In times of tragedy we all become reflective of our own humanity. Yesterday’s news that Comedian, Robin Williams completed suicide shocked and saddened many of us. We all had to process it in our own ways. Some thought it was a selfish, cowardly act. Some were reminded of their own similar pain. Some felt empathy for the survivors. Some became angry at how others responded. But we are each entitled to view things our own way, from our own experience.
The thing that happened was that a lot of us began to TALK about it. A conversation started. It became a national group therapy session. In group therapy, everyone doesn’t have to agree. They just listen to other points of view, and everyone who wants to say something does, and the rest of the group thanks them for sharing. A healthy group is respectful and empathetic.
So I’d like to share my point of view; at least how I see it from here, today, from my own life experiences as a person on my own journey, and as a healer.
I believe that we come into the world, each of us, with a mission. We know deep down what that mission is, but it’s not always conscious. We follow where the path leads us. Robin was led, by his own life experience, to make others laugh. Buddhist tradition will advise that when you are in need of something, give it to others, and it will come to you. Robin desperately needed laughter, so he gave it to others. And in giving, he received what he needed in many cases.
Robin also participated in movies with moving story lines about the experience of being human. One of my favorites of his career is the movie “Awakenings”, based on a true story in which several catatonic patients slowly began to emerge, or “awaken” from deep within themselves due to the neurologists’ persistence with a new treatment.
This seems symbolic to me because I believe that’s what Robin Williams’ life was all about: awakenings. I believe that his mission was to be here for about 63 years, making people laugh and think about things in a new way, and perhaps for people to awaken. He gave it his all, and he accomplished this mission in grand style.
Suicide and death are difficult for the people left behind to wrap our heads around. Christian gospel tells us that God has given us “free will” to make our own choices in this life. Yesterday, Robin Williams chose to end the road here; be done with this world. He had accomplished all that he was going to in this place, in this time. Many of us don’t believe this is an acceptable route. My professional training is to assist people in avoiding this route. But there’s that “free will”.
We all have experienced moments of grief and sadness to some extent. We all know what that feels like, if even momentarily. We don’t always talk about it because it feels weird, and “risky”. Maybe we don’t even know that any other way to feel exists. Maybe it’s all we’ve ever known. Sometimes, the pain can be so intense that it blinds us. You may recall the raw physical pain of child birth, or breaking a bone…and how that pain in the moment seems to overshadow anything else that may be going on. It is similar with the disease of depression. That being said, it can be reversed. Life does not have to be like that. The pain can be dissipated.
In Robin’s final act, his disorder (which simply means things are out of order, unbalanced) ended his life. To every ending there is a beginning. Robin spent his life spreading messages of hope and laughter in the face of fear and sadness. Even in his last act, he left us all with an “awakening”. “Hey, this is SERIOUS stuff, folks!”, I can almost hear him saying. “Wake up people!” (in his Good Morning, Vietnam voice)!
Even if the conversation lasts only a week…people have begun to awaken to this serious subject. It will stay in the back of our minds now. Maybe we will pay closer attention to our own emotional balance, and that of those around us. Maybe we will be more compassionate, more understanding of the human condition. When we see someone struggling, maybe we will assist them in getting help sooner, including ourselves. Maybe we will be kinder, gentler, more human.
In death, as in life, Robin Williams has inspired us to laugh and push ourselves and be compassionate and be human while we are able, and to AWAKEN. As we process the end of his great run, may we come full circle and begin to facilitate our own awakenings while we are here.
Thank you for letting me share.