The suicide of Robin Williams hit all of us pretty hard. We saw the entertainer side of him, but most of us weren’t aware of how much pain he was in, and the dark place that he lived in. We saw instead the man who made us laugh at his jokes, and moved us with his in-depth character portrayals on screen. So it was a shock to hear of his death. The fact that it was self-inflicted made the blow that much worse. It brought home the pain that he must have suffered, and about which we were so ignorant. It’s that realization that we didn’t know what was going on, and that we were helpless in the face of it, even though, as fans, we weren’t in a position to do much about it. I’ve found helplessness to be one of the most difficult feelings that we, as humans, can go through. I think it was that sense of helplessness that was overwhelming for most people, and made it so incomprehensible. We feel defeated, just as, I suspect, he did in the face of his depression. It’s hard, at such times, to pull away enough to realize that depression is a disease, and one that needs specialized intervention. We don’t know enough about the circumstances, at the front line level, to evaluate what was going on. And Monday morning quarterbacking is not only insensitive, but also a fairly ineffective way of trying to get control over it. Many have found it difficult to understand the depth of his depression. But sadness, and sometimes even depression, are things that most people have experienced, even if only in passing. Those feelings can give us some understanding, if only at the surface level. And with that understanding, comes compassion, compassion for ourselves, and compassion for him. It is that compassion that he was unable to give to himself, but that we ourselves can now give. And it makes us feel less useless and helpless.