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 www.michellelinngust.com.