Robin Williams is Dead. And it’s Personal for Me

This post was submitted to the 100 Voices for Suicide Prevention campaign by Laura Lewis, President and CEO at Laura Lewis Enterprises, LLC. Laura shares her personal testimonial as a survivor of suicide.

One of the most brilliant comedians of our time is gone. Suicide. He took his life at the age of 63 and the resounding reverberations are slowly, like ripples in a pond reaching people around the world. One can almost feel it, the palpable sadness, making it’s way into peoples’ lives via the news, social media, text messages, and conversations among friends, family and business acquaintances.

The shock of it all. The questions. And the pain for those of us who have been directly within the path of this type of devastating event has its’ way of pulling back the bandages that had been placed over the emotional wounds years ago. I suddenly feel very vulnerable again. Exposed. There it is. The pain that I, and many others know so well when a loved one makes a choice that he or she cannot go on.

It happens this way, the news of something like this. We would never expect it. Do we ever? I know I didn’t. After nine years of what seemed to be a rather idyllic life with the handsome, funny, brilliant man I loved, my husband and father of my beautiful daughters, aged three and six at the time, made such a choice. Out of the blue. One July morning, just before dawn, he hung himself.

Am I taking this news personally? Absolutely. This is personal. The pain of losing someone who chooses to take their own life without any warning shatters the very fabric of your reality. Upon waking early this morning, I knew I had to share my story with you.

“Why” is a common question after such an act. Many call it the ultimate selfish act. Some say it’s mental illness that is the cause behind the decision to depart without any thought as to how it will impact those left behind. Others feel it may be spurred on by the abuse of drugs or alcohol. We don’t know why Robin Williams made this decision. We will never, ever really know. Perhaps he left a letter or a note. My husband didn’t leave one and to this day, 19 years after his departure I still wonder, “why?”

Yet, as with the many tragedies in life that we may never understand, even now as I type this there are unspeakable acts being perpetrated on others around the world, causing pain and life changing devastation, we will never know the reason “why.”

Many of you know me as a “motivational maven”, one who is compelled to inspire others to truly live their lives in the most beautiful way and perhaps unaware of my back story. We all have them. I just so happen to have one that comes out of the suicide genre. And the contrast of how I live my life now, compared to how I lived before Bob’s departure is quite different. My heart is open and it’s as if I am tuned in to the voice of my soul. I hear it tell me to look up at the stars, to gaze at the beautiful moon, to listen to the sounds of the ocean and to look for beauty in the most unlikely places.

I often say those of us who have experienced the darkest of the dark are able to go to the lightest of the light-the joyous contrast to the depths of devastation.
A month or so after my husband’s suicide, I ran into an old friend that wisely said to me “I understand a little bit of life has been happening to you.” My dear friend’s wise words got straight to the point. Yes, a bit of “life” had happened. And there was no turning back. No erasing the pages of the story that had been written that early pre-dawn morning in July.

As I write this I want you to know that I feel my breathing is a bit shallow, I feel tears trying to creep out, yet with a familiar inner strength, I suppress them as I don’t really want to “go there” at the moment. There is too much to do and too much of the story to share with you. Too many people need to hear my side of it as the wife. The lover. The mother. And his friend.
Being a communicator, storyteller, presenter and media talent, I created a few presentations for groups in order to inspire those to deal with change healthfully and for those in grief, to lift them up and inspire hope. One presentation I do, entitled “Life is a Series of Miracles,” was inspired by one of my coaches, Karen Cortell Reisman. An extraordinary speaking coach, she encouraged me to share my story. Raw. Real. And empowering. To learn more about it click here.

You might wonder how my daughters are. Thank God they have both turned out to be beautiful, wise, talented, strong young women, now 25 and 22. Over the years their “processing” of the choice that Daddy made has been difficult to watch and experience with them. Both being creative I’ve read many essays written in school about that experience. I’ve seen one-act plays featuring the story of Daddy’s choice by my eldest, who just graduated with her Master of Fine Arts in acting from the University of Southern California, ironically, her father’s Alma Mater..

My younger daughter has turned out to be a highly gifted, aspiring filmmaker and even won a prestigious award from the Herb Albert Foundation for her skills as a writer, producer and director. In particular, one short film she made highlights her experience as one of those “left behind” by a father who chooses suicide. Victoria had just had her third birthday party, princess-themed of course, just a few months earlier.

Victoria’s film, entitled More Than Someone is worth a watch, especially if you would like a peek behind the curtain of a young teen’s life in the wake of such a devastating loss. I had no idea she was working on this piece. Vic was only 17 at the time and I simply thought she was calling me to ask a few questions about her life for a personal film project. This was the result.

I want you to know that each and every time I read or watched my daughters’ own stories, the gut-wrenching reality was big and painful. Yet, somehow I felt like I had morphed into some sort of warrior, deflecting the pain, helping others and most importantly being the very best mother I could be for both of them, in spite of it all. I have decided to extend that protective, maternal energy out to not only friends and family, but also to my private clients and all those who follow my creative endeavors to inspire those around me, that life can be grand in spite of it all. That life, THE LIFE that one is destined to live is right there within reach.

With Love,
Laura