As I watched the stunning news of the death of Robin Williams on T.V., it hit me with not just sadness of the passing of a wonderful man, actor and comedian, but also the realization of the ways others see us. Most of had known about the addictions he had experienced and probably everyone knew about the depression he suffered with, but not many knew the severity to which it affected him. That when he looked in the mirror, maybe he didn’t see the greatness to which we all saw him-his amazing ability to make us all laugh or cry-to feel. Maybe his reflection was a dark one-one we certainly never saw. His death-so tragic and unimaginable makes us all take a good look in the mirror and truly see ourselves. The image we must learn to see is not the one we want others to believe of us, it should be the reality of our own being.
For me personally I learned at a very young age, to suppress my true feelings and “put on a happy face” as they say. My father was an alcoholic in which at times he acted out in intense anger during those drinking episodes. I knew to stay away from him while (and sometimes after) those episodes that a lot of times wrecked havoc in our home. As my mom also did, I would just try to keep the peace by pretending everything was “normal.” We just found it was easier to grin and bear it, so to speak. I’ve learned by reading books on alcoholism that this is co-dependency and quite a normal experience for those living with an alcoholic. I could see just a little of the similarities in my life and the life of Robin Williams. Because maybe he didn’t feel it was acceptable for him to be depressed in the public eye, he displayed an image to the world that was truly different that what was actually the case. When he looked in the mirror, just like I did as a young child, we saw the image of a person not quite like the one reflected inside.
When grieving a loss, it can be the same kind of experience. When you lose someone, and for whatever reason you have in your head, you don’t truly reflect how you feel. Whether it is because you don’t want the world to think you’re “weak,” or that you cry. Or whether you “detach” from your feelings because of a learned experiences as a child, grieving can be a “touchy” occurrence. I have admitted to some friends that I found it difficult to NOT smile after Luke’s death. How strange is that admission? I know now that my coping mechanism made me want to immediately cover up my internal feelings and created a real reflex to just smile. One of the hardest parts of my grieving journey was to learn to reflect (truly) what was happening on the inside-on the outside. That when I looked in the mirror, if I saw sadness, anger, resentment or just anguish, I could allow those real emotions to show themselves not just to me, but to others as well. I’m absolutely positive that I am not the first grieving person to feel it’s inappropriate to mourn in public, whether you’re at the grocery store and you see your loved one’s favorite cereal or you’re at someone’s house and a song comes on the radio that reminds you of him or her. When these “reminders” show up and triggers a grief reaction-honor your feelings and then let them go. This is an essential part of healing and one that should not be overlooked.
To be able to express how you’re truly feeling on the outside is freeing. Now, when I’m feeling emotional and need to “break down” I’m learning to do it. I want to look in the mirror and know that I am truly ME. Sometimes, looking in the mirror and seeing your authentic self can be quite a harrowing experience, but I no longer want to feel, maybe like Robin Williams did, that he needed to be someone else in public than he was in private. He must have been in so much anguish when he looked in the mirror and only saw the sad, helpless part of his soul and not the part others saw-the funny, silly, amazing actor/comedian that could make millions of people laugh or cry. Hopefully, as with all souls that depart from this Earth, we will all learn from their lives one lesson or another. The one reoccurring message that keeps coming up for me is, love every person for who they are-for their ”flaws,” their dark sides, and bad moods, as well as their “good” sides because we may not always know what someone is going through in this life.