“Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says, ‘But doctor… I am Pagliacci.’ ”
My mind is still swirling with disconnected and confused thoughts. The loss of Robin Williams has had an unexpectedly heavy impact on me. How can you miss someone you never met? Its hard describe the feeling of loss of someone that since my childhood just always seemed to be there, ready to share a smile and lift the spirits of any feeling down. What could have caused someone who was always wanting to make others happy so terribly, terribly sad?
I think one of the things that has been hurting me the most since Williams’ death on Monday is the struggle to understand the spiritual implications of his actions. Most of my life I had been lead to believe that suicide was an unpardonable sin; that taking your own life meant you were no longer granted admission into heaven. Yet, as I’ve grown older and have encountered individuals who have struggled with suicidal thoughts, I began to question this understanding. Suicide can happen for a host of reasons and not everyone who commits suicide is the same or has the same sort of events leading up to the action. I was confused, unsure how to balance what many seemed to believe and what I didn’t feel was quite right. Its not necessarily a topic that the church speaks about freely or often, normally because no one seems to know what to say. I didn’t know where to look or who to ask.
After the news on Monday, the issue of suicide was brought to the forefront of my mind and of hundreds of thousands of others. After the initial shock, I decided it was time to make a position on this and I am so thankful for a friend who posted this status on Facebook:
“Robin Williams’ death has started a much needed conversation. I beseech you brothers and sisters, let us stop believing and spreading the belief that suicide is the unpardonable sin, it is not. The Adventist church does not believe or teach (individuals do not speak for the church) that the one who commits suicide is lost for eternity. God does not judge a person on one act of desperation. It is not up to us to weigh people, decide their worth, or judge what God will decide. Let us not assume the things of God we simply do not know. Samson’s death shows us that God cannot be put in a box, so let’s stop trying to put Him in one. God understands our frailty, He knows our human frame, and is loving in our times of desperate need. There are many children of God in the Bible who struggled with depression, loneliness, sadness, and hopelessness. God did not cast them away, it is not His character to do so. If we feel sadness and compassion for someone who felt so desperate as to take their own life, how much more must God, who sacrificed His own life for their life, feel towards them.”
God loves His children and wills that none should be lost. It is not my place to judge the eternal implications of someone’s choice to commit suicide. It IS my place to show love to those who are hurting, hopefully to prevent such desperate actions or to comfort those who have lost a loved one. Let us LOVE one another, as Christ loves us, for this is one of our greatest duties on earth.
I mention that I have met individuals who have had suicidal thoughts. Some have been close to me, others mere acquaintances. They have been people struggling for years or people that by all accounts are happy-go-lucky and free. I have not experienced losing someone in such a manner, but I know people who have. I myself have never had such thoughts, although I’m sure there were moments when they could have been entertained. The point I’m trying to make is that this is something that can happen to anyone, it is a condition that does not discriminate. Although not the only cause that leads to suicide, a condition that commonly precedes suicidal thoughts and actions is depression.
Depression, my friends, is no joke. It’s not fake, it’s not simple. You can’t just “get over it.” You can’t just “move on.” It’s something that has to dealt with carefully and over time with the help of a professional psychologist, close friends and family, and sometimes medication. There are thousands of people today that suffer and struggle from clinical depression, and most of them are probably not getting the help they need. Part of this might have to do with the fact that most people struggling with depression tend to isolate themselves, not wanting to be a burden to others. This shuts them off from the very sources of care and love that would be able to help them through these extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous times.
If someone expresses thoughts of depression or suicide to you – LISTEN. Be present, show you care. Your persistent choice of showing them love might make all the difference.
If you are depressed – TELL SOMEONE. You are not a burden, you’re a treasure. You are worth cherishing, worth loving. Maybe no one does understand what you’re going through, but they understand that you are special and loved and deserve not only to live, but to live abundantly. Please, seek the help you need.
To continue the Facebook status from my friend:
“If you are feeling desperation, sadness, loneliness, or have thoughts of hurting yourself know that God is with you in the mire. You are not alone and there is help. There are people who understand, will listen, and who can help.”
We are here to help each other. If you or know someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Your call is free and confidential, and will be answered be a trained counselor at a local crisis center.
Robin Williams was truly a man loved by the world. He touched the lives of thousands through his own, unique spark and now the world is a little duller because he’s gone. Zelda Williams, Robin’s daughter, wrote a heartbreaking letter after her father’s passing with a small note of thanks to his fans saying, “While I’ll never, ever understand how he could be loved so deeply and not find it in his heart to stay, theres minor comfort in knowing our grief and loss, in some small way, is shared with millions. It doesn’t help the pain, but at least its a burden countless others now know we carry, and so many have offered to help lighten the load.”
To Zelda and the rest of Williams’ close family and friends, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. May the Lord wrap His arms of comfort around you and grant you peace.