I was watching CNN in an airport in Chicago when I learned that Robin Williams had died. The news left me utterly speechless. The announcer, who happens to be an acquaintance of mine, tried to remember all the best shows and movies in which the actor and comedian had played a role. Robin Williams was a trailblazer, a pioneer and truly one of a kind.
For years, I’ve used this quote in my motivational talks: “You’ve been born an original, don’t die a copy.” Robin Williams did just that. He always stayed true to himself and never tried to emulate anyone. Although it’s hard to sum up Williams’ enormous talent in just a few words, one of my favorite tributes has been from President Obama, who said of the comedian, “He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave us immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most.”
Williams’ widow has asked all of us to “remember his life and how much joy he brought to others.”
Several years ago, I had a brief encounter with Robin Williams. Having lived and worked in Beverly Hills for more than 20 years, I’ve seen my share of celebrities, but I sure got excited when I glanced over and saw Robin Williams in the shoe department at Barney’s. Most people just wanted to get a glimpse of this truly talented man, but what amazed me was that Robin Williams wanted to talk to them. He didn’t feel rushed or annoyed. He was generous of his time and happy to engage his fans in conversation. His actions that day left a positive impression about how genuine and real Robin Williams was, and how much he really wanted to bring joy to people’s lives.
We can only imagine the sorrow that Williams’ family and friends are experiencing after this tragedy. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a tragedy is, an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress. Tragedies have also caused great sadness. Just about all of us have dealt with tragedy in some way or another. While most traumatic events happen rather swiftly, the loss often lingers for a long time. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more than 90% of Americans said they suffered with some stress and panic.
After a traumatic event, we often feel shock and sometimes we are in denial. It can be hard to accept what’s happened. But in the midst of heartache and challenges, we are still living and experiencing life. I’ve found the following steps to be helpful when an enormous upheaval comes your way – whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, or another great difficulty in your life.
- Give yourself time to heal and grieve
- Ask for support
- Don’t make any major life changes during this emotional time
It’s been my experience that our judgment may not be at its best after a traumatic event has just occurred. Author Jane Leavy sums it up best: “ Trauma fractures comprehension as a pebble shatters a windshield. The wound at the site of impact spreads across the field of vision, obscuring reality and challenging beliefs.”
After a traumatic experience, you need to give yourself time to cope and get a grasp of what has happened. There isn’t a step-by-step process to ‘fix’ what has happened. It’s a day-by-day process that you slowly learn to deal with. Each day your ‘windshield’ becomes less obscure, until one day that spider-webbed crack looks like just a dot on the windshield of life.