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mrs. doubtfire

Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire. Image via

Robin Williams Lives In Every Boomer, so does Mrs. Doubtfire.

I met my mother in law before Mrs. Doubtfire came out in 1993, but the shock of them being the same person never left.

Robin Williams could have studied his part with her help.

She’s from England, has a domestic science degree, and taught what we call home-ec.

Except, like Williams’ at his best, there’s always a bigger picture.

Robin took his act where few have gone, the same way my MIL takes sausage rolls where they’ve never been.

This was a man who showed himself to the world and the world cheered, laughed, and asked for more.

And he gave it to them time after time.

It doesn’t take dressing up like an English woman to show the sort of sweet kindness Mrs. Doubtfire showed, but it can’t hurt.

Manly men hold up a front of toughness, a ‘if I can do it, you can do it’ attitude.

Robin Williams proved early that no one would be walking in his footsteps, but it took Mrs. Doubtfire to show why.

Was he a gifted mimic, or just someone able to crawl into another life and make us believe he was someone else?

How often have you seen him onscreen and reached for seat belts? Watching him was always a jolting ride.

Then he stopped. The press says suicide. And no one suspected a thing? How can an actor hide the signs so well?

They’re acting.

One element of his life I watched was his friendship with Jonathan Winters. They seemed to understand each other beyond the words they exchanged.

Hearing any news of suicide is a wake up call and I’m not the first baby boomer to hear more about it after Robin Williams.

What I’ve learned is no one has access to the feelings of someone on the edge, that if you haven’t been there you have no idea.

And I agree though one moment not too long ago was particularly revealing.

News of a man’s death came in through a network of friends.

Everyone was shocked that he would take his own life. As an outdoors man, he took a long walk in the woods and never came back. Searchers found his car, then him.

This was a man whose own child may or may not have taken their own life. They had ear buds in while crossing a train track. It didn’t seem right. I went to that memorial, then the dad’s.

At the last memorial I stood next to a person who explained how it makes sense to die at your own hand.

“If I didn’t have a husband and kids, I’d probably kill myself too,” they said.

So I’m at a suicide’s memorial listening to someone explain suicide’s benefits all too well. Was it a cry for help? A moment of emotional drama? Was I supposed to tell someone? Mrs. Doubtfire?

They had their feelings and I was happy to hear them, to be someone they could talk to. If they’re talking about it they won’t actually follow through? Is that how it goes?

The quiet desperation in people’s lives is just that, quiet. That’s why we’re shocked to think someone we think we know would do it.

Those who didn’t know Robin Williams are shocked, but more so than those who did know him? Anyone who gets into pointing fingers, or calling names, talking to you Shepard Smith, are wrong.

No one knows what’s going on in the mind of anyone at a specific moment of despair.

One interview subject for this post explained it like this: “I’ve tried a few times. After the last attempt I figured I just couldn’t do it. It’s that moment that drives you to try and getting past that moment is most important. It doesn’t make sense to anyone who’s never been there, but completely understandable to those who have.”

What’s in store for Robin Williams’ fans from now on? Will they cherish what he left behind, his body of work that’s still coming? Or will details of his life at the end prove too harsh to face even on the silver screen?

The pain others carry after a suicide is key.

They need to know they aren’t at fault, that they couldn’t have done more. Once that ball starts rolling, you might stop it, but only for that moment. The individual may find help, or not. Either way the veil of mystery remains.

They end up addicted to what could have been.

Why do people do it? Why do they make the choice to end their life? Because they can’t see over the edge of the hole they find themselves in. Ending their life seems like a rational choice to them in that moment and they don’t get past it.


As we mourn the loss of the incredible Robin Williams, please know that if you are suffering, you are not alone. Many of us here at Upworthy have struggled with depression, and lots of things have helped us get better — from therapy to medication to yoga to meditation to running to other activities — and you can get better too. If you are in distress right now, please call (800) 273-8255. We love you and want you to live the happiest, healthiest life possible. Have you or someone you know gotten better? Let us know how here (please refrain from sharing any identifying details of other people, though). Love, Upworthy.


No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

The recent news of Robin Williams’ Parkinson’s diagnosis hits hard for anyone familiar with the disease. Loss of body control, dementia. What you see happening on the outside also happens on the inside.

This blogger did five years of care for my Parkinson’s afflicted father in law. It was a study in patience and kindness. Robin would have been a good caregiver.

Mrs. Doubtfire was in the house then.

About David Gillaspie
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