Dear Mom by JJ Landis

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Dear Mom,

The last time I spoke to you was from the phone in Jeff’s apartment. I loved hanging out there with him, my big brother. I called to tell you I was going to stay all night at Dad’s house.

You chose that night when I was twelve as the one you would take your own life.

I was not enough to live for. Do you realize how embarrassing and awkward it makes a kid’s life when she has been abandoned by her mom? I didn’t cry, didn’t grieve, for about eight years. When the tears eventually came, they were agonizing.

You weren’t there to teach me how to apply makeup, when I started my period, or had my first crush.

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You messed with my head by leaving me, and I closed up and kept everything emotional inside for years. I eventually mixed drugs and alcohol with the trauma; my goal being to either numb pain or make another kind of pain.

You weren’t there when I was nominated for prom queen and then got kicked out of prom for drinking. You weren’t there when I dated losers, when I married a non-loser, moved to another country, gave birth.

I wonder if you assumed I’d be better off growing up with my dad and stepmom. Did you plan ahead or did you make a rash decision that night when you were drunk? It shouldn’t matter but it does. But alas, I can never know.

By the way, if you did think I’d be better off, you were incorrect. No fault of theirs – but my new parents weren’t really looking to take in another kid and didn’t really know how to handle someone so damaged.

I was left by you. And I was left alone by them.

There’s no decent place in a letter to tell you this, but I should let you know that your firstborn, Jeff, followed in your footsteps and died a drunk by his own hand and left two children behind. He was 34. Five years younger than you when you did it. I’m 45, so I have you both beat.

What have I been up to? Well, here’s where things get weird. You won’t believe it, but my life is completely remarkable. My heart is so full of love and joy and compassion, sometimes I think I will explode from all my blessings.

You’re probably wondering if I’m serious since I have mentioned all the crap I had to deal with. But it’s true. I am one of the happiest people I know. I never expected anything good to come my way, but somehow I won the life lottery. My life is so great it’s almost not fair to others.

My life is sweet, but it’s not without constant heartache. Almost every time I’m alone in my van in the garage, I think of you and how you were in a garage when you died. I think of suicide every day. Every day.

It’s not an easy, shallow happiness I carry with me though. No, I have deep inner joy. Contentment. I have met depression and anxiety, but still I am able to have a joyful soul.

In a way, this is possible because I used your bad example as the motivation to get my life cleaned up. When I was a wretched, drug-addicted drunk before I was even legally allowed to drink, I recognized I didn’t want to live an unhappy life. Suicide was not going to be my way out.

So, uh, thanks, I guess, for giving me a perspective that not many people get to have.

I also knew that I wanted God, so I searched for him. I wanted peace that came from somewhere beyond me and the world. I realized eventually that Jesus had been with me all along, weeping for me when I couldn’t and drying my tears when they did fall.  Oh, that you could have seen Jesus in your life, that you could have seen that tomorrow is always a new day and the sun will rise. Always.

I mourn the idea of you probably more than I mourn the real you. I have to fight off jealousy when I see friends turning to their moms for babysitting and recipes and traditions and advice. I was cheated. When a friend’s mom drove two hours to deliver chicken soup to her sick daughter, I physically hurt with envy.

I am fiercely devoted to my own children. I’m deliberate about my mental health and will not let them have a disinterested, damaged mom. They are having an incredible childhood and they know they are loved.

I have cried all the tears I can cry for you. I’m emptied of that grief.

I want to share what I’ve learned. That we can all overcome hardships, heartaches. That we are all valuable and worthy to be alive. We all have strength we haven’t tapped into. Life sucks a lot of the time, but life is fabulous most of the time.

My story convinced a friend to change her plans to jump to her death. She mustered up strength to take one more step, even in her utter despair and weakness. One more step is always possible.

Who knows where I would have ended up had you stayed…

It’s a frightening thought, because I absolutely love where I am.

I was in chains for years but am completely free now. I surrendered to God’s love for me. I knew my wounds would either keep me chained or set me free. I decided to build on the pain and make a way to peace.

We have all been given one time around. My hope for others is that they choose to live untethered to those who have harmed them, but choose rather to dance in the joy of freedom.

My hope is that others will choose to live.

That’s it, JJ

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To read more from JJ Landis, check out her website or look for her book, Some Things You Keep, which is about growing up after the suicide of her mom at the age of 12.

6 Responses

  1. Dianna Matzo
    | Reply

    I’m almost speechless. You describe the conundrum I think about all the time. God brought good out of a terrible event. It doesn’t make it worth it, you’d rather have your loved one back. But you are also grateful for the changes it caused in your life, heart and soul in the long run. It is hard to understand and even harder to explain: God’s mercy and grace. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Julie Harris
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing. As a suicide surviver I feel your pain. I too was helped by the grace and strength of a higher power. As difficult as its been over the years, I have grown so much as a person and have found the peace I so desperately sought.

    • Joann Jungels
      | Reply

      Thank you for reading my story. I, too, have found peace at times. I doubt that I will ever stop loving and thinking about her daily as she took a part of me with her. I have a higher power also, and I pray for guidance and direction everyday. The serenity prayer hangs in several places in my home as a reminder to me to let go of things I have no control over. That is still so hard , but getting a bit better. I am so glad you have found peace in your life, and may it continue for you.

      Joann

  3. Tracy Kruse
    | Reply

    Amazing is the word that comes to mind. Thankyou for sharing your story. After losing my youngest son aged 20 to suicide in November 2015 I didn’t know how I would survive. I have and life is great. I see all the beauty of nature around me and make sure I smile everyday. I have 4 older children and grandchildren who are a joy. Life can be hard at times but I have decided to live it with as much joy as I can. The spiritual belief I have has given me the gift of positivity and I see a beautiful world.

  4. Jean
    | Reply

    I can so relate to this something is so lost when you loose your mom like this as I did and dad too I relate to wanting both of them and being jealous of others who had that my kids were my life and now grown I find myself sometimes so lost wothout them and hurt by their choices especially when I feel they don’t honor me enough I guess I am glad they have no idea how much it hurts to loose your Mom this way I have not been perfect but am proud I have been there for them and that they have grown up and moved on maybe that means I did a good job

    • Joann Jungels
      | Reply

      Jean, I am so sorry you had to lose both of your parents to this dreadful sickness. I have no remaining children, and feel lost sometimes to when I see a family that has had good fortune with children still being a part of their life. I only have my granddaughter, and she is the love of my life, besides my husband. I hope for both of us we will find peace and serenity in the days ahead.
      Joann

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