Okay, so I’m not normally overcome by emotional moments easily. I’m much more likely to stop, analyze, contemplate, breathe, and evaluate my reactions… I process. (And I often write about things as a way of processing them.) So I’m a bit perplexed, honestly, by how much the death of Robin Williams has affected me, emotionally, in the past 24 hours.
I swear, it’s like a part of my youth has just been ripped away.
What’s adding fuel to the emotional roller coaster that I’ve been on last night and today is that everyone is grieving, it seems. Facebook is flooded with status updates and news stories about it. Friends are talking about it. It’s everywhere; we’re all experiencing it, and very publicly at that. So what might otherwise be a moment of sad reflection is instead being rehashed over and over again, seemingly impossible to escape.
What really bothers me, though, is the heartless reaction that some people have had. Fox News actor Shep Smith notably referred to “something inside you so horrible – or you’re such a coward, whatever the reason – that you have to end it.” And yes, he later apologized, convincingly in my opinion. But still, the idea of speculating aloud like that, a few hours after a beloved man’s death, is appalling to me. (Conan O’Brien handled the news much more appropriately, as you might expect.)
And look, I get it that suicide is a tough thing to process. It’s hard to know how to feel, or what to think. For the past few years, I’ve often euphemistically referred to my sister’s death as “sudden and unexpected”, but the harsh truth is that she killed herself. And I had my angry moments, and a single but powerful sobbing wreck moment. I understand the questioning, the bafflement, the wailing and the railing. But man, don’t go on national television and say hateful things about a cherished cultural icon, certainly not while the people the world over (not to mention his wife and children) are grieving.
I’ll close with a story that I read, in a series of late-night tweets by comedian Norm Macdonald, about an encounter that he had with Robin Williams years ago. I started laughing out loud halfway through it, and I was crying by the end. Crying, both from laughing so hard, and from grief. Think me a drama queen if you must, but this really got to me. Check it out, consolidated below: