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.”
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