By Mike McMahan, LPC
When Robin Williams committed suicide two years ago, the entire nation mourned. He left behind a vast library of work that covered a wide range of the emotional spectrum, from Jumanji to Good Will Hunting to What Dreams May Come to One Hour Photo. We all have our favorite(s).
But while we may have felt his loss acutely, that feeling likely doesn’t compare to what his family members went through. His daughter, Zelda Williams, recently spoke about her journey through grief and the death of her father.
When I have a client that has a loss in their life, I remind my clients that though their loved one has passed, they will still live on in our memories and our heart. I ask them to consider what their loved ones would say to us if they were here. I also ask clients to consider how they will keep their loved one’s contributions to the world alive for others. In the case of Robin Williams, this may be an easy question. After all, his most famous films will likely be enjoyed for years to come. But that is an answer for us, as the public and does not reflect how a close family member might feel. Perhaps they treasure those movies as much as we do; perhaps not. Until his family members address that subject, we have no way of knowing.
There are also coping strategies that can help a person cope with grief. I was impressed to see that Zelda was using several good ones. “…for a while, I was kind of left to my own devices and a lot of stuff came out of that, because I ended up writing 12 scripts.” Writing and other artistic pursuits can be a great coping mechanism. Art can be a great way of exorcising emotional turmoil, as evidenced by, well, every artist ever. There must be a reason that artists seem to live volatile, troubled lives. Many would likely agree that artists feel things deeply and see things in ways that others may not. This perspective gives them insight, but may come at a cost.
In the article cited above Zelda also says that she has “gotten involved in one charity that dealt with ‘rescue dogs, people suffering from disabilities, and our nation’s wounded veterans’ — freedomservicedogs.org.” Volunteering can help a person get out of their own head and making a positive impact in the world can help us move on from grief in a healthy way.
Kudos to Zelda Williams for speaking out and setting such a great example.
Mike McMahan, LPC, is a psychotherapist based in San Antonio, Tx.
Therapy Goes POP
Perspectives on therapy and mental health as viewed through the lens of popular culture