Actor and comedian Robin Williams died August 11th from a suspected suicide. Fans from around the world are grieving the tragic loss of this talented actor and comedian. Such an act of desperation reveals Williams was clearly in great emotional pain. A headline on NBC News Online shares that Robin Williams Battled Demons for Decades Before His Death.
Many are aware that Williams struggled for years with serious addiction issues.
However a lesser known fact is that one of those demons was an abortion that took place in the 1970’s.
From Robin Williams: A Biography by Andy Dougan
… His early days back in San Francisco after dropping out of Julliard (in the mid 1970’s) were among the unhappiest of his life. His relationship with his girlfriend, which had seemed so full of promise back in New York, had now come to a sudden and abrupt end…In an interview in Playboy magazine some years later, the subject turned to the Bush administration’s stance on abortion….Williams offered that making the decision to have an abortion was not an easy one, which begged the obvious question from interviewer Lawrence Grobel about whether he had ever found himself in that position.
‘Long, long, long time ago,’ Williams replied candidly, ‘and it was because we were too young and it wasn’t right.’ (Pg 35)
Is there a relationship between Robin William’s descent into drug addiction and depression that began in the 1970’s and his past abortion?
The Death of Young Love
Williams appears to have been very close to the mother of his aborted child and as the excerpt from his biography reveals, the period after the abortion and the end of the relationship were days of deep and painful darkness. Even as he began to enjoy considerable professional success as an actor/comedian, he struggled with addiction.
Consider the emotional vulnerability of a young man and woman in their mid 20’s as Williams tried to make his way in the highly competitive world of entertainment in the 1970’s. Think about how powerful a loving, caring and understanding relationship is in helping you negotiate the stress and challenges of such times. When the relationship is sexual, you have the deeply intimate experience of sharing your body, heart and soul with another person.
This union of pleasure, joy and love between Williams and his partner results in a pregnancy as a new life has been conceived in this act of love-making. When they decide to “end the pregnancy” by abortion, a very complex set of emotions are unleashed upon the young couple.
There were likely some rather pressured but reasoned discussions between the couple of why abortion was the only rational choice…as Williams shared:
…we were too young and it wasn’t right.’
Few relationships survive the complex emotional pain and complicated grief that naturally follows the decision to abort one’s unborn child. The powerful memories and emotions from such an experience defy our desperate rationalizations, and remain long after the relationship ends. To think otherwise is a failure to respect the power, depth and complexity of human intimate relationships.
The most common self-medication for these intimate and painful feelings and memories…sex, drugs and alcohol. The 1970’s and early 1980’s were fertile soil for such acting-out with the widespread use of cocaine in music and entertainment circles.
In a Guardian interview in 2008, Williams shares about his behavior during his periods of addiction:
“You know, I was shameful…You do stuff that causes disgust, and that’s hard to recover from. You can say, ‘I forgive you’ and all that stuff, but it’s not the same as recovering from it.”
Drawing upon the experience of hundreds of men’s testimonies about their abortion loss, Williams may have been making a thinly veiled reference to what society tells us does not exist…his post abortion trauma and complicated grief.
Let’s re-visit his quote above, but this time in the context of abortion loss:
You know that abortion was so deeply painful, and shameful…I am disgusted by my actions that led to the destruction of my unborn child, and struggle as a man and father. That abortion procedure was the death of my partnership with the child’s mother and it deeply wounded my heart and soul. No drug can remove that pain. I want to forgive myself and others…but I need to find a way to recover from this loss.
Author M. Alex Johnson on NBC News Online shares:
He never seemed to have full control of his fame…Williams talked of having become addicted to cocaine while he was appearing on “Mork & Mindy” (1978-1982.)…Cocaine, Williams told People magazine in 1988, “was a place to hide. Most people get hyper on coke. It slowed me down.”
Some will be quick to dismiss the relationship of his abortion in the 1970’s to his subsequent abuse and addictions to cocaine and alcohol, but look at Williams own words. He was looking for a place to “hide”…hide from what? There may have been other contributing factors in his vulnerability to addiction, such as his rise to stardom and the stress and temptations of the world of entertainment. But given what we have learned after 20 years of research and recovery work with those who have experienced abortion loss addictions are a common way that woman and men cope with the painful feelings and memories they bury after abortion.
In 1982, Williams was doing coke with John Belushi the night Belushi died of an overdose. Keep in mind that his association with Belushi the night of his death would naturally trigger his repressed post abortion pain and guilt connected to his role in the death of his unborn child. He may not have made the conscious connection, but those emotions would help add gasoline to his already raging addiction issues.
Displacement of a Father’s Grief
Williams would later become a vocal advocate for abortion rights. This reveals another common strategy of those that are unable to reconcile and recover from their abortion loss. The energy that would be better directed toward healing this loss is instead focused on the need to promote abortion accessibility for the poor and protecting woman’s health. This activism on behalf of abortion rights serves to deflect his conflicted emotions and complicated grief around his personal abortion, as it is displaced onto anti abortion activists and their political allies.
However the symptoms often tell the story and if you follow the trail, they will take you back to what was a life-changing event for Robin Williams and his partner in the 1970’s…the abortion of their unborn child.
Years of using drugs and alcohol to cope with abortion loss and other emotional pain and life stress takes a toll on the emotions and nervous system of addicts. The failure to recognize the role of abortion loss can be a significant factor in one’s addictive behavior and shuts the door on reconciliation and recovery from the abortion wound.
There is Hope and Healing
There is a way to recover from this loss. If you are a man or woman who was part of an abortion decision(s) in the past, there is hope and healing available to you. The abortion loss may be part of a larger tapestry of challenges that you have faced in your life journey. But that abortion loss can be significant contributing and often causative factor in the anxiety, depression, addictions and other symptoms that you may struggle with. Attending an abortion recovery program can help you learn to find healthy ways of grieving those areas of pain and loss that lead to reconciliation, resurrection and new life…not self destruction and death.
Join me in praying for the soul of Robin Williams and all those who suffer after abortion loss. Pray especially that through God’s mercy and forgiveness, Robin Williams will soon gaze upon the child he lost to abortion, and find in the eyes of that precious child, not judgment but a loving call to repentance, reconciliation and healing with the Creator of all life.