Robin William’s Death Took Me Back Three Years

I found out about Robin William’s passing when I saw #RIPRobinWilliams trending on Twitter. One Google search and 5 seconds later I learned it was by suicide. This while surrounded by my boys who lost their father to suicide nearly 3 years ago (it’ll be three years in 8 days).

I thought about Robin Williams suffering to that degree and I thought about my former husband and the secret torment of his own mind. Hand over my heart, mouth hanging open, I stared at the computer screen just trying to process it all.

I said something about it on Facebook and Twitter. I shared a couple of dedicatory photos already springing up online. It’s what we do these days, isn’t it?

My children, thank God, didn’t seem upset by the news. My middle child gave me a hug and I held it together long enough to put them to bed. Then I retired to my room, sat in a corner, and cried.

I knew it wasn’t just for Robin Williams, as heartbreaking as that is all by itself. It was more than that. It was for my former husband. It was for the tragedy of suicide in general. It was for the tragedy of mental illness and how helpless people can feel against it sometimes. I was weeping for the cruel reality that even someone who could give us the kind of performance Robin Williams gave us in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting (and so many others), could later come to feel so trapped in the deep dark of his mind that he thought death was the only pathway to relief.

Mental health has come a long way since the time of the asylums. We understand more about it. There are more treatment options. There is more respect for the rights of those who suffer from mental illness. Yet. Our mental healthcare system is woefully lacking in so many ways. And often the more severe the symptoms and/or illness, the less professionals are able to help in any substantial way. The safety nets for suicidal individuals (and their families) are full of gaping holes.

There’s still so much we don’t understand about mental illness, and those gaps in our knowledge directly affect our ability to offer real, lasting relief to the victims of mental illness.

As I sat on the floor thinking about Robin Williams, my former husband, and the millions of people who suffer from severe depression, I thought, “Please hurry.”

Please hurry.

They’ll find a cure eventually, won’t they? At some point in the future, someone, or some combination of someones, will figure out how to really help the kind of people who are, far too often, beyond our reach.

Please hurry.

Tragedies like these break so many hearts.

2 thoughts on “Robin William’s Death Took Me Back Three Years

  1. angela kehrer

    My heart breaks for you and your family’s loss! One thought, replace “they” with “we”. We’ll find a cure, and we need to hurry. “We” lost a 13 year old cousin to suicide a few years back. How could “we” have been so oblivious to someone right next to us in so much pain? One of my favorite poems/meditations is “For Whom the Bell Tolls” by John Donne. “Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him.”…….. “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    I suppose society as a whole, we need to be our brother/sisters keeper. Having said that, I have failed in this respect despite my best efforts. I can only add hopes and questions as to how “we” fix this.

    1. DonnaCookDonnaCook Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment Angela. I’m sorry to hear about your cousin. All the more tragic to lose one so young! It is amazing how hidden that kind of suffering can be. People relatively close to my first husband had no idea he suffered from depression unless he told them. For those of us who knew, it was heartbreaking and frustrating. As much as we tried to help him, it only continued to get worse. His was a severe case, but those are the ones that are so hard to treat. It’s such a horrible, helpless feeling.

      We are definitely in this together, as a society. Things like this reverberate through our shared consciousness.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I love that poem too; it is so fitting.


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