On Grieving

The headlines in entertainment today seem to have a common theme: touching tributes made to the late, great Robin Williams.

It wasn't long ago that I was looking through the book shelves, deciding what to get rid of, when I came across a book with my father's handwriting inside the front cover.

It's been just over 20 years since my father passed away, and the sight of his handwriting can still make my heart catch in my throat. I wear jewelry he made and I think of him. Sometimes, when I see a misspelled word, I think of him: Dad was a great guy but a lousy speller. (Love you, Dad!)

So I wonder how it must be to have lost a loved one who was famous, or even just in the public eye in some way. How emotional it must be to be Steve Irwin's child and flip on the TV to see a clip of him. Robin Williams' family must be touched and ragged at the same time over the outpouring of kind words and memories of him. The old family movies on film will bring me to tears every time, with all those beloved souls gone. I can't imagine how it would be to have your lost loved ones suddenly in front of you in any number of ways at any moment. Back when we still had television, I remember seeing a commercial featuring the famous TV pitchman Billy Mays: they were airing the commercial some months after the man's death. I wondered that day how difficult it must be for his family to hear that distinctive voice, played at twice the decibels of the rest of the TV show, as all of his commercials were.

In this era of social media and instant sharing, there is the extra complication. How horrible it must be to find yourself or your loved one in the cross-hairs of those disgusting internet trolls who get some sick kick out of saying hurtful, hateful things, just for the sake of being a nasty person. If the grieving ones take to the social media to share a moment, a photo, a wistful thought or a bit of honest pain, they are skewered.

What a challenge it must be for them to carve out some private grief. For me, grief has been partly about finding a neat little compartment to tuck it away in, so that I could process things at my leisure. The ones who knew and loved Robin Williams will never get the luxury of a private grieving on their own terms and at their own pace.

For a time, we look back at the one we lost and they seem to us a shining angel of all things good. It feels wrong and dishonorable to think of anything except how great they were. Later, the day comes when you think about the loved one you lost and you are able to remember the whole of them: their flaws and their brilliance, their beauty and their foibles. Will Robin Williams' family ever get the space to come to that comfortable place, where they can think of their dear one with love, comfort, pleasure and only a little bit of pain?

Until that day, I will pray that they find a little comfort, a lot of privacy, a gentling of their grief and I will pray that all internet trolls be abducted by aliens...and not the ones as nice as the one who came from Ork.