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May 11, 2023

Beautiful. Magical. And Gone.

In her debut novel, THERE ARE NO RULES FOR THIS (which releases on May 16th), JJ Elliott draws readers into a deeply affecting story of friendship, loss, guilt, healing and forgiveness. Told from the perspective of Ali, the story starts with her close friend Feeney’s suicide and progresses through its aftershocks, while continually flashing back to memorable incidents over the course of the women’s friendship. One reason JJ wanted to write this book is because she finds herself increasingly frustrated by the way suicide is treated in print and on-screen, as a mystery to be solved instead of a multilayered, complex condition that rarely can be boiled down to one specific “reason.” JJ’s blog post is a heartfelt tribute to her mother and an important reminder to those who are suffering that help is just a phone call away.


My mom was an influencer before her time. She was wildly creative, and as a stay-at-home mom to an only child, she made me the lucky beneficiary of her talents. I remember indoor snowball fights with balled-up socks, innumerable paper maché sculptures, and the most intricately designed birthday parties imaginable. This being the ’70s and ’80s, we did everything by hand, and there were no “inspo” sites to be mined.

When the 1984 Olympics were held in LA, that became the theme of my 11th birthday party. My mom hand stamped the Olympic Rings onto invitations using bottle caps and put together a program of “Olympic” events at the local park. There were medals and faux podiums; the only thing missing was a full-blown torch. The next year, she designed a murder mystery dinner for my 12th birthday. I remember her serving us fake escargot made of snail shells filled with Rondelé cheese. For my 13th, she hired a rock band to play in our backyard.

It was magical to have that kind of creativity and attention funneled my way. She was magical. She was also, I now know, bipolar. Along with her bursts of beautiful, visionary energy, she would go dark for days. Sleep during the day. Forget to pick me up at school. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. And I ache that there wasn’t more help for her.

I lost my mom to suicide when I was 17 and she was 45. I’ve spent years trying to understand how somebody so full of life could reach such a helpless place. I worked on the suicide hotlines in LA for a couple of years and talked to many people in their moments of crisis. Almost all of them didn’t want to die --- they just couldn’t see any alternatives. Together, we would think of other options. Sometimes it was as simple as going outside for a walk.

Suicide is a leading cause of death in our country --- and we almost never talk about it. Yet ironically, talking about it openly and honestly is the one thing that helps. It’s why hotlines work. It’s a small release on the crisis pressure valve, but sometimes that’s all it takes.

In honor of my mom, I talk about mental health and suicide. I write about it. I share my story and hers in the hope that more people will join in the conversation. It’s an important one, and not one you want to be having once it’s too late.

To anyone out there who is suffering, reach out. And to anyone who knows someone who is suffering, reach out. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I promise you’ll be glad you did.