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Readers React

An outpouring of grief -- and compassion -- for Robin Williams

Readers have shared their grief over Robin Williams without passing any judgment on his actions or his life
From 'Dead Poets Society' to activism and more, readers recall how Robin Williams touched their lives

When Robin Williams' death was announced Monday afternoon, the crush of letters that usually arrives after major news breaks took several hours to materialize. Perhaps the shock of losing such a seminal and beloved figure in entertainment so great that our readers' initial reaction was disbelief.

But once the reality set in -- and once it became clear Williams is believed to have killed himself -- dozens of letters arrived eulogizing the 63-year-old actor and comedian. Admittedly, I had initially anticipated reading several angry missives from readers upset that someone so highly regarded would suddenly bring his own life to an end, as when similarly succesful figures in the past were said to have been cut down by any combination of drug use and/or suicide. And as we're all reading now, Williams struggled with depression and substance abuse.

But those letters weren't sent to us this time -- at least so far. Readers have shared their grief over Williams' death without passing any judgment on his actions or his life. Those who have remarked on the apparent circumstances of Williams' death have done so with compassion and understanding. Most of the letters recall how Williams' lengthy career touched their own lives.

Here are the readers' letters. Some may appear this week in the print paper and elsewhere on latimes.com/opinion.

Author Susan Blauner of Springfield, Mass., discusses the pain of living with suicidal thoughts:

I've read many articles about Williams' death since Monday, and reporter Lee Romney's is the most intelligent and humanistic. She gave poignant attention to depression as an illness and did not cast him as a tortured soul as other people have chosen to do.

I lived with suicidal thoughts for 18 years, survived attempts, and ultimately wrote a book about suicide prevention that helps people throughout the world save their lives.

I just wish Williams had waited long enough for the intensity of the suicidal thoughts to pass, as they always do. But I get it, the why. It's what is called metapain, the pain of feeling pain. As I wrote in my book, the brain has a mind of its own, particularly when it's trying to kill you.

What a tragic loss for everyone, especially Williams.

Robert S. Henry of San Gabriel lauds Williams' comic genius:

Williams was an entertainment genius that can only be fairly compared with the genius of Vincent van Gogh. He would start an interview with Johnny Carson or Jay Leno, and after a few seconds he would go off script extemporaneously. After going on nonstop for 10 minutes, he would have you rolling on the floor with laughter. 

But as Don McLean said of Van Gogh: "When no hope was left inside ... on that starry, starry night ... you took your life as lovers often do. But I could have told you ... this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."

Santa Monica resident Jerry Rubin remarks on Williams' social conscience:

I remember my very first No Nukes event in June 1979 at the Hollywood Bowl, when Williams was one of the highlighted guest performers at the Alliance for Survival's "Survival Sunday" sold-out concert.

He was a great talent but also a great humanitarian and activist celebrity.

What a sad loss.

Lake Elsinore resident James E. Abbott channels "Dead Poets Society":

I often showed "Dead Poets Society" to my students in business courses that I taught at the university level.

I thought it was important for them to get in touch with their inner self more than obsessing over profit and loss statements or manipulating assets in the corporate world. Our humanity is our greatest asset.

I sound my barbaric YAWP!

Gary A. Robb of Los Angeles says Williams stood out among the greats:

When I heard of Williams' death, my first thought was, "So many comedians today, but only one Robin Williams." I felt the same way about Jonathan Winters and Ernie Kovacs.

Who is left to don the mantle?

Follow Paul Thornton on Twitter @PaulMThornton

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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