Suicide, Depression, and The Loss of Robin Williams

by Dr. Barbara Lowe

The tragic loss of Robin William to suicide has touched our nation in a very personal way. He was a beloved and endearing actor, comedian, and artist who used his gifts to entertain us across generations. He also exemplified resiliency in many ways. His ability to use and create humormade us heartily laugh and feel better about our own lives. Moreover, the content that he covered in his career, both as comedian and actor, seemed to exemplify the span of the human experience, leaving us with the sense that Robin was a kindred spirit to all of humanity.

Robin’s struggles with depression and the very sad end to his beautiful life also remind us of how fragile life can be.  In addition, this loss may remind us of other significant losses in our lives, or the pain of dealing with our own or a beloved’s mental illness.

In response to this time of grief that our nation is experiencing, I would like to offer some ways to cope with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

  1. Get Support Right Away and Allow Yourself to Be Supported over Time. When a loved one commits suicide, overwhelming emotions are very common and can last for a period of time. Typical emotions include shock, numbness, anger, and despair. A sense of “survivor’s guilt” and shame can also be common and will need to be worked through. It is important to avail oneself of appropriate support, both socially and professionally. Examples of professional help can include psychologists and counselors, clergy, hospice and grief groups, survivors of suicide groups, and the like. Draw close to your support system, and expand it in some new ways that are relevant. Meanwhile, know that this will get better, over time.
  2. Use Generous Self-Care. It is important to remember to care for yourself with proper nutrition/meals, adequate sleep, limited alcohol or substance use, exercise, a regular schedule, more “down” or “off” time than usual, and staying close to supportive others.
  3. Find your Own Way to Grieve. Grieving is different for everyone. It is important to find ways to grieve that are meaningful to you. Some ideas might be to create a book of remembrance, plant a tree in your loved one’s name, spend time talking to others that share your loss, make a video montage, journal, organize your loved one’s mementos in a shadow box, and the like.

For more information, feel free to contact one of our clinicians at 919.294,8981 or