I realized recently that the passing of Robin Williams has not affected me that much. While I feel for his family, his death has little bearing on my life. A great comedian, a layered actor: he was both of these and much more. I am sorry for his family’s loss, for the loss of a comic genius to this nation and the world, but I do not mourn deeply for him.
When I compare his death with the death of my mother just a week before, there is no comparison. There are only levels of mourning. The loss that I feel for my mom – my rock, my friend, my confidante – can only be described as deep, bottom-of-the-abyss pain. What I feel for Robin Williams is a vague, numb sympathy, a divot, a pothole, a bump in the road – nowhere near the sinkhole of raw nerve endings that itch and prick for Mum. It consumes me. I do not have room to mourn for him while I have mourning left to do for her.
How I wish she was still here. How I wish she had been healthy towards the end. In some ways, I have mourned over her since last year even though she died only recently. Her disease took away the intimacy, the laughter, the heart talks that we have always had. As a daughter, it was every bit as devastating to my soul as that disease was to her body and mind. I am mourning for her as only a loving child can.
I understand what Robin Williams’ children are feeling so intensely right now. However, I cannot mourn for him at the plummeting depths that they will. That is reserved for my mother, just as it is reserved for them for their father. In my numbness, I see the tributes to him on my FaceBook wall and my heart cries, “But what about my mother?” I’m not ready for her to be forgotten and my grief to be sidelined by others as they carry on with their lives. The changes that come with her death are mine to bear, not my friends, but still, I envy, and maybe even resent a little, that they can go on, uninterrupted, while my piece of the planet has been bulldozed.
Robin Williams will be mourned for many years by many people for the laughter and generosity of spirit that he left for the world. That is one of the benefits of being well-known. My mother will be remembered by me and my family privately. She did not influence the world, but she did influence my world. Deep love must be mourned deeply.
In the hierarchy of grief, personal relationships trump celebrity.