I found a God who loves me, and helped me heal. Trust me; as tough as it is now, it will be so amazing if you only hang on. John is right, your future is so much brighter! You WILL be ok! <3

    • Please don’t, hon. I was bullied at school, not listened to at home. I am now 70, and sometimes scars do not fully heal. But what changes for all is what Life does to everyone. The football jock who made jokes at your expense may one day be the parent of a disabled child, be passed over for a promotion he’d counted on; undergo financial reversal he hadn’t seen coming. The Mean Girl who mocked you may one day discover her husband is having an affair and wants to end their marriage; or that she has finally reached an age where more Botox and fillers only make her look grotesque and ugly. BUT—they also may find, in their sufferings that Life gives to EVERYONE—no exceptions—that Jesus is there to catch them and to give a beautiful purpose in life that no one can take away. It took me years of suffering before I reached out to His always-extended hand. He too was mocked, spit on, beaten, crowned with thorns. So many still figuratively do it today. But He has promised that one day, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Your best days ARE coming. He has promised this.

      • Beautifully said with great wisdom! I am 50 and because of what was dished to me at a young age, it has made many disappointments of adult life easier. Learning to depend on God’s strength and promises is the key to pressing on. The sooner in life we learn this important lesson, the better off we are. Many blessings to you!

    • Sweetie,
      All that pain and sadness is a part of life, not nearly all of it! There is so much more
      It will get better, I promise, I promise.
      One day you will not only see birds sing and flowers bloom, you will be able to feel the joy they give.
      Honest to god, I promise
      You are loved
      I care, I really do
      So many people still mourn the boy that killed him self when he was just 21, people have been mourning him for over 30 years now. If only he’d reached out, if only he’d known. I care about you. I am sitting here taking the time to write and taking this opportunity to let you know.
      Honey, it does get better
      Life changes, the people in your life change and you will, too
      Sending love and holding you close❤️

    • You, the girl who thinks she is ugly. Yes, I’m talking to you! Your relying on what others say to you and about you. Why? You are a beautiful creation that God spent time on and made you ; you! Honey, looks are not what gets you by in life. Your outlook and your internal self is what people will see and what they love about you. Everyone has a talent; what’s yours? Mine is oil painting on canvas. It gives me peace and solitude to take a blank canvas and make a scenery. This taunting will not go on forever, kids are trying to find their way into adulthood, only they have a hard time letting go of what’s comfortable. Maybe you have great parents or maybe you don’t. I do know that everyone has someone that loves you for you! Please find that person and just start a conversation. If I were there, I would just sit and listen; to your days, about what you want out of life, your hopes and dreams, heartbreak of a relationship that you thought would last forever until the right one comes along and you will just know he’s the one; the forever one ❤️. You have too much to live for, stick around and all these hurting things will soon be distant memories and also a learning tool as to how you want to raise your family! You’d be a great Mama; I feel that in my heart for you!

  6. I love this; I love this; I love this. I could have used words like these to tuck into my heart when I was younger. I hope you don’t mind me spreading it around hoping to hit those who really may need it. Thanks for being a light in a dark world.

  7. Hi John,
    My name is Tamara and I’m 17 years old from London, ON. I would like to ask if I could narrate your letter in my video towards teens against suicide. I will give you credit and use word for word. Please let me know asap
    Thank you

  8. Thank you so much for writing this. I am a mother of a 14 year old daughter who self harms, suffers from depression and has been admitted to a clinic for suicide attempts. Your letter has made me cry it has touched my hurt. I pray to God for all the teens, children and adults who suffer from depression.
    Please continue to write. May God Bless You.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Sandra. I pray it provides you and your daughter some comfort. If I can be of any help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

      Blessings and Peace.

  9. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for
    me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire
    out a designer to create your theme? Superb work!

  10. I am a 50 yr old woman that decided to go back to school at 48. I am a Christian and I just have to say how absolutely blessed I am to read your blog. My focus in school and final degree will be a Masters of Social Work. My focus: teenagers. I know I’ll work with the LGBT teens because their suicide rate is just far to high, although one is far to high, isn’t it? I was a full time children’s pastor for 15 years and there is no doubt in my mind that God gave me a gift to work with these kids. I also hope to work with families and work towards reconciliation, especially with these kids and their parents. Just wanted to put a kudos to you and you following the gift God has given you. It’s beautiful.

  11. I am a 50 yr old woman that decided to go back to school at 48. I am a Christian and I just have to say how absolutely blessed I am to read your blog. My focus in school and final degree will be a Masters of Social Work. My focus: teenagers. I know I’ll work with the LGBT teens because their suicide rate is just far to high, although one is far to high, isn’t it? I was a full time children’s pastor for 15 years and there is no doubt in my mind that God gave me a gift to work with these kids. I also hope to work with families and work towards reconciliation, especially with these kids and their parents. Just wanted to put a kudos to you and you following the gift God has given you. It’s beautiful.

  12. I like much of what I have read of you so far John, but you are very wrong here. It does not simply just get better, and you should not make promises that are not necessarily true. You obviously never walked in these shoes. You haven’t experienced the addictions, the alienation and isolation, the continual beat downs into adulthood, the hatred turned inward, the low self-esteem and self-worth, the paralyzing affects socially, the depression, the life long battle with suicide, and the tapes of the voices and violence that plays out in your head for a lifetime.

    I get your point of trying to value and love someone that has gone through this and not to give up, but painting a pretty picture on what is to come is no better than the Olsteen’s painting a pretty picture on Christianity. You are doing a dis-service by making it sound like anything other than it really is.

    I respect the attempt and understand where your heart is, but like anything, it needs to stay inside truth. For many of us, it didn’t get better, only worse in many ways. The effects and monsters stay with you for life!

    Three years into trying to walk with Christ (in my 40’s), he has not made it any better or taken that pain away. In many ways, he has only made it so much worse. Especially when you find out he purposely planned all that for you!

    My heart breaks more than anyone seeing or hearing about this stuff, but I ask that you respectively keep it inside of the truth of what is also to come for some. They need protection, they need guidance, they need love, and they need support, and they need truth…what they don’t need is more lies fed into the trauma that is really to come later. Especially when they start hearing, “stop living in the past…stop being/playing a victim…” Pretty impossible to do when you have to live with the permanent tapes in your head replaying it all the time, and the battle wounds and scars to always carry!

    We need monsters to stop raising monster children, and we need more people to step up and love and protect the ones being bullied. We are quick to teach children how to defend themselves, but we are slow to teach children how to defend others who can’t. It is amazing how blind we really are to this problem, and how devastating it can be to one’s life!

    It is even more devastating to someone like me every time I hear another story of a teenager taking their life because of bullying. I am not sure how “one” life is “not” enough to truly bring about the change that is needed, but the amount of stories that you hear today is beyond disgusting and yet it seems like the problem is only getting worse.

    We want to throw treatment, prescription drugs, doctors, hospitalizations at these “victims,” instead of love! Like the victims are not traumatized enough! Yet the bullies are not being force fed the medications, the doctors, the hospitalizations, and the love they so desperately need to change. Instead we band-aide the victims, and not fix the “root” problems. Fix the root, and you will fix the problem. Continue to try and only fix the broken victim and nothing else, and kids will continue dying, or sadly, end up like me!

    • As a former bullied child and teenager, I would have to say that most of us do manage to come out of it ok. I highly suggest counseling, and find yourself a good hypnotist to get at the roots of why you are stuck where you are. It did wonders for me.

      You don’t have much of a choice about being a victim when you’re growing up, but you do have a choice as to whether or not you remain one as an adult.

      Love and strength to you.

    • Thank you. I am 70, and could not have said all that better than you did. That was my story, too. I’m known among my friends for my snarky humor, but it was a defense that I used to keep from crying so hard and so long that I couldn’t stop. I urge you to write about your pain—as a journal, as essays, however you choose to do it. You have a great way with words. It’s a gift; I hope you will use it! Love & prayers from across the miles.

  13. John, I knew you from afar while you were at Good Shepard, after reading your blogs the last few months (I’ve also went back & read old ones) I wish I knew you on a personal level. You have captured so many of my thoughts with your words. It’s obvious you have such a love for people and a gift with words. May God bless your ministry wherever & however that may be. I have no doubt that God used your “gay children” blog to show his love to people that had been missing it, just as He will use this to save a life. #lovesaveslives

  14. I sent my big brother a link to this because he is suicidal and I thank you so so much for writing this. You saved my brothers life and I don’t know what I would have done if he left. I’d probably go, too. I just can’t thank you enough for this, I really can’t.

  15. Ok, I’m not a teem, but I am being bullied and life suckling and have tried suicide, and I want to try again as I can’t see a way out, and life just ain’t gonna get better. 4 years of hell is enough for me tx.

  16. I used to be suicidal. I even attempted it, but God save me from myself. I’ve had 8 friends commit suicide, and Im only 15. Every one of them talked to me before they died, and I failed to talk them out of it. I wish I had had this letter to show them… Im trying to start a suicide help ministry in my youth group amd Id really appreciate it if I could use this letter.

    P.S. Keep writing.

  17. You have the words that many of kept silent and for that I thank you, Thank you for showing the world that it’s ok and hold on strong. You are amazing!

  18. I posted this on my daughter’s Facebook timeline so my son will see it. They will both know it is meant for him. He is 18 years old and courageously battles the forces of severe depression, Asperger’s, bullying, and coming to terms with his sexual orientation and what that means to his identity as a committed, strong member of our Mennonite church, an internal battle despite our congregation’s decision to become officially “welcoming and affirming” this year, and my husband and I’s complete love and acceptance of him, he is wrestling with the theological concepts anyway. He is an extremely gifted and intelligent young man, and theology and social justice issues are both loves of his to begin with. He hates to see when any people whether it is because of their race, religion, social ranking, sexual or gender identity, age, whatever, are treated unfairly, in a large part due to the pain from the way he has been bullied for years now. Finally this year he seems to have turned a corner, this his senior year. He is realistically looking at his future, his not so good GPA, his chances of getting into a college without a scholarship, and what his career options will be and trying to stay calm and work out a plan for his life. He spent the last two years refusing to do any assignments at home whatsoever and finally is realizing what he has done, sadly, but he is also finally actually doing his homework and getting things done and showing a greater interest in life as a whole, a huge, huge answer to years of earnest prayers of mine, my husband’s, his sister’s, his grandparents, all five living ones, and a huge extended family along with our church family, including his mentor who has a lot to do with this change. This letter is very well written, and as a writer himself if things are not well written he tends to not see the message, this is very well written and so deeply cuts right to the way his life has been lived the last five or so years that I think he hopefully will seriously take this to heart. Thank you.

  19. Been going back and re-reading old posts, and came across this on a rather significant day. You see, I do agree that, for most, the bullying voices in the school halls, on the bus, etc. do eventually lose their sting and fade into the background.

    Where your post falls short is when it is the family that is supposed to be your haven from those taunts is the one who is causing the most damage. The times I was suicidal, that it was truly harder to imagine carrying on than checking out were, and continue to be, the result of my own mother’s words.

    I won’t go into details, because she took me to that place again just yesterday, and it’s still too raw to talk about and still function. I just needed to say something to someone.

    Thank you for listening.

    • Dear Joshua, I want to thank you first off for being open and honest with us on this blog. That took a lot of strength. I am praying for and thinking about you; that God would bring someone in your life to help you. Please stick around for that help. You will have a story that someone else will need to hear, so they can stick around.
      Even though I don’t know you, I care for you, because you are a human being. Please know that the mean things your mother says and does has nothing to do with you, really. It is her own sickness showing. People who mistreat others are sick people.
      Please stick around someone will help you soon I pray.

  20. John,
    I think your blog is great,
    I too have tried suicide and have come out of depression thankfully. I have something to say about how I came out of that black dank hole of depression I was in for 15 years. I think I could help some people find hope. I want to write a blog about it but I really don’t know how. can you give me direction?

  21. We just lost another child in our county to the epidemic of suicide. Third suicide this school year in a county of less than 40,000 and at least one additional attempt. A beautiful and creative and cherished child. She was nurtured and nourished by parents who were attentive and loving. She was 13.

    I am sick to death of young people in this county forgetting that they are brilliantly incredible and absolutely necessary. How do we build resiliency in children? How do we remind them that we must have the color that they add to the tapestry of this world – that no one else is the exact shade of royalty and heartiness that they bring?

    I am heart sick.

    • My son was suicidal when he was in his middle school years as well. Depression is an evil and horrible disease. We were simply there, along with medication and therapy, to love him through it, although please understand depression is an illness, a disease that was genetically passed on to him on both sides, my husband’s and I’s genes, along with being a serious symptom of the fibromyalgia that he battles daily. This isn’t just about the child’s self esteem, or about his view of his situation or place in this world, his value as a human being, Sometimes it is the simply the severity of the depth and pain of the depression itself, which might not have a cause that was triggered from life. That is not to say, of course, that life’s circumstances don’t have great roles in making depression even worse, or triggering it in the first place in most circumstances, but sometimes it continues beyond that. But, to answer you question from a mom who has been there, the best that you can do is simply be there consistently, like a rock, with your love. I would send my son lengthy emails talking about him, my love for him, my husband’s love for him, and Jesus’s love for him, and his huge talent for speaking and writing and my hopes for him and his future, and I would also email him (he didn’t have a cell phone yet at this point, but he had a laptop at school or I would have texted these) Bible verses that I found that encouraged him, that built him up for his battles. My son, in addition to battling this severe depression that is still ongoing at 18 now, also battles Asperger’s Syndrome, and is also bisexual, is labeled gifted but is also ADHD and has learning disabilities along with the Asperger’s, has mild cerebral palsy, and gets bullied at school every day. He also has a stressful relationship with his dad, my husband. They just have a hard time getting along every day, even though they both try, there is always tension. And no, it is not because of my son’s sexuality, it is actually, weirdly, more because of his fibromyalgia pain, my son’s, my husband is having a hard time seeing his son in pain and that is coming out in the wrong way. But the most and best you can do is be there, oh and make sure that your son really knows that you are praying for him as well. If you write in a prayer journal, maybe accidently on purpose leave it open that he sees a page that you have written about him, positive prayers, or let him overhear you pray out loud with a friend, and I have prayed with him as well, too. That was very meaningful to my son. My son also had a very, very special youth pastor at that time who spent a whole lot of time with Joe, one on one, because he knew Joe was having so much trouble and he knew he was reaching Joe. Theology was something that interested Joe even then, and continues. And my dad, Joe’s treasured hero, his Grampa, was always there, a phone call away, and they spent a lot of time together.

    • If the child wasn’t diagnosed with depression they very well might have had it. Depression is an illness. It’s chemical processes in the brain that aren’t happening the way they do in a healthy brain. It’s not about building resilience though support can be helpful to a degree. It’s not that they’ve forgotten anything. No matter what someone said or told them as long as they were struggling with their illness they were going to continue feeling the way they did.

      Depression is one of the most prevalent yet least well diagnosed major illness our society faces. It can be very, very hard to tell because it works in subtle ways-at least from the outside. People with depression hide behind walls. They can seem happy on the outside but be hiding so much pain and misery within. The best thing one can do is learn as much as one can about it and then let people know you’re there for them. Learn where to guide people so that they know help is out there.

      Education and compassion is your best way of being there for all those who struggle with depression and suicidal feelings.

  22. Hi John.

    We attended Good Shepard Church briefly on our path… we saw you minister there and have much admiration and respect for you sir.

    John, your writing of “If you Stick Around” strikes me powerfully. Our son Ben age 11, on May 10 2014, was pronounced dead by suicide at CMC Main in Charlotte, NC. He took his life at our home while his younger brother and I played basketball outside. After some time of destroying and rebuilding our home, we ran to seek shelter with family in Pennsylvania.

    I have been a witness to the devastation that is suicide…
    A witness to the lack of qualified help to intervene, before and after…
    A witness to the cold callousness that can be our health system…
    A witness to a legal system that prefers to go with the “sure thing” rather than the right thing…
    A witness to an epidemic that is silently swept under the rug…
    A witness to a dark and scary social media that advocates suicide…
    A witness to schools that are either overrun by the epidemic, or their ineptitude to deal with it…
    A witness that love is THE greatest of gifts, it needs sharing…
    A witness that inherently, people need to feel like they belong…
    A witness to the survivors to say that you are NOT alone…
    A witness to those trying to stick around… John is SO RIGHT!

    Stick around, slow DOWN, be PATIENT and HOPEFULL! Your first 18 years of life WILL change DRASTICALLY, so too those around you. This rapid change will probably continue into your later 20’s or so… HOLD ON TIGHT, work hard, have fun, love people and prepare for the good stuff, because your time WILL come. I can tell you as one that was bullied, felt alone, from a divorced family (no father per se), didn’t really fit anywhere in Middle School and even with this horrific experience, I’ve had lots of good stuff worth living for and still do. I still feel I failed my son for various, personal reasons… it is a constant aching stone in my shoe, a boulder on my back. I choose to carry it, someday I may be free from it.

    For the survivors… this is the topic I believe I can speak to the most. I pray to be sincere, cautious and write with enough succinctness that my point resonates “YOU in some ways, have felt the same as I. Thus, you know you are not alone.” BUT will not put you to sleep in the process.

    The lead weight of emotions, the haunting of the ghosts and demons… they follow you whereEVER you are. Home Depot, Wildwood NJ’s boardwalk, Slick Willy’s Go-Karts, a high school reunion… For my son and I, (the jury is still in deliberation for my wife that I cannot imagine being without) we managed to kill the constant “barrage of proximities”… the kind of stuff that left you weeping on the floor every time you passed… Ben’s last look at me alive was here, we discovered his body there, watching Ben’s few friends grow… then the evil jealousy… It was decided when our son said that he could not live here anymore… we ran.

    Although WE were able to pick up sticks and haul ass, you may not be in the same position. I am telling you that you need to do SOMETHING… ANYTHING within your means that you think may be best for you and your family’s situation!!! Put the bulk (not everyone will agree) of your family before yourself!!! You must pick up the pieces and learn to crawl again. No attempt of resuming a “normal” life immediately following such a tragedy will succeed, because your life will never be the same. You will cry the first time you go out to eat while staring at the empty chair. You will avoid family games. You will attempt to scrap traditions… ALL of that basic family fabric type stuff that was taken for granted will bring you pain. There are no words that describe how much it SUCKS for me to tell you this but be prepared.

    Even though I tried to start a new life with my family, I ended up being admitted to Philhaven Behavioral (they are AWESOME but way under resourced) about 8 months after Ben’s death. I was so busy with getting our lives back up and running that, well… I guess I shelved everything. I started thinking… this pain… it could go away… I could join my son… all I got to do is… If you are feeling this way TELL SOMEONE. Do NOT keep it inside, do NOT be embarrassed. It is NOT a sign of weakness! You are devastated by the suicide of someone you loved dearly, not many people know what to say to provide comfort (there’s really nothing to say anyhow) so you feel alone. In fact you will hear well-wishers say the totally WRONG thing… BEWARE of THIS – people with good intentions will say the wrong things in an attempt to help you!!! Please let them pass if there is kindness in their hearts. You are not weak, you are HUMAN. You have been built with all these emotions and individual ways of processing them. You just experienced a tragedy, a life altering event that leaves you breathless… surreal… unthinkable. Find someone you trust and talk about what you are going through. If they want to take you to the hospital then GO.

    While admitted I came to many realizations. A few of which – I got to live with and love on Ben for 11 years, it IS better than not at all (although honestly I still resent that I didn’t have more time). I am married to the most caring, intelligent, adventurous, courageous and gorgeous woman on earth for the last 15 years. I have a witty, tough, creative and handsome 11 year old boy that looks up to us for leadership and love. I have loving, caring family in two countries that span from east to west coast that have showed us what THE greatest gift is all about. I am blessed with a job that I can take with me and supported me in doing so. If you are not afforded this job flexibility just remember, that special song you shared as a family plays on the radio everywhere… you cannot escape, only survive.

    People that you never knew cared are pulling for you… praying for you… you WILL find happiness again. I have been able to laugh and play with my son, love my wife, get together with friends and family.

    Someone once told my wife very early on in grief, “you will never find pure happiness again”. I was appalled because that’s HER story! It’s not necessarily OURS or yours. Sure, you will never be the same person, you will 10 years from now remember how much your child loved something that you are currently doing and cry… But I still believe in pure joy… and I will find it someday with the people I love.

    As far as the other topics in which I have witnessed… there is much to be said and I will not be silent. It’s just time for me to go to bed.

    With great sincerity and a humble heart, Jeff.

    BTW John… “If You Stick Around” is so incredibly well written and full of optimism… so much of what is in store for anyone, if you just stick around, is described there. I may be writing and/or speaking with a local charity here. Can I borrow it please? I’ll be sending all that listen back to you… Thanks

  23. As a teen I struggled with everything this letter says. I first thought about killing myself when I was 13 and chickened out. Now 32 years later I am thankful everyday that I did not kill myself that day. Today I am a youth pastor working to ensure that not young person goes through what I did. I want every one of my youth to know that I am here for them no matter what the issue. I will not judge or condem. They are loved unconditionally and are perfect as they are.
    Thank you John for all of your wonderful and helpful posts. You are truly changing young people’s lives by writing these and sharing them. You are an inspiration to me in how you can write such powerful letters and articles about issues facing the youth of today.

  24. The loss of a loved one to suicide is so terrible, but to lose a child is so tragic. The pain never goes away. This letter is so wonderful and powerful, and I truly hope it will make a difference for that person that is so lost they don’t know how to find their way back.

    Thank you for your inspiring words .

  25. This makes me cry every time I read it. Having a child who struggles with depression/anxiety can this truly hits home. I cannot thank you enough for all your wonderful posts. I found you through a private FB Mom group of LGBT kids and I cannot even tell you how much all of your lists speak to me. I have forwarded this to my teen to hang onto at rough times. Bless you.

  26. Just stumbled on this on fb. Of course I would have loved to have read something like this as a child, teen, and 20 something. There is an essential flaw though. Sometimes, the pain doesn’t go away or get better. There is light moments in life. But the essential fact is that, the pain is damaging. There needs to be a shift in the schools and homes. No child should have to go through this. Maybe one day my own pain will get easier, but I still live with the triggers and lack of self-worth and I am 35. I tried to lift myself up, but its nearly impossible with all the baggage. Had there been people around to help me. I wouldn’t be dealing with the issues that I have to deal with. I survived a suicide attempt. I try to not let myself get to that point again, but sometimes its so difficult. I want so much to say suicide isn’t the answer, that life will get better. I’m just finding it difficult today. My best advice is find someone you can relate to, someone that can be a support for you and that you can trust. In the mean time, adults need to be working to change the environment for the students. Teach your kids to be that change and step in when someone is being bullied or harassed. Sorry, this is a topic close to my heart.

    • I was hoping to be able to edit my post. But I didn’t see that as an option.

      Life gets heavy and I found a couple of things that help. Laughter, particularly with a light hearted movie. And waiting, normally the next day or moment, the heaviness lifts enough to breath again. Sometimes, life is living breath to breath. I just needed reminding of this.

      To anyone in that dark spot…..Your life matters, even if you think it doesn’t. No matter what someone says, you are loved, you are valuable, and your life matters.

  27. I’m not a teenager, but I’ve been thankfully (?) been through enough episodes of severe depression to know they don’t last forever and I can survive. I think that’s where people who consider suicide for the first time are vulnerable, especially if the feelings or experiences that made them think of it have been going on without respite for a while. They think there will *never* be any respite, and the only way out of the pain is out of life. But it’s not true. A life worth living is always out there. Seek help. Allow other people to love you, if you can’t love yourself. And don’t believe they’ll better off without you. It’s easy to believe, but it’s absolutely untrue. Keep living and you’ll end up glad you did.

  28. all those promises are empty promises. You can’t promise any of that stuff will happen. You can’t promise that someone’s pain will go away. Depression is an illness. It’s not something you can promise away. They need help be it someone to talk to or a telephone number 1-800-273-8255 https://twitter.com/800273TALK http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html

    That’s what people need. They need to know that it’s an illness and that there are people out there who care who they can talk to now.

  29. Thank you for writing this so eloquently. I have a child who suffered terribly from depression and was suicidal. It’s an excruciating experience. All I could do was sleep next to her on the living room floor at night and take her with me as much as possible. She’s 25 this year, and is a paramedic, now saving other peoples’ lives. Something within her made her hang on as I hope others will do when they read this.
    PS: many suicide hotlines now allow texting for those who don’t want to talk directly to another person.

  30. I stuck around, despite a suicide attempt as a teen, and sometimes I wished that I’d died that night, but mostly I was happy to be alive. Now I rarely think about the parents who abused me. I was free of them even before they died. Stick around, deal with your monsters, because it does get better, and sometimes it gets pretty amazing.

  31. I admit I only skimmed the first part and had to stop. It seems to only be addressed to public/private school teens struggling with bullying and issues that aren’t their fault. Well that’s not the only kind of suicidal teen.

  32. It is good that there are resources for help. But there should also be resources for those who are not suicidal, who are just dying one day at a time.

  33. Thank you for writing this to all who were like me 34 yrs ago. I’m glad I stuck around because everything changed in college. Those in our university’s band were mature & welcoming. They’re my friends for life. And after college, you find other people you click with, and eventually learn to stay away from toxic people. Coincidentally, tomorrow I’m giving a talk about bullying to a class of 8th graders – my story & that of my distant cousin’s daughter who took her life at 15. I’ve done this for the past 5 yrs & I’ve seen that they’ve been really impacted, and surprised that teachers have gone through bullying too. We all must keep persisting <3

  34. Mik’aela and Alex,

    I am so very grateful for each of your comments, because they acted as a reminder that depression/suicidal thoughts/bipolar disorder etc, really have no boundaries. Every person struggles differently and has their own story. I would love to hear both of yours.

    Thank you again for sharing and I hope to hear back!

  35. Thank you for this. I wish that I could’ve found these words at 15 to say to my best friend. I wish I would’ve known she was struggling. 26 years after her death, I sill miss her. She lives in my heart and I talk about her in hopes that it will help others now. Losing her changed my life forever. I wish that no one ever had to feel that pain.

    Thank you again, for putting these feelings into words.

  36. Such a good letter. I once was in this exact place. I remember feeling like things would never be better and I could not figure a way out. I’m so thankful to my best friend. She had no idea how close I was, but she took me to her church to visit one Wednesday night. This was the turning point that saved my life. In that church I found everything I needed to live (love, compassion, friends, first loves and a since of belonging that i’d never felt before. Now I can see how God directed all of this just to save me. Never give up!!! As hard as it is to see now things can and will get better. Your stuggle will be able to help someone else some day (mine has)

  37. I am an SRO for a school in Ohio, and I epuld love to have this written on a poster or pamphlet for me to hand out to students who are considering suicide. Please email me if this is something that I can use!

    I woulf like something much shorter than a book so if I can have it posted in my office or hand a smaller packet out to a student so they can read in 5-10 mins to help them out, that would be ideal.

    This is eloquently written and I believe cpuld help to save the life of a student in need

  38. I keep hearing people saying that life will get better… in my experience, it only gets harder and harder, and I never stop getting surprised after I meet new people and listen to their stories because they made me realise that we all suffer… I wonder why… I read once that the only 2 certain things in life are death and sadness so that when you feel happy you need to cherish it because it is the exception.

    I am the girl who smiles all the time and keep going through life ONLY because I think my bro would suffer if I am gone and because my goal in life is to protect the animals and environment but I see the hypocrisi in this world all the time and that upsets me… I see animal torture in the food shelves at the supermarket where you buy your meat and dairy, I see genetically modified food and how we contaminate our soils, plastic everywhere (which is not degradable).. I think that now I am hungry but I can get something to eat if I open my fridge while at this exact moment in time there are children in Africa dying… and SO ON…

    I dont want to live in a world like this and all these thoughts torture me every day… I try to live a sustainable life and be coherent with what I believe but how the world works makes me sad… so yes, my life will be “ok” (despite of all the bad things..) but the world is NOT ok and that depresses me… one day soon hopefully I will not be here anymore..

  39. Pingback: Lesson 3: Wrapping Up 13 Reasons Why – Angela Rines

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