MEET MICHELLE LINN-RUSK, PH.D.
EARLY LIFE & EDUCATION
Michelle Linn-Rusk’s path to becoming a writer began in first grade when she realized she wanted to write books while attending Naper School in Naperville, Illinois. Growing up, she honed her writing skills with pen pals in Luxembourg, Sweden, and Australia. In eighth grade she began journaling daily,leaving her with stacks of notebooks filled with details that documented the important mundane details of a teen girl’s life in the 1980s (including who she talked to on the phone each day).
She attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, majoring in magazine journalism. When she was a junior covering the Ball State basketball team in the NCCA Tournament for The Ball State Daily News, her younger sister Denise died by suicide just two weeks before her eighteenth birthday.
Denise’s death led Michelle to rethink the direction of her life when she was just twenty-one. She completed her Bachelors Degree at Ball State in 1994 and went on to earn a Masters Degree in health education from the University of New Mexico in 1996.
Throughout the remainder of the 1990s, she worked on two manuscripts. The first one, Beyond the Finish Line, a still unpublished novel about a fictional high school girls cross country team, and a manuscript for sibling survivors of suicide, which would become her first book, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling. When the opportunity beckoned to turn Bad Days in Heaven into a published book, Michelle’s path turned to helping people heal from suicide loss.
In 2008 she completed her doctorate in family studies, writing her dissertation about how people use a dog to cope with loss. Her book Ginger’s Gift: Hope and Healing through Dog Companionship, published in 2007, was a personal story related to her dissertation research.
Several suicide loss books would follow: Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief, A Winding Road: A Handbook for those Supporting the Suicide Bereaved (co-authored with John Peters), and an edited book, Seeking Hope: Stories of the Suicide Bereaved, with Julie Cerel. In June 2011, her first fiction was released, The Australian Pen Pal followed by her second fiction novel, Sisters: The Karma Twist, published in September 2011.
While Michelle is the current past president of the American Association of Suicidology, her work continues to transition into the larger field of helping people live meaningful and authentic lives. Her newest book, that follows her transition, Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, was published on December 12, 2012, also Michelle’s birthday.
While student teaching in Albuquerque, Linn-Rusk continued to write about her experiences following the loss of her sister. She began work on what eventually developed into her first book, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling (2001). Creating a self-help book, she wrote about her strategies for dealing with grief after a sibling’s death. Following its publication, Linn-Rusk was invited to speak nationally and, later, internationally about the experiences of family members after a suicide. She also writes about grief after sibling loss, which often is not given as much societal attention as the loss of parents or spouses.
Linn-Rusk has made these associated topics her major field of study, writing, and education. She is recognized as an expert on sibling and family experiences of grief after the suicide of a member. While working on her dissertation, she got her first dog. This prompted her to explore how animal companions help people through grief and other life challenges. She published an article and a memoir in 2007 that address the role of companion animals.
She has continued to write about family survivors of suicide and how they can deal with grief. She is also working on the broader issue of helping people to cultivate hope. Since 2003, Linn-Rusk has worked with Navajo and Pueblo communities on reservations in the Southwest because of their high rates of suicide. She has been careful to listen to the people and learn about their cultures.
Linn-Rusk’s first fiction novel, The Australian Pen Pal, was released April 19, 2011, followed by Sisters: The Karma Twist released in September 2011.
Linn-Rusk became active in associations supporting survivors of suicide. In 2006 she served as president of the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition. She has also edited Surviving Suicide, a newsletter published by the American Association of Suicidology.
On the Board of Directors of the American Association of Suicidology, Linn-Rusk was elected president in 2011. She is the first person to serve as president who does not have clinical experience. Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, this is the oldest organization in the United States dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.
HONORS & AWARDS
2013 Ball State University Journalism Alumnus of the Year
Ball State University Journalism Department, February 2013
National Alliance on Mental Illness- DuPage County Supporter of the Year
NAMI DuPage, April 2013
The University of New Mexico, Doctorate, Family Studies, 2003 – 2008
The University of New Mexico, Masters, Health Education, 1994 – 1996
Ball State University, Bachelors, Journalism, 1991 – 1994
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., has been speaking around the world for fifteen years, inspiring people with stories and adventures from her life and those she has met along the way.
She offers a range of talks to fit any audience size and need. Topics Michelle has spoken on are as follows.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #1
Navigating Life’s Transitions: Where’s My Map?
Life is never static and we never know what will be thrown at us. What we do know is that any outcomes will be determined by how we react to what happens to us. Michelle will talk about how we an embrace these transitions and find that we can peel ourselves off the ground and become stronger in the process.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #2
A Line Here, a Line There: How to Write the Book You Keep Talking About
Most people believe they have a book in them. They also think that if they “only had the time” they would actually write that book. The reality is that none of us will ever have that those blocks of time and to make the book happen we have to organize writing around our lives. Michelle takes us on the journey of how she wrote eight books around her life and how you can too.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #3
Who am I? Finding Our Authentic Selves
Much of life is about figuring out who we are and how we can make the most of being that person. Sometimes we get sidetracked by life though and lose ourselves in our families, our jobs, and our lives. None of us want to wake up one day and wonder who we are. Let Michelle guide you in making sure that you truly are who you are supposed to be.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #4
Don’t Just Write Out Those Goals, Achieve Them!
What happens to that list of goals we want to accomplish? Do we find it one day buried under a stack of papers and realize that life is passing us by? Michelle learned early, mostly from her junior high and high school running career, how to set, revise, and accomplish goals. No matter how big or small your goals, Michelle will teach you the skills and give you the tools to make them happen.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #5
Faith as a Journey of Love
There are many definitions of “faith” but mostly it’s trusting that everything in life will work out. It’s hard to have faith because it makes us feel vulnerable and out of control. But by ceasing that control, we learn that love in all aspects of our lives will come to us when we trust it.
PRESENTATION TOPIC #6
Waiting for the Boomerang
Ceasing control in our relationships is difficult, especially for those of us who constantly want to steer the bus. We can say we let go of control but what happens after that? How do we distract ourselves and make the most of the waiting game, not to mention the fear that the boomerang might not come back? Michelle discusses ways to strengthen ourselves while we wait for someone to return to our lives.
Linn-Gust became active in associations supporting survivors of suicide. In 2006 she served as president of the New Mexico Suicide Prevention Coalition. She has also edited Surviving Suicide, a newsletter published by the American Association of Suicidology.
Formerly on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Suicidology, Linn-Gust was elected president in 2011. She is the first person to serve as president who does not have clinical experience. Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, this is the oldest organization in the United States dedicated to suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention.
You can check out some of Michelle’s videos here and on her YouTube channel.
Michelle’s path to becoming a writer began in first grade when she realized she wanted to write books while attending Naper School in Naperville, Illinois. She completed her first manuscript, Beyond the Finish Line (a still unpublished novel about a fictional high school girls cross country team) and Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Sibling, which went on to be her first published book, concurrently. While several suicide loss books would follow, in June 2011, her first fiction was released, The Australian Pen Pal, followed by her second fiction noel, Sisters: The Karma Twist, published in September 2011. Her latest release, Conversations With the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope, was published in December 2012.