Tag Archives: suicide

The Letter I wish Robin Williams could have read

robin williams 660 1 reutersDear Robin,

It’s been a little over  3 weeks since our collective hearts were broken by your passing, and I feel there are things I would have loved to have told you if  I only had the chance.  I sat down to write this with so much appreciation for what you gave us that I was not even sure how to address the letter. Mr. Williams shows respect but I have the feeling no one was allowed to call you that.  I wanted to address it to the funny man up in heaven, but since I believe you want to be remembered as so much more than that, I ultimately decided on merely going with Robin.

It’s important that I begin by addressing your death.  Although most of those I speak with loved what you gave the world and feel sadness at your loss, there are some who are not as kind or tolerant, calling you a coward or showing anger at what they see as the lack of morality in suicide.  It is because of this that I wish to relay to you a story.  In the late 70s in the Dutch city of Arnhem there was a man, with a lovely wife and young teenage daughter who was so scarred from the events that took place during the Nazi occupation of Holland that he had lived much of his adult life with often debilitating mental illness. Although he was a man who was gentle and loving to his wife and daughter, his inner torment was so severe that he would occasionally explode in a verbal rage in public forums, most notably the local synagogue.  The Rabbi leading the congregation would see this on a regular basis, get to know the man and his family well, and rather than address something that could not be fixed, worked around it, making the man and his daughter as welcome as possible. Sadly the man’s inner rage caught up with him and one day the Rabbi received the horrifying call that was tragically somewhat inevitable. The man had taken a gun and shot himself dead.  In the Jewish religion, suicides takes away the rights to a proper burial and the proper etiquette of mourning.  However, fully aware of the mental condition of the man, and at least somewhat aware of the cause, the Rabbi made a decree that the man was not actually a victim of suicide but a victim of mental illness caused by the horrors of war.  The Rabbi, in my opinion admirably, made the distinction between someone who was escaping problems in his life or running from shame, from one finding freedom of an inescapable torment. As a result of this decree the man received the respect and honor anyone else would have received upon their death. Personally I always felt great admiration for the Rabbi’s decision on this matter.  It taught me so much about how to apply compassion when compassion is due, and it made me see suicide as something that is not ever a black and white issue.   I was always grateful for what the Rabbi taught me from his actions, especially since the Rabbi was my late father.

I know there are those who will argue that there is no comparison with what someone went through between 1940-45 in Holland and what you went through in your life.  Of course that is true and I am sure you would be the first person to say that.  The point I am making is not to compare the cause of the demons, but the actual demons themselves.  We can easily make a judgment as to whose life was worse, but we can’t make a judgment to who felt worse.  Your torment brought your life to a similar conclusion and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, that is the source of my personal compassion.

As far as who you were for so many of us I wish to tell you the following.  You made us happier.  As a fan of yours I go all the way back to the Mork & Mindy days.  I will never forget a classic scene, one I unfortunately can’t find anywhere online, in which “Mork”, played by you of course,  was holding a jar of ants, and someone, I believe Mindy said, “those ants are revolting”, in which Mork replied, “actually they’re quite happy with their present form of government. Look! They’re even dancing.”  It was not till later that I learned this wasn’t even a scripted scene. Apparently this scene, like many others on the show was ad-libbed by you.

When it came to your movies my 2 favorites were “The Fisher King”, a remarkable movie, one  I believe to be highly underrated, in which you play a vagrant whose life was tragically altered by a tragic loss.  And the second movie ironically is the beautiful movie, “What dreams may come”.  I say ironically, because this movie not only deals with the matter of suicide, but forgiveness for suicide as well.  I can’t imagine what impact it has on someone’s psyche to get into character for movies like these, but in both of these movies your performances were brilliantly moving and I suspect impacted you emotionally in one way or another.

I spoke with someone just yesterday who agreed that part of what made you so special was that so many of us felt a connection to you.  Everyone has those favorite entertainers they feel a connection with. What set you apart is the fact that millions felt that with you.  For what you were to us and the service you provided to us, you were admired and loved.  Unfortunately that love is a very superficial love and not nearly enough to chase away the demons that destroyed you.

I did not know your personal life, but by all accounts you had people close to you that loved you dearly as well. This makes what happened even more baffling and complicated.  I don’t dare to say I know why the pain you felt was so great, but I will share the theory I proposed to the person I was speaking about you to yesterday.  There are occasions when I am really on.  When that happens I am funny, sharp and personable.  I can draw on some of those qualities on command to some extent, some of the time, but to draw on all of those qualities at once I need the stars to align and to feel just right. Subsequently I can’t predict if and when it will happen.  It is my  guess that you were able to access all those qualities at a moment’s notice, and that therefore you never achieved the high regular people like I get when we do hit that peak.  You always hit that peak, which in an odd way may have given you less to look forward to.  Again, I don’t know this, but in knowing a little bit about who you were, I can’t help but wonder if that was a factor.

Then again maybe it is something as simple as wanting to be seen as more than the funny man or entertainer, maybe you wanted something deeper you could never find.  If that is the case the pain and suffering that ultimately took you from us is even more tragic.  Because in your professional brilliance, be it in comedy or drama, you brought so much to so many people that we all feel you deserved better.  And the personal attachments you had, so many of which seem to have been loving and close connections also didn’t succeed in bringing you the peace to go on any further.

In the past few months I’ve put out letters to a number of celebrities over the events taking place in the world today.  Events that are concerning at best, terrifying at worst.  The day you died I said, “at a time when we needed humor the most we lost the funniest man on the planet.”  Maybe that was a burden too hard for you to bear.  If that is the case I for one am sorry for the pressure that put on you.

I end this letter with an interesting and mystical thought.  As of yet I don’t know who if any of the celebrities I’ve written to have read my letters. However, somehow I feel that you will see this letter.  If you do I leave you with this.  Thank you, rest in peace, and please, when you get the chance, tell my Dad a joke.


David Groen




Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes


Remembering Robin Williams. One of the funniest ever

Hope you all enjoy these 2 video clips I found from Mork & Mindy.
“I don’t know how much value I had in this universe, but I do know I made a few people happier than they would’ve been without me. As long as I know that, I’m as rich as I ever need to be.”
These words were spoken by the character Mork played by the late great Robin Williams in the TV show Mork & Mindy. He made a lot of people happier than they would’ve been without him, and I was one of them.

Robin Williams: Dead at 63















Follow Holland’s Heroes on Twitter @hollandsheroes


Breaking News: Malaysia Flight 370 tells us we’re not as smart as we think we are

missing-malaysia-flight-370-plane-may-have-flown-into-indian-ocean-lead12 days have passed with 26 countries searching, billions of dollars being spent, and all sorts of resources being used, such as military and space technology, and still no sign of Malaysia flight 370.  Everyone has a theory, and of course we have all sorts of experts chiming in, but the reality is that we do not know where this plane is or has been since it disappeared.

There’s a trust factor we all try to have when listening to law enforcement officials.  After all, with their extensive experience and immense responsibility, if they are saying something publicly, it must be based in truth and reality, right?  The post 9/11 world has seen security precautions never before seen.  Nevertheless we find out that there were two passengers, Iranians no less, on the plane with stolen passports.  Thankfully, through the infinite wisdom of experts and security personnel, we’ve been assured that those two passengers were definitely not terrorists.  After all, Iranians with stolen passports are the last people you’d consider terror suspect, right?

We know the plane took a sharp left turn before it vanished off the screen.  Well I feel better.  Thank goodness our developed technology can show us that much, right?  Maybe I’m being unfair.  After all they have been able to narrow the search down to an area of a little smaller than the continental United States.  Also of great relief is the fact that so many intelligence officials think it is more logical that the plane is in the ocean than on land.  Sarcasm aside, when someone can’t find something, and says it is definitely not in a particular place, unless it is somewhere they never go, I always ask the same question.   If you have no idea where it is, how can you be so sure where it isn’t?

The whole point I am trying to make is that any uneasy feeling anyone is feeling right now is more than justified because of what we now know that most of us lay people did not know 12 days ago.  First of all we know that we can indeed lose a commercial airliner.  We know that a plane can fly long distances without being detected by flying below the radar.  We think we know there was foul play, which either means that Malaysia’s security is highly suspect, or that their airline had at least one crew member very organized and ready to commit an act of terror or mass suicide.  We know that passports can get stolen, reported and still used to board an international flight.   Most of all we know that with all our experts and costly intelligence and security mechanisms, we are just not as smart as we thought we were.

I would say we also learned that we are not all that safe no matter where we are, but I think most of us probably already knew that.  Even without the experts telling us.

Is Drug Abuse a form of Suicide?

philip seymour hoffmanYesterday while cooking chicken cutlets I began a conversation with a friend about the recent death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I was mere seconds away from making a disparaging remark about a celebrity overdosing on drugs when the tong I was using popped out of its lock causing the fork and knife next to it to go flying in the air and land on the ground.  My friend, ever the mystical one, said it was  caused by some sort of unknown energy in the room.  After I laughed at his comment I stopped to think about it and decided not to make my disparaging remark, the one that would have shown no compassion, and reassessed my feelings towards the issue.  In doing so I asked myself the following question:  Can drug overdose be considered a form of suicide?

Some of the similarities are glaringly significant.  In both cases we feel sadness for the loved ones left behind, knowing that the victims do not do what they do to hurt another person.  In many cases loved ones question themselves.  Could I have done more to help them?  Could I have stopped it from happening?  Could I have saved them if I was in the right place at the right time?  Often loved ones feel a justifiable albeit helpless anger towards what they may see as the ultimate in selfishness.  And the most significant similarity may be the self-destructiveness involved.  In the case of suicide, by its mere definition it is self-destructive.  In the case of drug overdose,  the continuing pursuit of the high at all costs is clearly self-destructive, even if the conscious motivation is not actual self-destruction.

So the question that follows is, should we feel sorrow or pity for the person who overdoses on drugs?  Some might ask the same question about someone who commits suicide. I personally do not even ask the question when looking at suicide.  To reach such despair in one’s life that the feeling one is left with is that the only solution is to kill oneself, is tragic no matter which way you twist it.  You know, that a person never wants to reach that point where they have no other way out, and if they do, they will ultimately do what they can to force fate’s hand regardless of how badly someone would like to prevent it, since their intent, and that may be the key word, is to stop the pain and end it all at all costs.

Although there is no question that consistent drug use has a very good chance in ending with one’s death and is also a way of stopping the pain, I will stop short of calling it a form of suicide.  There are many things people do they know to be unhealthy for them, some that are likely to shorten their life. They do them because they can’t help themselves or feel they can get away with it, not because they consciously want to die.  A person who abuses drugs to the point of death is more like the person who continues to smoke cigarettes, or the obese person who can’t stop eating.  In some instances they may not care, but they are generally not abusing their body with the sole intent of taking their own life.  Even if they are comfortable with what they perceive as a slow death, their initial focus is feeling better, not death.    Drug users have even less control of what they do, because the drugs can completely take over their life, and even though sometimes they can’t stop it because of a personal despair, their purpose is usually to get high, not to end their life.

Another important difference is that a drug abuser has a better shot at reversing the negative spiral than someone on the way to actual suicide. Had someone actually convinced Philip Seymour Hoffman to get help and eliminate drugs from his life, an overdose would not have taken his life on Saturday.  But with the intricacies of the mind, despair is something a lot harder if not impossible to control and if someone has the intent to end it all, the battle to prevent it as a battle riddled with serious and often impossible obstacles to overcome.

So I come away from this all somewhat humbled, because rather than taking a high (no pun intended) and mighty stance, I realize that drug overdose is a tragedy that often causes an untimely death and pain to those left behind, even if the intent generally distinguishes it from true suicide.   Not being a mental health professional or drug counselor I may be off here on some of my points, but ultimately I realize that all I can do as a human being is show compassion to anyone suffering on any level they never wished to suffer.  It will make me a better person and maybe one day allow me to help someone  who needs help and maybe even save someone’s life.  It may also never make a difference, but it is certainly more productive than a disparaging comment while cooking chicken cutlets.