If You Stick Around (A Letter to Those Wanting to Leave this Life)

Dear Friend,

I don’t know you, but I know something about you: I know you’re tired.

I know you live with demons, ones that are close and loud.

I know how relentless they are in their pursuit of you. 

I know that you spend your days trying to silence them and your nights trying to hide from them—and the hell they put you through.

Most of all I know hard you work to hide it all; to pretend you’re fine, to paint a convincing smile upon your face, and to act as if all is well with your battered soul.

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

I know that right now it doesn’t seem like that moment will ever come.

I know 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.

If you stick around, you will reach a spot that the sadness won’t let you see right now—you’ll reach tomorrowAnd that place is filled with possibility. It is a day you’ve never been to. It is not this terrible day. There, you will not feel exactly what you are feeling right now. You may be stronger or see things differently or find a clearing and life may look a way it hasn’t in a long time: it may look worth staying for.

Tomorrow is the place where hope lives, and I want you to give yourself a chance to share space with that hope; to dance with it, to rest in it, to dream within it—because you deserve it:

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’ll find yourself in the embrace of someone who waited their entire lives to embrace you; whose path you will beautifully alter with your presence.

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.

If you stick around you will outlive your demons.

And yeah, there will be other stuff too; disappointments and heartache and regrets and mistakes. And yes, there will be moments of despair and painful seasons and dark nights of the soul you will need to endure. You will screw things up and be let down, you’ll hurt, and you’ll wonder how you’ll ever make it through. 

But then you’ll remember the hell you walked through to get here, and you might remember this letter—and you’ll realize you’re gonna be okay because tomorrow is still waiting for you, to dance and rest and dream within.

So I guess this is just a reminder, from someone who sees what you may not see from where you’re standing: 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. When you let people in, the demons shrink back, so allow others to carry this sadness with you until you are stronger. 

But for you, for those who will grieve you should you leave, and for the tomorrow that you deserve to see— 

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.)

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.


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78 thoughts on “If You Stick Around (A Letter to Those Wanting to Leave this Life)

  1. Thank you, thank you,vthank you! After a childhood of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, I had two failed marriages. One ex-husband was physically abusive, the other emotionally abusive. At 49, I met the love of my life. He got me through my daughter’s death at 32. Twelve years later he was diagnosed with cancer but given an excellent prognosis. A month later his son was killed in Afghanistan. Six weeks later, I lost my husband. My therapist just told me, “I’ve been listening to you talk about dying for four years and it’s exhausting.”. This letter came at the perfect time.

    • Mary, I don’t know how any therapist could say something so hurtful. You have been through a lot and deserve a caring therapist. Lots of love, Don

    • Mary, I don’t know you but please find a different therapist. She is obviously not helping you and does not know how to do her job, if you have been seeing her for four years and then tells you that. What a horrible horrible thing to say, especially for a therapist. I would also report her to who ever she is working for. Please call a crisis line for help, they may be able to direct you to a better therapist. Take care and God bless.

  2. Today is the 11th anniversary of the worst day of my life. It was the day I desperately tried to save my best friend as he was bleeding to death in my arms. It was the day that shatter everything I was. It was the day that I nearly had my entire future taken away by the people who were supposed to help me. It’s the day that tortures me when I’m alone at night, struggling to hang on and not let everything go.

    It ‘was’ the worst day of my life.

    Every day since then has been better. They haven’t all been good. Hell, most of them have been pretty crappy lately. But there have also been some really fantastic days. I’ve seen my nieces and nephews be born, and helped to raise them into wonderful people. I’ve got great friends who cheer me on whenever I feel down. I’ve got a lot of good things in my life to go with the bad.

    There are days where the light peeks through. They may be often, or few and far between, but they will be there, and they are worth hanging in there for.

    So please, just stick around and keep hanging in there. Tomorrow really is worth it.

  3. John, thank you for your kind words. I needed to read this tonight. I have suffered with horrible physical pain. I am nearly bed-ridden and yes I know that there are people in wheel chairs, blind, and worse off. But over nine and half years has taken its toll on my body. After many misdiagnosis; I’m am a 64 year old man that feels like I’m 90. Through all of this pain and I had to find out when my mother died that she had lied to me for many years about a will that never was. She gave everything to my sister; who is a nightmare herself and has emotionally abused me to the point of near suicide. It felt like the movie; “Sofie’s Choice”. Just having to sit through her funeral was a nightmare. Her brother, (an Evangelical minister from Cleveland) did the eulogy and I said to myself; he doesn’t even know his own sister. I wanted to get up and leave.
    So I am hanging on. Alone with no true friends. And so even though I want to believe you that tomorrow will be better; I know it won’t. When I turn 65, I will loose 2/3rd of my income and will be homeless. I went from being happy and content to a painful existence. Your writings keep me hanging in there for one more day.
    Thank you, John. You are a good man.

  4. I don’t know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering
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    Appreciate it

    • Kristen, thanks for caring. I suffer from CRPS. it is a severe chronic pain disorder. Nerve damage in my feet. MUCH worse than Neuropathy. It feels like someone has a vice and is cranking it down tighter and tighter. over 9.5 years now. Bedridden except to go to the pain doc once a month. I also loose my private disability in just about a year. I can’t live on only $1000 a month. my rent is over that now. I just can’t bare the thought of being homeless. On top of that I had to deal with a mentally ill sister. We don’t speak and the horrible pain of what my mom did to me. She abandoned me because I’m gay. It is a lot to deal with, but I try to keep hanging on.
      thanks Don

  5. maybe. things might get better for a while, but they always get worse again. worse than they were before. when you get to the good, going back to the bad hurts more than ever.

  6. Thank you for writing this. I have bipolar, and I appreciated your point of view. It was very refreshing. God has truly blessed you, and the world benefits greatly.

  7. I’m getting to old to wait any longer. Besides, why would I want to repeat things I’ve already done with no chance of repeating… I’m too tired to wait. This sucks

  8. John – beautiful; truly.

    Yet speaking of “truly” – I would hope that all those thanking you and praising you could look inside a bit. Perhaps then some of us could be kinder instead of mocking. Be more understanding instead of judging. Try to understand that we all walk in different shoes.

    Because sometimes, the cruelty cuts so deep – those with challenges that do not show on the outside break.

    Thank you.

  9. I’m sorry, but for many people this is total bullshit. Not everyone is going to get better. Not everyone is going to ever feel better. Not everyone can get the help they need – therapy, medication – to fix their mood and help them laugh and enjoy food, company and life, and it’s arrogant and irresponsible to presume you have the right to act like you know for a fact that they will.

    Wow. Just… wow. 😡

  10. Dear Anita,
    I hear a painful hopeless knowing in your response. I may not be posted, because I am “just” another reader.
    However the despair lock you “know”
    Does prompt me to respond.
    I have experienced incredible physical pain, worsening limitations, lack of relief from health care providers, stigmatization from family and isolation . Everything we took for granted can be taken away. And,
    for me, I begged for faith. Faith that there was a Higher Order, that God knew what He was doing with my life, that there was a point to the suffering. My prayer was answered slowly, that Humiity would help. That accepting God did not OWE me relief. Gratitude for acceptance. The ease that comes with surrender to painful limitations and uncertain future. And quiet listening, the answers were coming to me slowly , not from where I expected and not in my timing, yet life changed.
    For the better, in time . little slivers of relief came from “a friends suggestion, an article, painful physical training” Transformation of a moutain occurs from a constant little water trickle, in time. My insistence was my enemy. I pray for relief for the hopeless suffering, that they may hope again, with humility, to accept what is, & hope for today.

  11. Dear John, I know you mean well, but your telling me or anyone that we suffer from demons is demeaning, so so demeaning. Whatever I suffer from, it is not a medieval demon.

  12. Thank you for your wise words. All I see most days are get clouds. The world sees a happy me and inside I’m really struggling. Your words have helped.

  13. Did you really write this? It’s so good. The reason I ask if you wrote this is because I received a letter a few years ago that has most of this content in it, but I think I got the letter before this was published. Either way, I love it and it really helped in those dark times.

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