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A Personal Response To Robin Williams’ Suicide

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A note from HOPE Connection: We received the article below shortly after the news of Robin Williams’ death. The author’s husband committed suicide, and she posted these heartfelt words on her Facebook page. It is a truly powerful message. She has graciously allowed us to reprint her post in the hope that lives may not only be touched, but saved. – Dr. Jo Christner

Suicide has always been a hard one for me, even before Bret. The idea that someone could be so hopeless hurts my heart to no end. The news of Robin’s death this week was overwhelming in many ways. Here was another man, full of love and life, who just couldn’t fight anymore and that is so very tragic. And because he is so beloved, there’s no escaping it. News everywhere, poking and prodding, blasting details that no one has the right to know before all of his family has been notified. I can’t imagine the hell of having to see Bret’s death on every magazine cover! And with the news comes opinions… lots and lots of opinions both from people who are lucky enough never to have dealt personally with suicide and even people who have, yet haven’t completely healed.

Everyone is allowed their opinions. I will never say otherwise. I would simply encourage you to think about possible survivors before you speak. I’ve seen some horrible comments this week! “He’s burning in hell now.” “I have no sympathy for him.” “I feel sorry for his kids that he chose death over them.” I understand grieving and letting out your feelings, but if it will hurt more than help, perhaps you could keep it between your close real life friends instead of posting it for thousands to see and be affected by. That’s someone’s son… friend… father.

To those who believe that my husband is currently burning in hell: I accept that as your belief. You are as entitled to it as I am entitled to my belief that MY God loves and accepts all of his children unconditionally. Just please do me the courtesy of keeping it off my timeline.

To those who believe people choose suicide: Most people who commit suicide are mentally and emotionally ill. They have battled years of debilitating depression. Imagine a painful, aching black hole. No light escapes, no light penetrates, and the weight of it is carried hourly… daily… yearly. It doesn’t matter what you say, what you do, how you act, what you provide them… it cannot penetrate their darkness. And just as you can’t feel or think for another person, you cannot counter those inner voices that continually tell them they’re a failure. If the person is also battling addiction and has had neurological damage from past or current abuse, then the fight is that much harder. Their brain convinces them concretely that there is no other solution. A rational mind will see  options. Suicides, unfortunately, do not. (This isn’t opinion. There have been a ton of studies on the compromised brain. Check them out.) Many will say, “But there’s treatment! MAKE them see a doctor! Take medication!” If you catch them early enough, yes, these may indeed save their life. This is why the discussion and early treatment of clinical depression is so important. In the case of many suicides though, you won’t know how bad it is until the very end. They are adept at making people laugh and feel better about themselves as a means of deflection from their own shame/guilt/hurt and they will not let you know how much pain they are in until it’s too late. It may be as hard to understand as it is foreign for “normal” humans; our natural instinct is to survive at all costs. For those who are suicidally depressed, this just isn’t the case. Please accept the possibility that they see another reality than you do. 

To those who believe people who commit suicide are selfish: One of the last things Bret told me before he died was, “You will never know how much I love you.” He had told me this before so I didn’t take it for what it was at the time. However, it shows he was very much aware of us before he did it and I know he was speaking his truth. I firmly believe he thought we all deserved “better”… a “better” husband, a “better” son, a “better” father, a “better” friend; that he thought he didn’t have the strength or where-with-all to be those in his current state which made his guilt and self-loathing and pain even worse; and that he thought we’d all be better off without him. Obviously this is FAR from the truth, but again, we’re talking about damage at a molecular level. Bret was anything but selfish and everyone who knows him, knows this as fact: He loved and thought more of others than he did himself. Always and in all ways. From what I understand about Robin, he was quite similar in that regard. They both had huge hearts for others and yet not enough for themselves.

At first I took Robin’s death much like everyone else: pain, hurt, bewilderment, sadness… with a side of PTSD for good measure. But as I read more about him, I actually started to heal in a new way. See, as much as I intellectually understand that I couldn’t save Bret, survivor’s guilt runs oceans deep and rooting it out has been as hard as extracting a thousand year old redwood. Yet here is a man whose circumstances couldn’t have been more different and the outcome was the same. He HAD been through rehab. He WAS sober. He HAD tried medication. He SAW a doctor. All these points that I had hinged my complete failure as a wife/best friend/human being on were no longer valid. The “What ifs” have been answered. So what’s left? Acceptance, that there was nothing I could do to fix Bret, only he could have done that. Compassion, for the man I love so dearly and those in similar situations. And education, for those who don’t understand and hopefully for those suffering from depression.

To my fellow survivors and those who love Bret: (I speak of him in the present tense because our love for him is now, not just “then.”) As much as you might think so, there was nothing you could have done for him. It’s not your fault you didn’t know how deep his pain was. He didn’t want you to know and he was the MASTER of hiding it. He was a veritable YODA at hiding it! He just didn’t want to burden anyone and his pride wouldn’t let him ask for help. He loved all of you, more than you will ever know.

To those suffering: Depression isn’t a cold; it won’t clear up on its own. Recognize it. Be aware of it. Educate yourself on it. And forget the shame or embarassment you might be feeling…talk! And then keep talking! And then talk some more! Seek out professional help. You ABSOLUTELY can survive it but only you can take the steps necessary and the earlier, the better. Taking medication for a chemical imbalance is the same as a diabetic taking insulin: if your body needs it to function, then take it! And if one doesn’t work for you, keep trying until one does. Completely ignore anyone who thinks less of you! It’s YOUR life you’re fighting for. Give it the best chance of success possible. You’re worth it. You matter… period.

Finally, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention www.afsp.org provides a lot of wonderful services and I’m inviting all of you to walk with me in the Out of the Darkness Walk in Santa Monica, Friday 10/25 at 9:00 AM to raise awareness and funds. If you can’t participate, perhaps you can sponsor someone. Last year for Bret’s birthday I donated enough to train a new responder. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be the one being trained? Let’s get ahead of this instead of playing catch up. 

XOXO – Sam

Please consider joining Team Bret – click here for more information

(Btw, I walked outside after writing this and no less than 150 crows flew over my house. The crow is the totem for life magic, insight, personal transformation, and higher perspective. And then after I revised it, I saw my first hummingbird (Bret’s personal totem) at night. I think I leveled up! ;))










By Jo Christner, Psy.D.