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Heather Risinger Headshot

Suicide Is Far From Painless

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As the world mourns the loss of one of the greatest actors of our generation, I find myself unable to keep my eyes dry. I didn't know Robin Williams, personally. I agree with every kind word that has been shared by his fans about his prolific talent. He was true, comedic royalty and seemed a kind, gentle man. I must be honest. My tears are not because his time on Earth is over. My tears are for his friends, his wife and his children. They are the ones left behind. The "Genie" may be free, but his family is left here to wade through the pain, confusion and fog that is... suicide.

Unfortunately, I'm all too familiar with the demons of addiction. I don't have them myself. I thank God every day that I was spared. I was brought into the world via alcoholism and drug addiction, and it seemed to follow me most of my life. I was brought to my knees when my first husband and father of my two oldest children chose to leave our family life for his love of the bottle. The very same week, my mother, who seemed to be on a path of recovery for a long time, went on a weekend bender and ended her life by setting herself on fire, and driving off a cliff. Yes, you read that correctly. It was alcoholism dipped in drug addiction sprinkled with depression and topped with a heroine cherry.

I must clarify that this mother was not my wonderful mom that raised me. This mother gave me and my brother up for adoption, and we are very grateful for that. I've always known I was adopted, it was never a thing, and my brother and I concur we were given the greatest gift when we transitioned from being orphans to being adopted, together, by two undeniably incredible and generous parents. Our parents rock, so it was really odd to deal with the fact that our birth mother abandoned us, again. Suicide comes with a deep sense of abandonment that other kinds of death don't have. My brother chose to deal with it by reuniting with his old friend, crystal meth. I told you, I had it coming from every direction. I was alone in dealing with her suicide. No one wanted to talk about it.

I was now a single mother, and didn't have time to feel sorry for myself. That didn't stop me from feeling incredibly sad, and questioning my self-worth on a daily basis. I never really cared that she had left me the first time. I was loved, hugged, fed and had a happy childhood. After my husband left, and then she chose to take her own life, it was abandonment overload. It hurt.

I couldn't help but think, "Why am I not enough?"

No amount of Al-anon meetings, books, prayers, church services and advice from more experienced folks could ever answer this question. As a parent, I know the depths of what I would do to ensure my children and I never separate. I would lay down in front of a truck for them. I would sell my soul to the sea witch to protect them from pain or harm. How does a parent leave their child behind? How do they leave their spouse or their best friend behind?

It was logically explained to me that it was never about me. The diseases of alcoholism, drug addiction and depression were broken down succinctly. I was educated, and it helped, a little. I would be lying if I said it took any of the pain away. It didn't. I was given tools to cope, pull up my boot straps and move on. It didn't, and it never will, change the fact that no one should have to suffer this kind of loss. If the Genie gave me one wish, I would wish that no matter how many demons one has, or how much pain they feel, that their children are the reason they choose life over death.

There has been plenty written about Robin Williams. He lost his battle and I salute his fight. I wanted to take a minute to ask that we all send an immense amount of love and light to his children. They are left with immeasurable pain and sadness and questions that never get answered.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.