by Beth Saadati
“Given the opportunity, Jenna wouldn’t make the same choice again. But she also wouldn’t want her death to be in vain. She would want us to learn from it so we can live as overcomers. As victors. Her letter and writings are a rare gift.” -Dr. David Cox, counselor
A 14-year-old daughter’s suicide note? A gift? My thoughts reeled the day after Jenna’s death as a few close friends, my husband, and I braced ourselves for the reading of the three-page letter police had discovered on her thumb drive.
In shock, I heard the false accusations that had snaked their way into Jenna’s mind. Since then, I’ve reread the letter a hundred times and silently answered seven of its lies.
Dear Family and Extended Family,
I’m really sorry for leaving you like this. Honestly I am. During the last few months of my life I was incredibly depressed. You just didn’t notice since I put up a good front most of the time.
You probably want to know why on earth I decided to do this. Well, for some reason, ever since I turned twelve I’ve realized something—I was always a loser. Sure, I had a few friends, but overall everyone either ignored me, thought I was stupid, or outright hated me.
Lie #1: I’m a loser.
You weren’t, Jenna. You were spectacular, as your science teacher said. Lots of people liked you. Many of them really liked you. It’s just that, when depression settled in, it blinded you from seeing who you truly were, tainted your perception of the way you thought your peers viewed you, and deceived you into thinking others didn’t care.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me to make me so unpopular. Yeah, I’m not pretty, but look at Eleanor Roosevelt, Dolly Madison, and some other girls I know. Nothing stops them from having happy lives.
Lie #2: I’m too unattractive or unpopular to be loved.
What teenage girl—or woman of any age—doesn’t struggle to feel like she measures up to the images that surround her? The truth is you were beautiful, even during those awkward early teen years. But even if you hadn’t been, your immeasurable worth has nothing to do with external beauty or any social-ladder rung.
Towards the end, I began to think that maybe I suffered from clinical depression. Well, maybe. So what could I do about it? Stay on Prozac all my life? Like that would work.
Lie #3: Depression is a hopeless fight.
The teen years, when a few difficult months can feel eternity-long, are especially hard. And depression is real. Many teens and adults struggle with it; it’s not something to be ashamed of. But depression also whispers a false narrative. It lies. An anti-depressant—sometimes needed only for a season—could have helped. Or counseling. Or something else. How I wish you had told us. Told someone. We would have battled the depression with you until you made it through.
Mom and Dad, life will be easier now that you have one less child to pay for.
Lie #4: I’m a burden.
Do you have any idea what your dad and I would give to have college tuition and medical school bills to pay? No price tag can be put on the value of one’s life. You weren’t a burden. You were our joy.
Maybe I’ve already accomplished my purpose and it’s time for me to go.
Lie #5: I’ve fulfilled my reason for being here.
You accomplished a lot in your short 14 years. But there was so much more—plans to give you a future and hope. It’s not even what you would have done though. It’s who you are and the lives you would have touched that can’t be replaced. You’ve left a hole that no one can fill.
I can’t get it across how sorry I am, but I’m not strong like you. I just couldn’t hold on any longer.
Lie #6: I can’t hold on.
Beloved, all of us struggle. We get hurt. We’re often broken and weak. Do you know how many times I’ve been face down, in tears, before the Father since you left? I'm not that strong. But God is here. He steps in. The promise is true: He never leaves or forsakes us. It’s enough to hold on one day at a time.
To conclude, I’m sorry you guys will have to get over my loss. Really, it’s not that hard. It’s not like I’m unsaved or went on a killing spree or had that many friends.
Lie #7: No one will miss me when I’m gone.
Having even one faithful friend in this world is a treasure. A gift. You had far more. But . . . it’s not that hard? It’s beyond-imagination hard. There are reminders of you everywhere I go. Your absence hurts. When you ended your life, it killed a part of everyone who loved you. The saying is right: Suicide is a life sentence for those who are left behind.
Your presence—here—mattered far more than you knew. If only you hadn’t bought into the lies. Because you were loved, and we’ll never stop missing you.
This is devastating to read, Beth, but I am reading this post just before I interview a mental health expert for a story about depression and suicide in adolescents and teens. Once again, your courage and Jenna's life are making a difference. Much love to you.ReplyDelete
Such good timing, Chris. Thanks for your encouragement, and thanks for writing the story. I'm glad to hear that you are. May it speak to many. Love you lots, my friend.Delete
Oh Beth. I was crying at the first paragraph. Your courage to help others at the expense of your own pain is immeasurable. I hope others will share your words. It will help open up needed dialogue among families and friends. You addressed the lies so well that we have to recognize. Thank you for being that voice. Praying for you especially in the coming days.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Daphne. It's exactly what I've been asking for--courage to be a voice for those who have none. So your words here are very, very good.Delete
I'm in tears reading this, and I can't even imagine how many you shed writing it. Thank you for doing the hard work of turning the lies into truths--your words of life are invaluable. I admire your courage to use the amazing gift of word crafting God gave you to share hope with others. Beautifully written, as always.ReplyDelete
I cried a lot as I reread the letter and tried to word this post. Thanks, Lyneta, for entering into it and encouraging me. I appreciate you.Delete
This was almost too intimate to read; maybe because it reflected a letter I, too, received. You will bless others with your trust in God's plan for you. Your beautiful Jeanna is still touching others. Praying for you dear friend.ReplyDelete
Intimate. Yes, that's the perfect word. I've held back from sharing it for a few months for that reason. I'm so sorry that you, too, have a similar note, Robin. Without it I would have been at a complete loss as to what went wrong, but it's still so hard to read the words.Delete
Oh Beth, what a tender, heartrending response to the lies your sweet Jenna believed about herself. If only all who were considering suicide could understand the depth of the grief. I'm praying that your willingness to be transparent will make someone--many someones--get help and choose life.ReplyDelete
That's my prayer, too, and most of the reason I step out of the private to share. Thank you, Vonda, for continuing to encourage and help me.Delete
Thanks, Mary. :)Delete
I will probably have my kids read this. It is a terrible tragedy, but maybe it can help others who think there are no other options.ReplyDelete
I hope that it does. Thank you, John.Delete
Beth, Than you for thE incredible courage to share this pain. Our family will read this together and I am sending it to the school administator. You are a valiant warrior!ReplyDelete
You're welcome, April. I hope it can be used for good. You're quite the warrior too. :)Delete
Thank you for sharing this with us. I will try to help spread the word. No child, no teen, no body should ever think they are alone. The weight is too much and there are others willing to help. If you are reading this and have these thoughts, please reach out.ReplyDelete
Thank you for taking on this mission and helping us remember.
Well said, Tim. I agree. It's easy to feel alone but, really, we aren't. I'm grateful to you and so many others who have chosen to walk this out with me and help fight for life.Delete
May God's grace rain down peace on you as you minister to others.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Melissa.Delete
Beth, thank you for sharing, it took amazing courage.ReplyDelete
The power that Satan puts behind those poisoned arrows that are aimed at everyone of us is incredible. Sometimes our deflection shields are up and adequate, but many times they are not. The Lord Himself supplies us with the materials and directions to construct our shields, but all of that takes time, and the arrows keep coming. May we see with clear eyes and avoid the lies.
We love you all so much and miss Jenna terrible. Love Ron and Carolyn
You've painted a powerful word picture of what the battle looks like. It's easy to forget that we have an enemy and are in a war. Thanks for your good words, Ron and Carolyn. Komron and I miss and love you.Delete
How heartbreaking. I can't imagine wishing how you want to tell your daughter the answers to that question. Even telling depressed people how untrue their perceptions are doesn't always help. You wish you could put those thoughts in a different developmental stage of life, skipping that teen one forever where acceptance of peers is such an important thing to them. My prayers go out to your broken heart. A couple of my children went through depression also. It is such a helpless feeling at the time and you wish you could take that pain away.ReplyDelete
This is well-said. Thank you for sharing. It helps to know there are others who understand.Delete
May the words from Jenna and the words from your heart bring healing to you and help to the many others who have experienced the unimaginable. You are loved and appreciated so much!!!!ReplyDelete
Thank you, Beth. I hope they do and am grateful for you too.Delete
You have amazing strength to share your pain with us. I'm so sorry for the passing of your daughter, Jenna. I have a twelve year old daughter and can't imagine what you are going through. (((Hugs))) I will pray for you to have strength, love, and peace.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lisa Grace, for your heartfelt words and prayers.Delete
As a grown woman who failed at a suicide attempt at 15, I can identify with Jenna's letter. Like Jenna, my adolescent self thought I was being helpful in eliminating a burden for my mom and since I was almost invisible, no one would miss me. I wasn't lost in my pain or clinically depressed (at least I don't think I was). It just seemed easier, and maybe even loving, to end it all. When it was over and I survived, I didn't see it for the miracle it was. All I thought was, "I can't even do this right." Knowing my mindset at the time (and like so many that age), I was unable to put myself in another's person's shoes, namely my mom's, so I had no conception of how devastated her life would have been if I had succeeded. It took becoming a Christian and a parent myself to understand. Perhaps this is why the enemy targets the self-worth of young teens. Please know that I will be praying for your healing journey and for your writing that will impact many hearts like a ripple on a lake.ReplyDelete
Susan, I've read this multiple times through email. I'm thankful for your transparency and very glad you shared. Despite what she wrote, I don't think Jenna was clinically depressed; there were no outward signs. The pain she felt, triggered by the rejection of some school peers, was real, but I think it was as you said . . . her mindset at the time, like so many that age (including myself when I was 14), and the way the enemy targets that vulnerability. In her journal a week before her death, Jenna had penned a prayer asking the Lord to give me "a long break without any repercussions and irrational joy"--so, no, I don't think she could imagine the devastation her choice would bring to her family or friends. Having an outside perspective helps provide insight I need. Thank you, Susan. I appreciate your words and the sharing of your heart.Delete
Thank you so much for your willingness to share your painful experience, Beth. I'm so sorry for your loss. May God heal your broken heart as you trust Hum on this difficult path. You'll never know how many will be helped as a result of your willingness to be so open.ReplyDelete
May I share your post on my blog for hurting parents? Hopeforhurtingparents.com
I will give you full credit.
You're welcome, Dena. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Your fourth sentence reminds me of a saying I hold on to: We may never know the impact we've had on another, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. Also, I appreciate you asking about sharing the post. I'm not sure how that works (in case I might someday publish it in a nonfiction book)--whether it needs a byline, or a copyright, or a link back to the Bittersweet blog. If you know, please feel free to share it. I'm touched that you would ask. Your blog sounds like an excellent resource.Delete
Your loss is tragic. I, too, have found my child after a suicide attempt. She was not successful in this endeavor and there is not a day that goes by that I do not praise God for the gift of her in our lives. I am so very sorry about your sweet Jenna. You are incredibly brave and kind to share this most personal testimony with others. I hope and pray that others will read and share this post. that Jenna's and your words will make the impact they deserve on the many hurting people in this broken world... because we are not alone. Satan is the father of lies and he is incredibly wily and convincing. BUT he is a liar, a destroyer and ultimately, the loser. My prayers are with you and your family as you continue to grieve and heal. And I am grateful for your outreach; giving hope and spreading healing.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this, Judi. Although the journey "back" probably wasn't easy, I'm so thankful your child is here. Your words are powerful, hope-filled, and good. I appreciate you taking time to write encouragement and truth and am grateful for your prayers.Delete
Thank you SO much for sharing this, Mrs. Beth! Almost a year after Jenna's passing, I too attempted suicide. Although I was unsuccessful, I do relate to a lot of the same struggles Jenna faced. Reading this post was the first time I have truly began to understood the pain of a parent- being forced to accept the consequences brought on because they were left in the dark. Wow. Again, thank you, and please know that your diligency and vulnerability have great reward in Heaven! :)ReplyDelete
Thank you for vulnerably sharing this, Victoria. Never would I have guessed. I think the struggles Jenna faced resonate with many teens. And adults. It's my hope that we'll talk--as you courageously did--and not keep the pain to ourselves, because that's where it grows. I love you (as did Jenna) and am so glad you're here.Delete
I want to thank you for this. I've often thought about suicife as a young adult. (20 at the moment) my depression battle keeps getting worse and I've been blinded to those who love me, feeling like an unloved burden. I have a note like this hidden on my computer- it's been there for years, just in case. I thank you for pointing out the lies and helping me realize that there ARE reasons to live. Thank you.ReplyDelete
You're very welcome, Matty. Thank you for reading it and courageously sharing here. Depression is a difficult battle but, as you said, there are reasons to live and continue to fight--even though depression can blind us to them and make it hard to see. Hold on. Please don't give in to the "just in case." I don't need to know you to be able to say there are many people who really do love you and care.Delete
Jenna's letter and your responses are such a powerful message of the pain that accompanies depression. Your replies to so many of the comments also remind me of how important it is to tell the people in our lives how much we love and value them every day. Thank you for your courage.ReplyDelete
Yes, it's very important--and something that's easy to take for granted and not do. Jenna's letter has reminded me of that too. Thank you for your insightful words.Delete
Watching beloved pre-teen go through ostracism and ruthless bullying due to learning disability.Her mother needs to see Jenna's letter.ReplyDelete
Taken back to same in junior high,early bloomer- torment lasted until graduation.The MDD wasn't dx until 32.
First ideations hit.Face down in a heap, I considered ending my pain, but could not torment loved ones. Hospitalized many times due to serious ideations. Like Jenna, I looked to the cross and salvation. I was aware of the red flags-but I was an adult.Adolescence can leave such scars.
After 25+ years in advancing therapies,I have come to understand why someone would do it.I used to think it was an unpardonable sin, which may have helped save me at the time.
I have come by faith to believe it is not an eternity separate from God, but as you said, His plans for hope and future ,Jeremiah 29:11-14 are diverted. He always has a back-up:(Romans 8:28) I hope that you continue to heal and soon to flourish and thrive because His promises stand. Jenna no longer sees through the glass darkly.You will make sure she did not die in vain.
I have someone to share this with.Please pray it helps. Much love to all.
What you say is true--we often carry childhood and adolescent wounds into adulthood. My heart aches for the hurt you've endured, Alison. I appreciate your willingness to share your story, because others will relate. And, I'm glad you're here.Delete
I believe that, a minute after her death, Jenna could see clearly. She now knows the truth. She's with God--NOTHING can separate us from His love--and the story will end well. It's just that cutting short her life wasn't His desire. There was still much for her--along with those she left behind--here.
Thank you for sharing the letter. I will pray that it brings light and hope. The bullying is wrong. "Beloved" is our true identity and the right word.
Beth, I will save this post to "Favorites" because of its impact. I cannot imagine the pain you and your family have already lived through and surely continue to push through. I pray the Lord will use these words like a lifeline to a drowning person. Thank you for shining the light of truth into the darkness of lies. Your words resonate with me because of the wrong thoughts I entertained in the past. May you feel the Lord hugging you extra tight today.ReplyDelete
What an encouraging comment, David. Thanks for taking time to write--for speaking blessing and truth back to me today. The simile is powerful. That's my prayer too.Delete
I can't stop crying as I read these posts. It's like looking into a mirror of what could have happened in my life. I was writing a book at 14, too, and so many times over the teenage years I stood at the doorstep of death and knocked. My heart hurts so much for you. It would have destroyed my mother if I had left her. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's so important to keep speaking these truths into the world.ReplyDelete
I'm touched by your words. Thank you for choosing to read the posts and for taking time to share this. The more I hear others' stories, the more I realize that this isn't unique to Jenna. You said it well; it's a reflection of the struggle many teens--and adults--face. I'm beyond thankful that your story had a different ending.Delete