By Michelle Linn-Gust —

When I found out that Farrah Fawcett had anal cancer, I was taken back to the cancer of my friend, Bonnie, who died 3 1/2 years ago. I was with Bonnie almost every day, as long as I was in town, until her death a few months later.

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary and it was Bonnie who sewed my wedding dress. Bonnie had the same cancer as Farrah. I had a Farrah haircut in fifth grade and my older sister was a big “Charlie’s Angels” fan. My cousins had a gerbil named Farrah. Farrah was part of my 1970s. After I found out Farrah died yesterday, I had a hard time wrapping my head around it. I knew it was coming, but sometimes it’s hard to imagine someone we saw as so strong and beautiful as having deteriorated and died.

After my husband told me about Michael Jackson’s death, I thought back to my sister Denise. I was coming of age when “Thriller” came out and I swear Denise had a “PYT” shirt (I can’t confirm this since my mom doesn’t remember!). I never owned the “Thriller” tape but I think my sister did.

His songs were at the top of the charts as we ambled through school and adolescence, our teen years, and life. As Dick Clark says about music on general, for us, MJ’s songs are on the soundtracks of our lives. Each time something that is part of my history ends or dies — especially when it relates to my sister or my dad or Bonnie or someone else who has died — I feel like another little piece of my life is chipped away.

I hold the memories but that’s it. I can’t grasp the rest of it with my arms because it’s not here anymore. But I am always reminded that these people have left because they accomplished what they were supposed to teach us, and it was time to go. We are sad because they are gone, but they all left us something behind. We wouldn’t feel a need to let any emotion escape via tears or sadness if they didn’t.

Michelle Linn-Gust is an international author and speaker about suicide prevention and postvention issues. She is the author of Ginger’s Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling, inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She currently serves as the President-Elect for the American Association of Suicidology . She earned her doctorate in Family Studies at the University of New Mexico where her dissertation study focused on how people use a dog to help them cope with the death of a human loved one. She divides her time between Naperville, Illinois, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her husband, Joe Gust, and their four dogs: Chaco, Nestle, Daisy, and Hattie. Visit her at and

Michelle was a guest on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart talking about  Surviving the Death by Suicide of a Sibling.

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Michelle L. Rusk

Michelle L. Rusk

Michelle Linn-Rusk, Ph.D., Past President of the American Association of Suicidology, has spent the past twenty years educating people worldwide about coping with loss and change following the suicide of her younger sister. Her eighth book, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, chronicles her grief journey as she moves forward beyond the suicide and loss field. Her first book, based on Denise’s suicide, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling, inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She writes the weekly Good Causes column for The Naperville Sun newspaper and helps people accomplish their goals through her life coaching practice.

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