My younger sister Denise and I often discussed the overuse of the word “love.” We felt that people said it too much because often they didn’t really mean that they loved someone especially when they finished a letter with “Love,” and then their name. Instead, we stuck to “Always,” before our names. At a church retreat during high school, she had to write a letter to someone so she wrote me and told me that she loved me. She said she did it because we never said we loved each other. When she died, it was my only struggle with her death. I was sorry that I never reciprocated it.


But over the years, I have come to understand why Denise and I felt the way we did about the word "love." Honestly, it’s just a word. Four letters that make up a word that we say and string together with other words. We felt that people didn’t put the true action behind the word and that’s why we felt it was overused. I admit that I am still pretty shy about using it.


I know now that Denise knows that I loved her and continue to love her. While I might be a writer whose life revolves around words, I believe that ultimately love is about the action in our lives rather than simply telling someone we love them. We can tell them a million times. What’s more meaningful is when we show them how we love them. And those are the times we always will remember.


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 George Bragg on February 13, 2012 at 1:59pm

This is going to sound strange, but I wasn't even sure how deeply I loved her until she was gone. It's only once she was gone that I realized how much I missed her, how much she meant to me.  I told her I loved her, and did so often, but I'm not even sure that I knew what the word meant until I'd lost her, the love of my life.

Comment by Starr edwards on July 27, 2011 at 10:49am
I wrote in one of my poems once Love is a four letter word very often said yet very seldom meant

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