R.I.P. to a man who brought more than his share of laughter to the world! We are poorer for his decision to leave.

Ordinarily, I avoid current events for blog topics, mostly because I avoid watching the news and the media’s tendency to make a huge deal out of bad news. But today, nothing is quite normal, and the news of the world’s loss of actor, Robin Williams, hits way too close to home.

Losing someone to suicide is a very personal kind of hell.

Only when you’ve lost someone to suicide can you truly understand the emotions experienced by a death which you could no more have prevented than if it had been a slow decline from cancer, an auto accident or any other method of passing. Only suicide leaves the family with tons of questions, and mere seeds of answers. And only suicide seems to bring out the worst in people who ask insensitive, sometimes cruel questions of the survivors. Suddenly, all responsibility for the deceased’s life and choices is assumed to belong to their family.

When my mother committed suicide over twenty years ago, I was appalled by relatives who had the unmitigated gall to ask my father why he didn’t recognize that Mom had a problem and force her to get help. As if it was his choice to make! It didn’t even occur to them that you can’t force someone to seek help. They have to want to fix themselves first! Would you say that to someone whose spouse died of liver disease due to alcoholism? I really doubt it!

I sincerely hope that his status as a public figure for so many wonderful decades doesn’t give people reason to believe that they can flood the internet with their ignorance and insensitivity, but instead, gives them an opportunity to express their gratitude for all of the laughter he brought to us, while hiding his own pain. His family needs time to process their feelings without interference from well-meaning masses.

Robin Williams will be missed by many, yet nobody but the family and friends who truly loved the man behind the mask will understand the depth of that loss.

Suicide was the 12th largest cause of death in the U.S. in 2010 with over 38,000 successful suicides. This doesn’t even take into account those who failed to achieve their goal…death and release from pain. People around us are living with depression every day, but many disguise it so well, nobody ever guesses. Some, like my mother, are so good at disguising it that their death comes as a complete surprise to everyone concerned. My sister and I used to joke about my mother’s many faces when we were younger. Sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Like Robin Williams who hid behind his humor, my mother seemingly had a face for every situation. It was only when I began writing about both hers and my father’s suicides that I realized how little I knew the woman who gave me life. I find myself wondering if much of the crazy, eccentric behavior Mr. Williams performed for audiences, both on stage and film, wasn’t really one of his faces, and his way of acting out on the pain within, fooling us into believing it was just an act?

It’s all about Choices

Despite it all, I continue to contend that it’s all about choices. My parents made the choices they did because they felt they had finished what they’d come here to do. I believe no less of Mr. Williams. He’d done what he needed to do, learned the lessons he needed to learn, experienced the joy and suffering he chose for this lifetime, then, very quietly and without fanfare, exited, stage right.

May he be lovingly remembered, and in doing so, may his family and friends be left to grieve…and cope…in peace.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for things which, through sadness, make me remember to be compassionate.
2. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had which (I hope) have made me a better person.
3. I am grateful for my family and friends who understand without an excess of words.
4. I am grateful for those who respect the privacy of people going through a family tragedy.
5. I am grateful that I am not my mother’s child, but a strong, compassionate, happy, self-sufficient woman with every reason to continue living, learning lessons, and experiencing every emotion I can, but from a place many miles from Depression.