Why Does Robin Williams Death Hurt So Bad?


Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Softly, still staring off] I know…

Sean: No you don’t. It’s not your fault.

Will: [Serious] I know.

Sean: No. Listen to me son. It’s not your fault.

Will: I know that.

Sean: It’s not your fault.

[Will is silent, eyes closed]

Sean: It’s not your fault.

Will: [Will’s eyes open, misty already] Don’t fuck with me Sean. Not you.

Sean: It’s not your fault.

[Will shoves Sean back, and then, hands trembling, buries his face in his hands. Will begins sobbing. Sean puts his hands on Will’s shoulders, and Will grabs him and holds him close, crying]

Will: Oh my God! I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry Sean!

[Will continues sobbing in Sean’s arms]

“Good Will Hunting” (1997)


After hearing of the passing of Robin Williams I was left feeling as if a deeply close and formative relationship had just ended.


I don’t normally pay attention or give too much weight to any celebrity deaths.  Sure I was bummed about Philip Seymour Hoffman and Michael Jackson but nothing like this.


I feel as if my father figure, big brother, teacher, mentor, and childhood best friend who was always there for me, could always make me laugh, and showed me that life is worth living had just passed away.


All of his movies seemed to carry a similar theme.  That of pain and deep love.  He felt everything so deeply and cared so incredibly that the only way he could make peace with this devastation was through an even larger helping of laughter and love.


A few years ago I read an interview with Barry Sonnenfeld (director of “Get Shorty” and “Men In Black”) talking about his film “RV” starring Robin Williams.  It was a fairly typical interview talking about how brilliant and energetic Robin was.  Going so far as to say “and Robin has no off switch.”  Which means he is on 100% of the time.  What a nightmare to always have to be performing or else…


In my own experience with depression/anxiety/demons/etc one strategy is to run away ie into laughter and entertainment.  It’s not a good, effective, or particularly enjoyable strategy but for some people it seems like the only option.  This is what I imagine Robin Williams was going through.  And what I imagine all great geniuses go through in one way or another.


I heard a quote a few years ago that went something like this “The smarter you are the more you have to fear.”


I don’t think a man with as brilliant comedic and dramatic timing as Robin Williams was just born that way.  I think that genius comes out of deep seated agonizing pain.  Pain so incredibly deep that only the most brilliant comedic bits and performances could balance it out.


I think that’s also why he was so damned understanding and inspiring.  Because whatever horrid soul crushing pain you are feeling he has felt the same pain 10 fold.  He feels you and is there for you and just wants you to feel ok and cared for.  I think his role choices reflect this time and again.


In “Aladdin”, he was a true best friend to a misunderstood and spat upon “street rat”.  He loved Aladdin because he saw the true kindness, caring, and abandonment fear inside him and he just wanted Aladdin to feel safe and loved.


In “Hook”, he was pulled from his darkest most trying moment with the beautiful birth of his first child.  That’s when he knew everything would be ok and life was worth living.


In “Dead Poet’s Society”, he inspired his class to come out of their shell, question all assumptions, and see the true value of themselves and their passions.


In “World’s Greatest Dad” he showed that no matter what an awful, terribly despicable ungrateful person you are he still loves you with unconditional love.


Even in his darkest movies, “1 Hour Photo” and “Insomnia”, you could feel him grasping for love and peace.  His characters, though capable and engaged in terrible deeds, just wanted love and acceptance.


My favorite performance is “Good Will Hunting”.  Nothing brings me to tears easier than his character saying to Will “It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault.”


And with that, the passing of our prototypical father figure, mentor, entertainer, clown, inspire-er, unconditional lover, I say thank you for lifting our spirits when we were down and making us feel safe, happy, hopeful, loved, and accepted .


Your genius and inspiration to love life and love each other lives on inside all of us.  Illuminating the love and acceptance that is around us all the time.


Thank you for letting me know the pain I felt was “not my fault”.  And wherever you are, I’m sure they are letting you know as well that “It’s not your fault”.


To Robin Williams.  Thank you for the laughs.  Thank you for the love.  Thank you for showing me that life is worth living.



  1. On the button Chris! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Can’t stop crying. You beautifully shared how me, and many others are feeling ! Love you so my special one!

    • cjbrodheadsays:

      Thanks Mimi! Seriously it’s freaking out Sarah with how upset I am about his passing. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Love you too!

  2. Tim Harveysays:

    Of course it hurts. Just really grateful I got to see his work.

    • cjbrodheadsays:

      Absolutely. And the heart and love displayed throughout his work continues living inside us today.

  3. Shane Sullivansays:

    This has moved me! You put into words exactly the way I feel! Thank you

  4. Radnersays:

    Well said

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