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Balancing the dark with light: Goodbye Robin Williams

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In reading Facebook posts this morning, one after another mentions how sad it is that Robin Williams died. And indeed, it is unfortunate that we will no longer have his talents around to lift us up. But we can also focus on the joy and laughter he gave us over so many years rather than the fact that he is no longer with us.

In any situation, if we just focus on what we have lost, then that is all we have. On the other hand, to help us deal with a loss, we can also be grateful for what we still have. And in Robin Williams’ case, we are most fortunate to still have a treasure-trove of TV shows and films that we can view whenever we want.

We can remember him for his Oscar winning role as a psychologist in Good Will Hunting…or as a passionate English teacher in Dead Poets Society (“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”)…or laugh with him in the movie Patch Adams, The Birdcage, or his hilarious portrayal of Mrs. Doubtfire, in a film of the same name,

How you feel and think about a loss affects your whole body. Along with the Facebook posts about the sadness people were feeling about the loss of Williams, there was another nearby post by psychologist Alan Gettis. He wrote, “Your thoughts are like chemicals. They produce certain hormones. They change your heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration pattern…. Every cell in your body listens attentively to your thoughts…. It might be a good idea to change that conversation that goes on all day long in your head.”.

Sadness is an appropriate response to loss. But we also need to move on and to be grateful for what we have instead of hanging on to what we no longer have.

Taking Dr. Gettis’ thoughts, as well as Williams’ words to heart (“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”), rather than just staying with our sad thoughts it might be helpful to focus on the times we laughed with Williams. After all, isn’t that what he was all about? To help us laugh, to help us be more joyful, to help us balance the darkness with light?

With that in mind, it seems fitting to end with something that Williams said in the movie Jack:
“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me.”

Then he adds fitting advice for all of us, “Make your life spectacular.”

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