When both our daughters went off to college each for the first time, it was made easier because they were so excited and eager to launch from the nest. They were making pretty good life decisions, as far as we knew. 🙂 We worked to give them lots of “opportunities to show trust and responsibility”. You can ask them and they will tell you that I would say that I wanted “to give them enough rope to grow and learn but not so much that they could hang themselves”.
I’m not going to say their leaving wasn’t hard, because it was. With both of them, the first few weeks after they left home were okay, it felt like they were just off to summer camp. No big deal. It was around that 6th week for both of them that I would find myself saying, “This isn’t fun anymore…This is starting to feel long….” and I’d go to their respective room, lay on their bed and let myself cry.
The best advice I ever received on saying that final goodbye, came from a gentleman that I used to go with to see Broadway shows in Dallas. He was a choir director for our parish and Mark was all too happy for Kevin to be my date for the night for that type of entertainment. One night, over dinner Kevin and I talked about my youngest daughter leaving soon for College. He offered this: “Don’t say your goodbyes at the dorm. And, if you can – try not to tear up too much.” The reason he offered this was because of the trauma he had felt when his Mom and Aunt left him at college. In the weeks leading up to the drop off they talked of how excited they were for him and how much fun he was going to have and it is going to all be amazing. Only to find them, leaving him in the front yard of his dorm crying uncontrollably. It totally caught him off guard and made him think “wait a minute!”. Should I be worried or upset? Where did this come from? Is this going to be okay???
Mark and I planned a dinner out the night or so before we were to take Madison off to college. We invited a couple of her close friends to come with us to her favorite Sushi restaurant, Ra. During dinner, Mark and I toasted her… told her how very proud we were for her… and admitted to her that our hearts were breaking a little at seeing her leave — I teared up, which gave us all the opportunity for well-meaning hugs all around…
The next day, we packed up 2 SUVs of college stuff and moved her into the dorm. People were everywhere, moving in hectic and the day was sweltering. In the end, we were all hot, sweaty and exhausted from all the back and forth to the cars and the dorm room set up. I can still see her on that entry porch to the dorm looking through us as we gave her a last hug before leaving. She was distracted, to say the least and had a sort of fish out of water, what now kind of look…
There was no way on the steps of that dorm, that we could have said and she herself in-turn absorbed the really meaningful goodbyes, words of encouragement, love, and yes even the sadness if we hadn’t listened to Kevin’s advice…
When I heard that Robin Williams passed away yesterday, I was struck like I had heard my own family member pass. My husband, in-turn had the same reaction when I told him the news. “What?!”… “Robin Williams died?!?”… With a pause to process the shock…
Robin was so rare and unique in his approach to his art. He stood out amongst all others with his, let’s put it all out there, no holds barred delivery whether it was on the stage, in a comedy club, on the camera filming in-front of a studio audience, or on the screen in a small therapist’s office. He was absolute genius in his funny, intelligent, emotional, fast-thinking, physical approach to his art. Yet, it was in the midst of all the hurry, scurry that he was able to stop midstride and exhibit great depth of feeling for others, things, ideas, dreams. This abrupt pause had the ability to leave the audience with a deeper sense of life, suffering, humanity, healing…
I had often thought that in Robin Williams, “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.” ~Aristotle As, many highly intelligent people can be viewed in the same context. Thank God for these out of the box thinkers! They surprise us into seeing the world in new and unique ways. They shock us into thinking that “yes, things can be done differently” even when they are ridiculed in their search for discovery for things like fire, light, flight…
I do know one thing for sure, his family shouldn’t blame themselves… They loved him deeply and did all they could for him, I’m most certain…
I speak from experience having lost a dear sister 8 years ago to suicide, that when suicide happens it is like a tidal wave has appeared without notice and all you knew that existed is washed away leaving nothing but raw emotion and pain in its midst as one numbly searches for any remnants of what was…
I’m not saying any of the following happened to the Williams family members, but this tidal wave can come on especially strong if your recent contact with your loved one was really positive and hopeful. I know, because just a couple of days before Tamra’s plan, she came to visit me and acted as her life was going great. Thanked me for all my help in getting her settled and on a new path and direction, even wrote me a thank you card and gave me a huge bear hug. You just never know… All the while she was telling me good-bye…
Like Robin, Tamra was highly intelligent and witty. She battled demons and had gotten professional help, but it has become my understanding that when a person makes up their mind to take this action, it’s not unlike a person having a brain stroke… Tamra took 2 weeks and actually planned her way out of the hurt, even in the midst of seeing our family and laughing away with us during Easter… seeing her psychiatrist the following week… She got drunk the night she took her own life, but it wasn’t the drinking that caused it, it was the drinking that helped her pull the trigger.
For his loved ones, for the healing that take place takes the one thing that is needed the most is — TIME. Time to grieve, feel, rest and process in whatever way you need to process. I had the help of a fantastic therapist to help me navigate my way back to a “new normal” and clergy that assured me that God loves her before, during and after… I could only move forward thinking that maybe God spared her in some way from long-term suffering, to a life that wasn’t going to improve not matter how much she, we all tried? I don’t know… I still would much rather she be here suffering with the rest of us…
I leave on this. The world has lost a great talent in Robin Williams and I’m so thankful we all got to share him for a few decades there…
And onto a PSA: Mental Illness is not something that is talked about enough in society. There is nothing wrong with seeking or asking for help. It is akin to going to the doctor of high blood pressure or diabetes. If you think you or a loved one are depressed, here is a list of things to look for – I found the following on Webmd.com:
Warning Signs of Severe Depression
Depression is a common but serious disease that ranges widely in severity. If you have a milder case, you may struggle with symptoms that include sadness, irritability, anger, and fatigue that last for weeks or longer. Such depression interferes with your daily life and relationships.
But some cases of depression are more severe, with intense symptoms that may include significant appetite and weight loss, sleep problems, and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Such depression can be paralyzing. You may isolate yourself and have trouble getting out of bed or leaving the house.
Symptoms of Severe Depression
What are the symptoms of severe depression?
Alcohol or drug abuse
Insomnia or excessive sleeping
Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
Persistent thoughts of something bad happening
Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
In very severe cases, psychotic symptoms (such as hallucinations or delusions)
Although you might feel that there’s no hope, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Even severe depression symptoms can be treated.
Risk Factors for Suicide
Not all people with risk factors will be suicidal. In addition to depression or other mental illness, risk factors for suicide include:
Past history of substance abuse
Past history of suicide attempt
Family history of suicide
Family history of mental illness or substance abuse
Firearms in the home
Feelings of hopelessness
Suicidal Thoughts: An Emergency (We took Tamra by ambulance to the ER g months before her suicide)
For people who are severely depressed, suicide is a real threat. Each year, about 30,000 people in the U.S. take their own lives, although the true number may be higher. Some suicides go unrecognized because they’re classified as accidents, drug overdoses, or shootings. Among people whose depression remains untreated, up to 15% will kill themselves.
What are the warning signs of suicide? According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, they include:
Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill yourself
Looking for a way to kill yourself, such as searching online for methods or buying a gun
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or feeling isolated
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Displaying extreme mood swings
Be aware that often, suicidal behavior is impulsive. Remove any weapons, medications, or other means that you might use to harm yourself. Ask a trusted person to keep your gun away from you and to lock up your knives. Flush stockpiled pills down the toilet. By getting such items out of your surroundings, you may buy time — enough valuable time for you overcome a suicidal impulse and to consider other ways to cope with your pain.
Avoid using alcohol or illegal drugs, or seek treatment to break dependence on these substances. They can worsen your depression and lead to thoughts of suicide. Some studies have found that among people who have completed suicide, 33%-69% have had alcohol detected in their blood.
If you are severely depressed or have suicidal thoughts, tell your primary care doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline anytime at (800) 273-TALK.
If you feel that you can’t control the urge to harm yourself, or if you’ve already taken steps to harm yourself, call 911 or go to the emergency room without delay. You may need to be hospitalized for supervised treatment to reduce the risk of suicide.