Thursday, September 10, 2020

Before You Reach the End

 “Listen to the people who love you. Believe that they are worth living for even when you don’t believe it. Seek out the memories depression takes away and project them into the future. Be brave; be strong; take your pills. Exercise because it’s good for you even if every step weighs a thousand pounds. Eat when food itself disgusts you. Reason with yourself when you have lost your reason.”

~Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression


by Beth Saadati, with guest songwriter Heidi Haase 

The deep sadness—sometimes hours, sometimes days, sometimes weeks of depression—began when a beloved daughter died by suicide. It’s lingered seven years. Although the intensity of the sadness has decreased, intermittent waves of grief still crash, still threaten to pull me under, still leave me grasping for a lifeline to hold onto while I wait for each wave to break and recede.   

During one severe surge a couple years ago, my lifeline was a song—a song written and recorded by Heidi Haase, a beautiful family friend whose personality, character, and appearance reminded me more of my oldest daughter than any other high-school student I’d taught. I played the song again and again. I let the words sink in.

And I wished Jenna also could have heard and taken them to heart.

So today, on World Suicide Prevention Day 2020, Heidi and I extend that lifeline to you—for any day of the year you may need it, for every wave that tries to drown you, for all the pain friends and family cannot see.

Reason with yourself.

Listen. Believe. Be brave.

You’re not alone.

You’re stronger than you know.


With love, 


note: Please view the YouTube song video in the web version if it's missing here in the mobile version.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Suicide Kept You from Turning Twenty-Two: 20 Vignettes

by Beth Saadati

“What I would give for a couple of days—a couple of days.” 

~TobyMac, “21 Years 


Today. Thursday. August thirteenth. You were born on another Thursday, another August's same date. You were finally here, making that day lovely. And good. And right.

Vignette 1: I schedule my first-ever salon appointment at the beginning of this year. The price is outlandish. But I want to see your friend. She’s grown up. Beautiful. She cuts my hair’s broken ends. We talk about you, we talk about her. She says her fiancĂ© is wonderful, they’re buying a house, they're planning a wedding. An invitation never arrives. I don’t understand why. Later I'll learn the ceremony was small, private, only for family. Maybe it’s for the best, because you should have stood by her side in the bridal party. And I would have cried—imagining what could have been—and wrecked the special event.

Vignette 2: Your second friend supports and encourages your brother and me. After fighting to overcome unforeseen health challenges that stump the country's top MDs, he takes the MCAT. He will study to be a doctor. He’ll follow your dream.

Vignette 3: I see your third friend at a graduation party. She approaches. She radiates joy. For a long time we talk about her college, her graduate-school plans, her study of art therapy as a tool for grief counseling, the great guy she’s dating. Later her dad tells us she visited your grave where she yells, cries, and finds more healing.

Vignette 4: Your fourth friend drives two hours, unexpectedly stops by for supper. We eat. He stays until nine. He talks about the hardship, the struggle, the reality of life. He hasn’t forgotten. He speaks your name.  

Vignette 5: My phone pings. I check the text. An ultrasound picture with two words and two question marks: Guess what?? I burst with gladness for your fifth friend and his wife. I’m touched that he privately told me before publicly announcing the news. I’ll never receive a surprise ultrasound photo from you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

To the Broken...

by Beth Saadati

I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

On a chilly 65-degree early-October South Carolina evening—yes, chilly…my Northern blood has turned Southern—a friend leaned in close during the high-school football game. “I heard the marching band’s voice-over this week,” she said. “It’s intense. It might be hard for you to listen to.”

I gave a faint smile, assured her I’d be fine, and buried the words in the back of my brain. Why be afraid? In public—okay, pretty much anywhere, even at home unless I’m alone—my guard stays up. I don’t get emotional. I protect my heart.

The following night, however, something changed. It happened at a different high-school stadium, thirty minutes away. Scanning the scene like an anxious teenager looking around a lunchroom for any familiar face, I climbed the bleachers. The crowd contained no one I knew, but I spied an empty spot beside a friendly looking couple. With repeated excuse-me’s, I shimmied my way across a tightly-packed row of viewers and plopped down on the concrete bench.

Next to me sat an elderly white-haired man, beside him his pom-pom-waving wife. They told me they’d come to watch their grandchildren perform. My teens’ grandma has never gotten to see my kids compete, I thought. She’s eight years in the nursing home, ravaged by Alzheimer’s, unaware of who she is, being fed supper by their grandpa as we speak. I felt the familiar sting of absence but managed to utter with full sincerity, “Your grandkids sure are blessed to have you here.”

He nodded his agreement and asked, “Do you have a dollar?” An odd request to be sure, but I rummaged through my purse. He extended one hand. I gave him the bill.

Meticulously, he folded it, creased it, transformed it with care. Then the origami artist presented his creation—George Washington’s picture converted into a tiny two-inch shirt. His eyes twinkled as he inquired, “How many kids do you have?”

It shouldn’t have been hard to answer. This wasn’t calculus. But I mentally froze upon hearing the innocently asked question I HATE. My paralysis produced an awkward silence as my panicked mind pondered: Two? Or three? What should I say? Finally I lied and betrayed. “Two,” I muttered. Sometimes it’s easier not to explain.

“Girls or boys?” he asked.

Again, I lied. “One of each.”

Thursday, January 2, 2020

When the Memory of One Night Won't Go Away

by Beth Saadati

January 2 started like any other day—a welcomed return to structure and routine after two weeks of winter break, with all the hope and promise that accompany a new year. At 3:45 I naively wove through the high school car line to pick up my freshman daughter, completely unaware the world I’d known was about to change.

In the backseat, Jenna chatted lightheartedly with a carpooled friend and recounted the day’s happenings. One awkward moment peppered the list—circulated talk about a guy with a girlfriend who’d asked Jenna to the I.B. Ball, even though she’d said no. “I always attract drama,” Jenna declared.

She laughed it off then asked how many friends had emailed to say they planned to come to a game night she’d host in three days. “You’re already up to fourteen,” I replied. She smiled, seemingly happy with the news.

On the afternoon of January 2nd, Jenna waved no red flags. Her arrival home was followed by a little time in her room, the customary change of clothes, a request to go to her “thinking spot” by the stream as long as she returned in time to finish AP world history homework before attending youth group. Without hesitation I agreed and returned to editing a friend’s novel—the chapter in which the villain appears. Unsuspecting fingers clicked laptop keys.

Time ticked by. Darkness replaced light. Jenna never arrived.

January 2 ended like no other night. A long search. A police interrogation. Friends thoughtfully picking up my two young kids. Sirens, flashing lights, yellow caution tape. Fear of abduction, fear unlike anything I’ve ever known, concluding with a friend’s gentle delivery of eleven terrible words: “Your daughter is dead. It appears she took her own life.”

Then a wailing of “no” that didn’t sound like my voice. A sleepless night. A suicide letter to read, a funeral to plan, painful decisions to make.

The morning before visitation, I sat in the funeral-home parking lot with a family friend—a friend who wanted to say his goodbye privately before the evening crowd came in. We sat in the Accent for over an hour, neither of us ready to see the beautiful girl who, in this world, would no longer smile, laugh, or open her eyes. He glanced towards my seat, said he’d known someone who’d walked through trauma and was never the same, said he didn’t want me to end up that way. I internalized the challenge, assured him I’d be okay.