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When You’re Sure You’ve Had Enough of this Life, Hang On

It breaks my heart to share with you, beloved readers of this blog, that we lost Shanna Mahin last week when she took her life. She was an early, rambunctious, defiant, hilarious and generous member of this community. She was demanding in the best possible way, critical in the smartest possible way, searingly honest and screamingly funny. She once dared me to a weight gain competition. We were yo-yo dieting twins separated at birth. I don’t know the circumstances that led to this tragic and final act. Beloved Shanna, fuck fuck fuck. You were dearly loved and will be sorely missed. I am so sorry we lost you. I want to say one thing to anyone struggling out there: life wants you at least as much as death. Life wants you at least as much as death. If you are struggling, get help. There is help. And there is hope.

Please leave a memory of Shanna or any words you’d like to celebrate this brilliant writer’s life.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 800-273-8255

29 Responses

  1. This such sad news. My deepest condolences to all here and to those who were close to and loved Shanna. Bright lights going dark are so hard to bear. I know too well how people suffer with mental illness. If you want/need help, please seek it. Please hear Betsy’s words. Life wants you. We want you.

  2. I remember how her face looked early in the morning. No makeup, hair sticking out every which way, vulnerable and glamorous with her e-cigarette and freckled cheeks. I remember getting really drunk with her and falling up the stairs, both of us cracking up and hissing at each other to keep from waking the others. I remember avocado toast on sourdough. How my dog bit her and hers bit me. I remember laughing constantly when Shanna was around, and being exhausted, and not getting all the references, and being awkward on my side of the friendship because she was so much larger than life.

    I remember how we talked about suicide. I’ll always remember that now.

  3. this is terribly sad news.

    i always enjoyed Shanna’s voice–clear, funny, honest, and self deprecating–and her quick responses on the forum. she was so funny! but reading her memoir helped me understand how she came to live an emotionally honest life. it seems to me that this kind of honesty is painful. i’m thankful she shared her words with us let alone her story.

    please seek help if you’re feeling unbearably low/anxious. we need to hear your stories. your voice is important.


  4. I saw this news yesterday and was so saddened. I remember Shanna was part of the finish the fucker crew back in the day. I bought OYPYT when it came out and emailed to say how much I’d enjoyed it.. She replied to thank me and encouraged me to “keep wrassling” with mine. I just searched my emails and found those exchanges, and her iPhone signoff:

    “Sent from an iPhone that arbitrarily changes my words and often makes me sound illiterate.”

    “Life wants you at least as much as death.” Yes.

  5. I opened this, and saw the picture with the striking white hair, and black glasses and thought, oh, what’s she up to? Maybe another book!

    Then I scrolled down, and of course the first few words gave me that familiar sinking sensation. Condolences to all who knew her so well. Her words and wit will be missed in this space and beyond.

  6. I remember swimming with her in the lake naked, smack in the middle of the day, her not giving a shit if anyone saw us and me pretending not to. And then there was the evening she was the only one who got in naked in front of all my church-lady neighbors and the woman pastor in the water was like, “Well, alright! Cheers.” I remember how, when it it was her night to cook, she hired a private chef. I remember how she could write something totally on the fly and it right off would be super detailed and wit-sharp and funny and devastating. I remember the night we had the dance party and she found all the good songs. I remember how she always had to have the big bedroom but would make you feel like you got the big bedroom.

    The year she sold her book, I remember the midnight after I read a piece and she set her bourbon glass down hard and told me, “Honey, your writing. You’re trying to hard to get people to like you and it’s killing your work.” I was so fucking angry. And then I went home and thought about that sentence every singled goddamn day for months because she was right. That incredible sentence is how I had the courage to start writing about politics and my secrets and take the blows and do it again the next week. I tell this story to every creative writing class I talk to.

    And like Averil, I remember how she regularly talked about suicide with a shoulder shrug and her sharp tongue and that’s all I can think about right now. I can’t fucking believe she’s not here anymore.

  7. My love to you all!

  8. Such terribly sad news.

  9. Shanna taught me how to hug someone like I give a damn. She laughed with me about all the terrible, terrible things. The funniest email I ever received was a response from her after I shared something dark and awful and I can’t even tell you what she said because then I would have to tell you the whole story. She made up the best words, like “therapized” as in someone who has received — or usually hadn’t received — enough therapy. She once used the phrase “vulnerability hangover” and I think about it all the time. The first time I met her online was here. I will always be grateful for that. The first night I met her for real, she told me something that felt like someone pulled off a blindfold I didn’t know I was wearing. Without even meaning to, I mimic her whenever I “oh honey” my kiddos. (As in “Oh honey, that’s not gonna work.”) My heart is broken. xoxo

  10. I’m very sorry to hear about Shanna’s death. Memories of her will be with you always and you were very fortunate to have known and loved her. Peace.

    Also — “Night Falls Fast” by Kay Redfield Jamison.

  11. I just found this guest post from her highness. My god she was amazing. Pen, meet vein.

    Everybody Had A Hard Year, Everybody Had a Good TIme. Everybody Had a Wet Dream, Everybody Saw The Sun Shine

  12. I only knew her here, but her comments always gave me something interesting to think about.

    I’m so sorry and sad for all of you who knew her personally. This is so hard and I’m very sorry.

  13. I loved her novel. Her comments here always made me think and laugh.

    My condolences to all who knew and loved Shanna.

  14. Like someone above, I saw her picture and thought, cool what’s she up to…and then there’s the gut punch.
    And then reading her old post, ten years ago, and there we all were, and it brought back all of the friendships and love and disagreements and writing that was all going on back then. We were quite the tribe.
    And now she’s just gone. God that makes the back of the throat burn. So here’s to Shanna in all of her glory and pain and words that made you stop, stop and reread them because they were so damn visceral. And here’s to all of you that knew her in real life, and the empty void that leaves behind.
    Betsy, Teri, Amy, Averil and anyone I may have missed, I am so sorry for your crushing loss, and to Shanna, dear, raw Shanna, I wish you peace.

  15. Such a bright star, sadly gone forever dark.

    I hope she is at peace and that, amidst her most difficult times, she still managed to know how much she was loved and admired.

    Survival can be the toughest of challenges, even for the seemingly toughest of us.

    “You’ve got to get obsessed and stay obsessed. You have to keep passing the open windows.” — John Irving, The Hotel New Hampshire

  16. Don’t know what to say.

  17. We met here and texted off and on for years. Once she said, “I don’t think people with childhoods like ours ever graduate. It’s all an uphill shot.” She was the only other writer I’ve ever known who truly got what it was like to be raised by a mentally ill mother who moved house every year and drug her kid along behind her like an old doll. Shanna was insightful and compassionate. And yes, she was brilliant and hilarious and loving. And struggling. I wish more people could have known where that brilliance came from. I wish she’d been able to publish her memoir.

  18. Shanna and I met at my first Tin House Summer Workshop in 2010 and were part of an unforgettable cadre of incredible humans who were each other’s people that whole week, a tremendous combination of poets, fiction and non-fiction writers of all ages and backgrounds. We instantly found each other and stuck together. As you do, we all became friends on the socials after we all got home and stayed in touch there, but when I got my book deal in 2013, Shanna, old school and all class act all the time, picked up the phone and called to congratulate me. It was one of the most generous, touching experiences of my adult life, and certainly my life as a writer, but just another Tuesday for Shanna being big-hearted and proud of someone she loved. Then, when I sent her a copy of my book (in which I thank her, along with others from the cadre) she called me again and said, “Polly, you’re going to win awards!”
    That was the beginning of our journey of several years as our books came out around the same time in 2015 and we were each other’s wing woman experiencing that ride trying to know what to do and how to do it. We talked and texted every day during that time, sometimes multiple calls in a day, so much so that my boys would see that it was her calling and say, “Mom, it’s Shanna,” and would often answer the phone for me, which led to her nicknaming them my ‘admins.’ She and I were on each other’s short list of people you could call at 2:00 a.m. to ask for a favor, to please meet at such and so, bring a shovel, no questions asked. (Which I think was a much longer list than she let on, but we were all so grateful to be on it.) She took so much joy in my ‘guests’ during the time when I was running a dog hostel out of my house, and so dearly loved her precious Riley and was crushed when she lost him.
    We had been out of touch in recent years after she moved to Mexico and our different lifestyles made it more challenging to keep up the same level of contact we’d once had. I know how much she struggled, and how fiercely she fought back again and again and again telling the darkness, unwaveringly, “Fuck you. Back off. No room at the inn for you today.” But I also know that for so many people Covid has pushed everything that was already mostly unbearable, but not quite totally, not yet, to a place where it’s actually time to wave the white flag.
    I’m devastated she lost the fight, that we have all lost her, that together we couldn’t save her and that the admins will never again let me know, “Mom, it’s Shanna.” And I’m so grateful for how much she graced my life.

  19. Fuck.

  20. Shana was my cousin. We were close as children when our families were together. Saw each other rarely after that. When we were in our 20’s we saw each other at our cousin Bill Hudson and Cindy Williams wedding. I reached out to her a couple years ago and we had a sweet catch up conversation. Shana was the smartest kid I knew growing up and incredibly cute and precocious. My brother accidentally hit her with a golf club while trying to hit a Piñata one year at his birthday party. She was tough as nails. The Hudson (her mom’s side) family was a tough family to grow up in. Hot tempered, wild, alcoholic and extremely talented. I’m deeply saddened to learn of her passing. I understand that she contracted COVID and committed suicide. Does anyone have more details or now what happened to her body after she died?

  21. Dear Kimmy:
    Shana was a beloved member of this community for a number of years. I’m sure you’ve read through the comments. I’m afraid I don’t have more information than what people have shared. I’m very sorry for your loss. She was an extraordinary person and much beloved. Betsy

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