The American Association of Suicidology Conference in Portland, Ore., two weeks ago was a busy time for me, to put it mildly. But it was that good kind of busy. It was nonstop talking to people, catching up with old friends, and making new ones (I wouldn’t have it any other way), as well as plenty of presidential duties. The first morning I led the plenary session with my presidential address. I officially became president that afternoon at the business meeting.


Up until the conference, the number of coins I had been finding had steadily increased. While a year ago I was finding one a week, for about three weeks between March and April of this year I found one almost daily. Flying with my friend JoAnn to Portland from Albuquerque, we stopped at the Frontier Restaurant, my favorite, for breakfast burritos we could eat on the flight to the Northwest. I found a penny while we waited for our burritos, a reminder of the importance of the trip. But once I arrived into Portland, I didn’t have time to look down. I was too busy looking ahead, looking at the person I was talking to, or thinking about what I needed to do next.


About a half hour before my presidential address, Effie Malley, who runs the AAS Youth Suicide Prevention Center, stopped me outside the ballroom and said she had found a dime that morning (I typically find dimes and pennies). Then as I went up to the podium for the conference to start, Bernie Jesiolowski, whose wife finds pennies frequently since the death of her father, stopped me and handed me a dime. He said he had found it underneath the coffee carafe when he filled his coffee in the breakfast area. As he gave it to me, he said it was mine.


Any time people find coins and post to my Facebook page or tell me about what they found, I usually remind them that the coins are theirs, not mine. However, in this situation, I knew these were for me because I wasn’t focused on finding coins. I couldn’t be. I stood at the podium with that dime in my hand, finding a lot of comfort in knowing that my sister and my dad were with me as I gave that presidential address. I didn’t need the coins to know they were there, but I appreciated the reminder.


That afternoon my friend Melinda pressed a quarter she had found into my hand. In the airport on the way back to Albuquerque, after clearing security, I found a penny. My coin findings picked up again once I reached home, and they continue to be my confirmation that as I take each step forward, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.


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

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Comment by Michelle Rusk (Linn-Gust) on April 30, 2011 at 12:15pm
Hi Wendy, I didn't start finding the coins until after my dad died (which was about twelve years after my sister died) and even then it took me about a year after his death to figure it out. I remember I was on vacation in Florida about eight months after his death and I found a penny in a parking lot outside Orlando and then a penny at the airport on the way home. I also had found a something like a hazelnut next to the penny in the parking lot and I think that was the clue it was him because he was huge into gardening and trees and that sort of thing. Then one time I found a dollar bill next to an unlit cigarette. My dad was a smoker so that made sense. But I also didn't get what the message was until about another year after that. I was in the Baton Rouge airport when I found a dime and a penny near each other and it evolved into a pattern. While I'd find other coins it still usually is a dime and a penny or I'll find a penny and then a dime next. That sort of thing. And when this started, I was working on my dissertation and had some really difficult events transpiring in my life. And then I realized that they were my dad reminding me that everything would be okay. Now when I find them, I see them as the reminder that I am traveling the road I'm supposed to even though I don't always understand it (or like it!). For many people though, the coins are simply a reminder that their loved ones are with them. I've always known my dad and sister are still with me so I feel like the coins are an added reminder for me.
Comment by Wendy McIntosh on April 29, 2011 at 9:14pm

Michelle.  Ever since I started noticing your posts about finding change, I have been finding change everywhere.  Yesterday on the way to the bus home, I found two brand new 2011 pennies!  And they weren't right next to each other - they were about 20 steps apart, but I could imagine some flinty like spirit coming to drop them so I would see.  I don’t know what I believe about finding the change; I have heard so many different explanations.   What is your experience about finding the change?  I don't think I remember reading anything like that until your mention above that they continue to be your confirmation that you are doing what you are supposed to do... 



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