This year, I celebrated my birthday in Los Angeles with friends and fellow survivors of suicide loss. It was my 40th, and I had tried to make plans with various people in various parts of the country. But nothing came together until I booked a plane ticket to L.A. and announced to friends when I would be there.
I spent the evening of December 10th in Los Angeles at the Survivors After Suicide 30th Anniversary Pot Luck. Most people think that when a group of bereaved people get together, no matter how long ago their losses, they sit and cry and lament, focusing on what they don’t have. I know better. The pot luck was no exception; it was an evening filled with laughter. Yes, there were tears from some people who remembered their first time attending the group. And there was sadness over the recent death of one of the founders. But overall it was about celebrating the lives we continue to live and the connections our losses bring us.
My entire time in L.A. was spent with people who have lost a loved one to suicide. I stayed with Sam and Lois who lost a son to suicide. I had dinner with David who lost his sister. I had lunch with Diane who lost her mother. And I spent my final night there with Ginny who lost her mother.
Los Angeles always has been a place of hope for me, and I felt that hope once again during my trip there. Even though it rained (poured, in fact) on my birthday, I felt I was right where I needed to be as I start my 5th decade, and begin down a new road. And the people coming with me for the journey are the ones I want most to walk with me.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.