I know that I am not the only one who feels a deep sadness over the death of Robin Williams.
Yesterday when my friends texted me the news I immediately went online to check to see if it was another one of those awful hoaxes. And then I went to Facebook and within minutes my newsfeed filled up with people expressing the same things I was feeling.
One of my friends posted, “Is it weird that I feel a genuine sense of loss at the death of Robin Williams?” Given the response she got, she is not alone.
Robin Williams – the Actor
There is no denying fact that Robin Williams was a gifted actor and comedian. His ability to create characters, improvise, and connect an audience to his roles was amazing.
I think that one of the reasons there is such intense emotion over his death is that his movies truly impacted so many of us – they not only entertained us, but also made us think.
As a teenager I watched Dead Poets Society and was inspired by Mr. Keating. I felt like I was a student in his class, learning to live bravely and with purpose. As a teacher I watched it again and hoped to be the type of educator he was, to truly make a difference in the lives of my students.
As I started serving as a youth worker, I watched Good Will Hunting and hoped that I would be able to be as loving and compassionate towards young people as Sean was to Will. The scene where Sean tells Will it’s not his fault still moves me to tears, every single time.
And even as a child I could see that when my parents watched Good Morning Vietnam, his portrayal of Adrian Cronauer helped them to process, consider, and even articulate their own thoughts and feelings about that war.
His talent was unparalleled and allowed us all to feel as if we really knew him.
But we didn’t.
Robin Williams – the Person
Here I have nothing to say. I didn’t know him. I never talked with him, laughed with him, or cried with him. We didn’t share stories or experiences, and we never sat down to a meal together.
I know some of the reports that circled about him. I have heard the rumors, read the gossip, and seen the speculation.
But I didn’t know him.
He was very candid about his struggle with substance abuse and depression, but knowing that fact about him doesn’t mean I knew him.
None of us did.
But his wife did. His children did. His friends and coworkers did. And they are all experiencing a pain so deep and intense, so staggering, that few can even begin to comprehend.
I am not going to discuss suicide, because I don’t understand it or know enough to confidently express my opinion.
And I am not going to discuss mental illness, because I don’t understand it or know enough to confidently express my opinion.
And, truthfully, who really cares what I think anyway?
Will it bring him back? No. Will it comfort his family? No.
But if I’m not careful could I hurt, alienate, or isolate someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts? Yes.
Could my casual, not fully informed opinion severely wound someone who suffers from mental illness? Yes.
So I will learn and process, but I will keep my opinions to myself.
But that doesn’t mean I will stay completely silent. I can’t.
A few years ago two of my friends lost their daughter to suicide. They have chosen to do what they can to help prevent others from ever experiencing the pain they experienced. Here is a link to their website:
Please find a way to help others find the resources they need.
No shame. No guilt.
See you soon.