Two weeks ago, I moved halfway across the country, leaving Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I have lived since 1994, and returning to my hometown in the Chicago suburbs.


I have spent almost my entire adult life in Albuquerque, having come here when I was twenty-two. It was eighteen months after my sister’s death and almost a year after my maternal grandmother died. I can’t completely tell you that I understand my reasons for landing in New Mexico other than I was drawn to the mountains after a summer in Colorado Springs and, after I was accepted into graduate school at the University of New Mexico, off I went.


What I realize now is that my reasons for coming to the Land of Enchantment have been fulfilled. I believe many people come to this spiritual place (and if you’ve been here, you know what I mean) to find themselves or to heal. I never had much problem finding myself; I’ve always had a good sense of who I am and what I want (my bigger issue has been figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B because I’m never happy stuck at Point A when I really want to be at B). Instead, for me New Mexico was my healing ground after my sister’s suicide.


New Mexico is where I wrote my first book (that led to the next six), and also where I honed my career skills, thanks to countless people who helped along the way. And now it’s time for me to return home, at least for a time, before I see where life takes me next.


To get home though, I had to pack up my life. Even though I’m one of those people who once a year goes through their belongings to part with what isn’t useful or needed anymore, this was still a daunting task.


But something was different this time. I found myself not needing to hold onto many things relating to my sister Denise. The two Marshall Field’s Christmas glasses she gave me don’t mean anything. Though I incorporated the glasses into my novel Sisters: The Karma Twist, I never use them and they remain on a shelf that reaches almost to my kitchen ceiling. Into the donation bag they went. I asked my older sister if she wanted Denise’s coroner and medical reports. There was a time when I needed to see them, I had to know as much as I could about her depression, bulimia, and her death, but now I don’t.


Life has gone on. I know Denise is with me. I feel secure in that. I don’t need to hold onto these “things” anymore because I also know that the more I let go, the more that life will bring me. And I’m ready for that.


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 Delores Anne Smith on December 27, 2011 at 12:20am

PS to Michelle-Please, I don't mean to imply that your sisters' suicide was not a profoundly painful and life-altering event.  My daughter, Mary, died from self administered oxycontin overdose and the sudden loss of her rocked me to my foundation, and I'm still weaving on my lifes path.  Dee

Comment by Delores Anne Smith on December 27, 2011 at 12:11am

Hi Michelle,  I read your comment and was impressed with the apparent ease with which you setteled in after moving to a new place.  After so many years, ten, I still have not found adequate meaning or satisfaction in life without my beloved eighteen year old daughter, Mary.  Immediatly after her death, and in he months that followed, nothing made sense to me anymore. How I could send her off for a sleepover with her best friend only to receive the call that she was dead the next afternoon still makes no sense.   When,a few months later, my younger daughter ran off to live with her boyfriend, leaving her 4mo. old son with me...It made no sense. The fact that I'm 59, disabled and in daily pain, unable to walk without a walker and chronically depressed yet raising a strong young grandson as my own still seems like a bad joke.  I love him dearly, but surly, in Gods' Universe there is someone better able and better qualified than I to raise this child.  My surviving daughter then went on to have and give up another son.  Following that, she was impregnated and consequently aborted five more innocents.

My home burned to the ground almost two years ago.  Again, what meaning should I take from this? For the past twenty years my life has been chaos followed by grief followed by more pain.  Yes, there are moments of muted joy for me but the burning 'Why' question continues to haunt me.  I must only concludde there truly is no reason why some things happen.  I hope all these bad things having happened to me don't mean I'M bad, but in the dead of night I do sometimes wonder.

Perhaps there is no meaning. Perhaps these are life lessons crated especially for me...Boy, I must really be a slow learner...Dee

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