The headlines scream, “Coroner: Robin Williams Death Ruled Suicide by Asphyxiation.”
I suppose there’s a bit of a morbid fascination that comes from the death of a celebrity; particularly when the celebrity is young or dies in a particularly salacious way. Robin Williams’ death is one of those. He was both young and his death was by his own hand, a death which carries with it a certain stigma.
Undoubtedly, the public is questioning how one who was such a comedic genius could fall victim to a depression so deep that he could commit suicide? And yet, he was more than a comedian and actor. He was a real person; one that was susceptible to the same foibles and illnesses as all of us.
When I read that headline and subsequent article, I was saddened. I was sickened. People judge and cannot understand. For me, it was definitely too much information, particularly since I lost a loved one to suicide. It has been over twenty years since my father died and yet, I feel the pain his family is going through. Although my father was not a celebrity, I can only imagine the sting of the headlines. It is one thing to grieve privately over a loved one’s suicide and quite another to have it played out in the public eye.
Suicide is something from which survivors struggle to recover. Yes, we move forward, but it takes a tremendous amount of time and often times, therapy. Through it all, questions remain unanswered; the biggest one being “Why?” Sometimes those questions are never answered. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is we grieve the same as others regardless of how our loved one died; perhaps even more so, because of the suddenness and finality of it all.
We also suffer something that others don’t when their loved ones die – survivor’s guilt. Did we miss something leading up to their death? Did our loved one say something? We pour over our conversations and interactions leading up to their death to see if there’s something there; maybe even somewhat obsessively in order to grasp something tangible that we can wrap our brains around. The truth is, there usually isn’t anything to uncover. There is nothing we could have done. Once a person makes up their mind to end their own life, they tend to be at peace. It is deceiving because we believe their depression is better when in fact, it’s not. There is little the survivors could have done.
And so, to the family of Robin Williams, my heart goes out to you. Embrace the memories. He brought much joy and happiness into this world. To those who still struggle with the suicide of a loved one, I would say the same. Suicide knows no socioeconomic class. It can affect anyone. Even Robin Williams.