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 www.michellelinngust.com.
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