Loss hides behind shadow of grief

Lasha Morningstar

WE ARE ONE

September 8, 2014

It's been weeks now, but Robin Williams' death still spills teardrops of sadness into our thoughts.

Almost everyone on Planet Earth was touched by his madcap humour that grabbed up our frazzled minds and took us away from worries that come with everyday life.

Usually we have a certain favourite memory of this actor, be it Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society or when he would sandbag a talk show host with his brilliant but mad humour.

My favourite? TV show Mork & Mindy. Who could believe that someone named Mork from planet Ork lands on earth in his egg spaceship to study the planet and report back to his boss Orson? His magic stripped me and a multitude of other chortling viewers of any disbelief and let us see our world through his child-like eyes.

As an entertainer, Williams gave of his talents freely, even flying to war zones to entertain the troops.

One reporter told of watching a young private going up to Williams and thanking him for mentally taking them out of the flying bullets, improvised explosive devices, slaughtered comrades, and letting them laugh again. He then handed Williams his St. Christopher medal.

Overwhelmed, Williams tried to make the young man take it back. But he wouldn't. So Williams reached around his neck and took off his chain with a cross and gave it to the private. An intimate moment of humanity.

The list of his giving selflessly, with heart-to-heart compassion, runs for pages. Especially when it came to the homeless and children.

Now he is gone.

Did we ever have a glimpse of that cancer of depression raging inside of him? Did we know he had been diagnosed with the first stages of Parkinson's disease? Maybe a few therapists, close friends and relatives did.

Why did he take his own life – the life that gave so much to so many? How powerful is this destructive force called depression?

Robin Williams

Robin Williams

I remember when the black dog of depression hit me so long ago. It's like a shadow that won't go away.

September is the compartment of time when I mentally go over the previous nine months of the year and determine who and what is my life.

DOSE OF REALITY

Maybe it means I've taken off the rose-coloured glasses I've worn for far too long. This is the time I have chosen (and yes, it makes me scared) to take a whopping dose of reality and realize life is changing and maybe not the way I planned or wanted.

Friends and relatives are dying. Too soon, far too many. With such a scattered family, I often don't even hear of the deaths. Opening the paper and seeing obits for dear colleagues I once worked with is heart-stopping.

Friends, professionals, organizations I once felt part of, belonged to, have, for whatever reason, dropped me without even a good-bye.

I can easily tell you it hurts. Because that is the truth. But I won't quibble with them. I just walk away. But before that, I'll backtrack and find out what I think might have happened and what part I played in it.

Maybe Williams suffered that kind of loss. We know from personality profiles on him that he had had several marital breakups. That must have fractured both him and the resultant children. Maybe he was brave and handled it – not like me. Or maybe those marital breaks were one of the pedals that started the depression car rolling down life's hill.

SUICIDE'S IMPACT

Commentators and psychotherapists are parsing the impact of the suicide by Williams. Some worry it might push those already suicidal to take the final step and distress phone numbers are given (780-482-4357).

So September is becoming a new time for me. Yes, I shall marvel at the colours of the leaves. And when the flying Vs of ducks and geese wing their way south, I'll say a prayer to St. Francis for their safety.

But I'll still keep it as a time to take my losses and turn them around. Loss hides behind the deadly shadow of grief. We all deal with grief in our own unique way. The secret is to be sure that it is handled. Smother it with business, avoid people, places, situations that upset you, and you'll hear depression's black dog scratching at the door.

(Lasha Morningstar lasha@wcr.ab.ca)