It’s been ten years since my book, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., was published. And it’s been eighteen years since my sister Denise walked in front of a train just two weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday during my junior year in college.


It took me almost eighteen years to understand this road I have traveled since her death, how it affected my life, and to be reminded that while her death has been a significant event in my life, it does not define me. I believe that if she were standing here (and I do have the sense of her being with me– I believe the bond isn’t broken but is instead changed), she would say to me, “Don’t forget who you were before I died. You had goals and dreams and you still need to accomplish those.”


On April 14, 2011, I become the President of the American Association of Suicidology, the first non-clinician survivor to be elected to the post. The AAS is the oldest organization in the United States devoted to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention (taking care of the people left behind). It’s an incredible honor to be elected by my peers as I come from a writing and speaking background while the majority of past presidents are researchers and clinicians.


For me, the journey is best defined in the theme of this year’s conference, “Changing the Legacy of Suicide.” My work is about how I can help others cope with loss, not just suicide loss but any kind of loss, and using the lessons I have learned from my own path to teach others. As my journey continues to transform in front of me, I try to share the lessons I have learned, and those shared with me by other people, with the hope of helping others.


I look forward to walking this road with all of you because I hope to share with you and help you to find hope on this journey.


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 Julie on February 23, 2014 at 6:41pm

My 14 year old completed suicide this past October by hanging. He was the most beautiful child and son. He had battled a brain tumor blindness and chemo. The tumor was inoperable and would need to be monitored. He was so scared of going through chemo as he had an anaphylactic reaction during his treatment. He was doing great and planning his life. He was a freshman and his two older brothers are JR and SR. they are all a year apart and so very close. I found him that night with my middle son and we cut him down. I forgave him right away so he would go to Heaven. He was such a sensitive and loving boy always helping out others so God knew he is good. We were shocked by this act and our home is forever changed. Quiet. Tommy brought us so much joy and laughter and always thought of others over himself. He is the love of my life. I have such hard days getting up and moving but I do. Tommy gives me tha strength but I feel weaker now than I did last month. How do parents go on?


Comment by Michelle Rusk (Linn-Gust) on December 5, 2011 at 3:04pm

There is so much pain after a loved one dies by suicide. I obviously have been there and understand it. And I know it's hurtful when our loved ones stay away from us and don't give us the support we need. Top that off with the holidays and it's a cocktail none of us want a part of. If you haven't joined the online group here at LegacyConnect, I recommend it. There are other groups as well. If you need an in-person support group, go to and look under survivors of suicide loss where they are listed by state. There also is a toll-free number to call for the suicide bereaved operated by Friends for Survival:  1-800-646-7322. Know that there are many caring people out there who want to help. Sometimes they aren't right in front of us. But they are there.

Comment by Karen Campbell on September 20, 2011 at 8:57am
It has been 6 months and 8 days since my daughter took  her own life.  She was only 43.  In 2008 she lost her only child, Robert, from a grand maul siezure.  Her husband divorced her a year later. They had been high school sweethearts.  He is a filanderer and she just couldn't get over the losses.  She was a beautiful, sucessful teacher and loved by so many.  Her death still takes my breath away.   I miss her so much.  This a picture of my daughter.
Comment by Brenda R. Hauer on June 10, 2011 at 9:35am
It is 5 weeks today that my brother took his life. The sadness of his act is overwhelming at times.
Comment by Michelle Rusk (Linn-Gust) on April 23, 2011 at 12:06pm
Shock is part of the journey. It is how the body in some way tries to soften the pain until we can begin to adjust to such a huge change in our lives. Your words will resume. Take care.
Comment by Tina D. Withington on April 19, 2011 at 6:25pm

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