Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

A week ago, Robin Williams died by his own hand. People have been celebrating his genius, his quick mind, his success in comedy and serious performances, as well, his good heart, his friendship, the way he gave to others. However his death affected people, it left us grieving.

My grief and my perspective may well be very different from your own. This is not an organized article, but rather musings of mind, heart, and soul that have come to me as I’ve gone through my week, and are coming again as I sit down to share with you. I offer this in the hopes that my sharing will help you in some way, will help others you touch, and will help our world.

My heart is grieving for the little boy, Robin, who played alone in his large home with his 2,000 toy soldiers. I imagine the dialogues he had with them. I imagine him telling them how frightened he was of his father when he was home. I imagine him telling them he wished his mother would stay home with him, instead of going to work and leaving him with the maids. I imagine him expressing to all the toy soldiers somehow that he was so terribly alone and felt so horribly afraid of being abandoned. I imagine his ability to have dialogues with different characters within himself and outside himself may have been born from his dialogues with his toy soldiers.

My heart is grieving for the man, Robin, who, it seems, didn’t have the kind of help he needed to heal the fears that were still alive inside him, in the little boy who, it appears, was still alive inside him. My heart grieves for his attempts to connect with people through his comedy, like he did with his mother, and for the superficial nature of such a connection, if made. My heart grieves for the man who used his quick mind and humor to defend himself against his own pain and fear, to distract others from his own pain and fear … and from theirs, too. My heart is grieving that it seems people didn’t see his pain beneath his jokes and comedic interactions … and if they did, they didn’t find a way to connect with him and help him.

My heart is grieving that people interviewed him, but when they asked questions and he answered with either serious responses or even scary responses, they laughed … as with one of NPR’s interviewers some years ago when she asked him about suicide and he made a joke about calling a suicide hot line and the person at the hotline saying, “Life isn’t for everybody.” She laughed. I listened this past week to a rerun and was aghast, my heart filled with the pain of what he was saying, what she was hearing, and that she laughed. What did members of the audience hear, feel, do in response to hearing this?

My heart is grieving that people allowed Robin to help them forget their own pain, and in many other ways, it seems. But who helped Robin?

My heart is grieving that the experts have taught us – misled us – and are continuing to do so, when they say that there is help, there is medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. And now more modern technological devices. Even the television doctors, like Sanjay Gupta, are spreading this word. But nobody is acknowledging that the healing doesn’t occur in our heads. Managing and controlling our thoughts and feelings doesn’t heal the pain that still lives within. Understanding the thoughts and feelings and even the cause in our lives, doesn’t heal the pain. It doesn’t help us work through it, resolve it, dissolve and transform it. It only helps us hold it at bay … again. Or bury it … again. Nobody’s saying these deeper truths about the help available.

Nobody’s talking about the deep, healing therapy that can take place if you find the right therapist, one who will go with you to the roots.

My heart is grieving that too many people will think “if Robin Williams, who had all the resources he needed, couldn’t get the help he needed to not kill himself, what hope is there for me?”  I understand that resources are needed for therapy – time, money, energy, commitment. But … my heart is grieving that nobody is saying, it’s not the resources, it’s finding the right help. It’s finding the right person.

As far as I’ve heard – and I’ve listened to many talk of his life and death in this past week …
Nobody’s talked about his frenetic, frenzied comedy and the pain that was so obvious in that frenetic energy.
People have talked about his depression, but nobody’s spoken of the manic nature of his comedy, his energy, even his interviews.
People have spoken of his good heart and all he did for others. Nobody’s spoken about how they gave to him. Steven Spielberg, it has been said, called Robin every night while he was making Schindler’s List and asked Robin to make him laugh.

Nobody called Robin every night and asked him,  “What can I do for you, Robin?”
Nobody called him every night and offered to him, “Share your pain with me, Robin.”
Nobody invited him to call them every night and ask them to be with him as he talked about and expressed the pain he was in.
I wish I had invited Robin to call me.
I wish he had called me and allowed me to listen to his pain and be with him … and help him heal to the root.

© Judith Barr, 2014

14 thoughts on “Robin Williams: What Nobody’s Saying!

  1. Robin Williams was more than an entertainer–he was a human being. You remind us in your musings. We should remember this of everyone we meet, that they are human beings, and try to connect with them as we would like to be connected. It is obvious now that he was experiencing excruciating emotional pain. I wish Robin had called you as well. I wish that anyone who is in pain will call you or a therapist who can help to heal them to their roots. I believe that peace and happiness can be achieved in this lifetime.

    Thank you, Judith, for your caring words on this tragic event.

    1. Thank you much, Jeannette, for your heartful response to my musings. . . for sharing your own thoughts and feelings . . . for sharing the wish that Robin had called me and that those in excruciating pain will call someone to help them heal to the root.

      Many sweet blessings . . .

    1. Dear Robin . . .

      Thank you for your response. It is true that we cannot say for sure what happened in Robin’s life – inside and out.

      We don’t indeed know if there was any time when someone reached out to help him. Much has been made of his helping others, but I haven’t seen anything reported about people who have offered to help him. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but compared with reports of his helping others, it seems curiously lacking.

      Sadly, often the help we receive is insufficient, for any number of reasons, including that one person may not know how to help another in such pain. Perhaps because they don’t have the ability. Perhaps because they have not done work with their own pain, making it difficult to impossible to work with someone in deep pain.

      And it is more and more of concern that the kind of help too-often offered professionally in these days is short term, fix-the-symptom, band-aid help, and not the help that assists people to heal their suffering to the root.


  2. Thank you Judith, for giving voice to your musings. I, too, have been having similar musings about how apparent Robin’s pain was and how we laughed, (and this is a stretch) almost encouraging the mania. I have been watching interviews, enjoying him and keeping him alive for just a little longer, and can see the pain in his eyes, when asked serious, personal questions, avoiding them with humor.
    The way in which he passed saddens me to the core.

    1. Thank you, Sandra, for your comment and for sharing your own musings.

      Sadly, it doesn’t seem that many were able to see the pain beneath Robin’s mania … and yes, many encouraged it. Maybe even more than encouraged it … when we laugh at someone’s humor that is a defense against his pain, actually we’re also enabling and colluding with the defense. Each of us who does so needs to ask ourselves, “Why am I colluding with his defense? What pain in me does that help me defend against?”

      As a tragic consequence, Robin’s family lost a loved one…and we all lost a good heart and a talented entertainer.

      Many among us have pain beneath their humor…and I hope that my article inspires all of us to see that pain, and reach out to them, to let them know the deep healing that is possible.


  3. That was the truest and most sensitive response to his death. I’m a clinical social worker and wrote a tiny version of those feelings and perceptions on my Facebook wall. It is so so true, poignant and deeply tragic.

    1. Thank you so much, Paula, for reaching back to me about my response to Robin’s death. I am touched by your response. Your saying “That was the truest and most sensitive response to his death” deeply moved me, especially since in my experience, the truth joined with love helps the grieving and the healing. . . and the living.

      Blessings . . .

  4. Thanks, Judith, for prompting others to reach out to a loved one in need of a listening heart or an understanding mind. Your response will hopefully motivate some in therapy to ask for more assistance in solving their inner conflicts and/or continuing to believe there is and always will be light further down the road. The lesson may be finding the roots of the problem that will hopefully motivate the drive to continue searching for a successful cocktail of therapeutic ingredients while insuring the correct level of therapeutic involvement. God Bless You and others in the Helping Professions and those who have Friends In Care.

    1. Thank you, Bill, for your comment and for sharing your thoughts and feelings that came forth when you read my article.

      Indeed, it is my hope and prayer that my response to Robin’s death will assist those who need help in healing their wounds to get that help…and help those already in therapy to seek deeper, fuller healing…healing to the root!


  5. Dear Judith,

    There are many things about your comments on Robin Williams death that I appreciate. My brother committed suicide [hanging] and it leaves a wound that resonates for years for family members and friends; perhaps a would that reflects the personal wound of the person desperate enough to take such an action. I appreciate your sensitivity and compassion for the childhood roots that can foster such deep inner suffering, and the importance of how we need to make ourselves available to listen deeply.

    I always enjoyed Robin’s humor and talents, and also recognized within the manic aspect of it a grimaced desperation attempting to outrun a monster not too far behind. When he received accolades for his serious movie roles later in his career [as if people were surprised that he could do drama], I was not surprised, as it was an opportunity for him to reveal some inner territory, territory which was dark, that his comedy career, and what the ‘fans’ and ‘media’ wanted, did not provide an outlet for.. His death is indeed sad, and the media tendency to gloss over the ‘deeper relevance’ of such an occurrence is also sad, and the mental health perspective [especially in the Western mindset] is not only sad, but consumerism at its worst for the proliferation of medication as being the answer [even though medication may indeed assist with the deeper more long term process of healing].

    I found it most interesting that during the recent broadcast of the Emmy’s during the salute to Robin, again focusing on all the wonderful things he contributed, that the more serious undertones could not be completely denied. The last visual of him walking slowly away, his back to the audience, and the audience’s total silence afterwards spoke volumes for what was NOT being said, and which was echoed by the darkened corners of a stage.

    1. Thank you, Michael, for sharing your heartful response to my post and how it touched you personally. My heart hurts to hear about your brother. I can only imagine the pain you and your family have gone through and must still be going through, since, yes, the wounds from such a loss resonate for years. And the loss itself for a lifetime. Those wounds can also evoke every other loss survivors have experienced, and every loss that comes along can evoke that loss, as well.

      In relation to the Emmy’s, your poignantly pointing out that the silence spoke volumes for what wasn’t being said . . . is touching. I add my own great concern and sorrow that we do not grieve publicly – not in our society or in most, I imagine – in a way that can truly help us heal, individually and communally. And why in society is it ok for a comedian to joke around and spontaneously break into laughter, even involuntary laughter that goes on and on . . . but it’s not ok for that same comedian to break into tears for the loss of a colleague, tears that are involuntary and go on and on and on? Although our celebrities could be wonderful positive models for us, they too often aren’t.

      Thank you also for sharing how you experienced Robin’s life, Michael … especially your insight that you “recognized within the manic aspect of it a grimaced desperation attempting to outrun a monster not too far behind.” Your description, that I sense could only come from someone who has been up close and personal with that experience, resonates as so deeply true in Robin’s case and, sadly, that of many. I’m so sorry you had to experience it up close, and thank you from my heart for expressing it.

      Many blessings to you, Michael, and to your family…

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