Robin Williams’ Death: When Living is Hard

Robin Williams’ apparent death by suicide is especially hard for me to fathom. His jocular, insightful, heart-warming and spirit-lifting public presence brought much joy to my life. His creative expressions of talent and spontaneity inspired many throughout the world to bring forth their own unique artistic abilities. Robin had a profound influence on our society’s evolving sense of humor and on the art of being an artist. And he took that art to many new frontiers and extremes.

“Robin, we love you and your many gifts. You will be missed.”

Suicide.

Bummer.

What am I going to do about it? Can I make sense of this tragedy? No. Can I accept that it happened? What choice do I have but to accept? Like so many other tragic circumstances, this event is out of my control.

I’m no expert on suicide, depression or addiction, yet I do know what trauma and loss feel like. I’ve lost several of my loved ones to natural causes and felt that loss deeply. Sadly, some friends and classmates have committed suicide. And I know many individuals who’ve personally struggled with addiction, mood disorders and other mental health issues or have family members or life partners who currently have these issues. Some friends and family recently experienced significant loss by suicide, murder or other unanticipated trauma.

And there are too many instances. Way too many. Even one preventable loss is too many.

Have I got some magic pill, powerful prayer or exceptionally wise perspective to share with you? No. But I do have hope… and one very firm belief:

The only meaning to be found in tragic loss is the meaning we create.

You and I and others have the power to create our own meaning and purpose. We can channel our missing and our love and our hopes for healing into actions that prevent future loss and pain and hopelessness. We can take advantage of this powerful moment.

Now is a good time to ask:

• How may I contribute?

• What positive actions can I take?

• To whom may I reach out with care and affirmation?

• How can I take something inherently awful and turn it around into a motivational sense of direction?

Our common humanity is calling all of us to step up. According to mental health statistics, fully one-third of the people I know, love and want to emulate in this world, have significant mental illness and/or addiction issues. Here is what is also true: a third of the people you love and admire, both in the wider world and in your own circles, have the same. It is true for all of us, whether or not those affected individuals trust sharing that truth with us.

We are here to be supporters and helpers, for ourselves and for everyone else. When you can’t support yourself in your time of need, or you know someone who can’t, it’s time to ask. It’s time to offer. It’s time to BE supportive.

Now is the time to be present, to be a gift to ourselves and to others. That’s how we create meaning and purpose. That’s how we make sense of what is. Or at least it’s one way.

“Thank you for giving even when the living was hard, Robin. You will always be loved.”

Julie Saeger Nierenberg

Author of Daddy, this is it. Being-with My Dying Dad

 

 

Julie Nierenberg

More Articles Written by Julie

A writer, editor and author coach, I am inspired by the journey of love and release through my father’s end of life. In 2013 I published a book about our experience. Guided by my father's living example as an author and activist, I write to contribute to how we prepare, individually and collectively, to live and support the final chapter of life. I write to immerse in the moment and to experience the satisfaction that writing can bring. Oklahoma is the home of my roots. I lived in McCloud, Tahlequah, Oklahoma City and Tulsa for many years before a recent move to Toronto, Ontario. As a young adult, I meandered through a variety of career emphases in environmental and biomedical sciences before realizing I was called to be an educator. Following my heart into education of gifted children, I enjoyed nearly twenty years, first as a Whole Language, Spanish and art teacher and then as an administrator. With a growing love of children, I courageously became a parent, twice! The joy and purpose I feel in that role is a guiding light in my daily life. Now my two daughters are firmly on the paths of their own journeys through life; I thrill to watch them as they navigate their chosen courses. In 2006, I grew wings that took me all the way to Toronto, where I joined my life partner and soul mate. There, I reinvented my career to flexibly accommodate travel between the home of my family of origin in Oklahoma and my new home in Canada. I established my own business as a writer, editor, author coach and self-publisher. It has been my great pleasure to work with other writers as a partner in authorship, or as editor and coach, and I look forward to many more such affiliations. With each passing day, more topics and opportunities present themselves and I embrace them with gratitude. During the months, weeks and days leading up to my father's death, I was present as much as possible. I was with him when he transitioned from this earthly life in April of 2012, so very privileged to be at his side. Later, as my sorrow washed over me in waves, I began to write our very personal story, and I connected with his memory, integrating my grief, through that effort. In 2013, I published the story as a short book and included resources to support others facing end-of-life issues. Since the book's publication as "Daddy, this is it. Being-with My Dying Dad," I have reached out to many grief and bereavement support workers, hospice and palliative care chaplains and end-of-life advocates with an introduction to my book. I make many valued connections as I reach out with this purpose. With one such connection, Victoria Brewster, MSW, I am now co-writing another book on Death, Dying and the End of Life. We hope this book will offer a unique and comprehensive perspective, with multiple contributors sharing their end-of-life experiences.

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