Robin Williams' Son Zak Opens up about Losing His Father

Ahead of what would be the late actor and comedian’s 68th birthday, his oldest child talked to Good Morning Britain to discuss the memory of his father, who passed away nearly five years ago already.

On July 18, 36-year-old Zachary Pym Williams, known as Zak, made a remote appearance on Good Morning Britain (GMB), where he recalled how it was to deal with his father’s fame, mental health and his tragic passing.

ROBIN’S FIRSTBORN

Zak is the oldest of Robin’s three children, and he is followed by 29-year-old Zelda and 27-year-old Cody.

Zak was the product of Robin’s marriage to his first wife Valerie Velardi, while Zelda and Cody are the children the actor shared with his second wife Marsha Garces.

Nowadays, Zak has become a mental health advocate, inspired by his father and his tragic fate.

SHARING HIS FATHER WITH THE WORLD

Although he has only good things to say about his famous father, he recalled how hard it was to “share” him with the entire world because of his public status, and he acknowledged the love Robin had for his job and his audience.

“He still went out and wanted to share you know his feelings of kind of laughter and humor with the world. And while he was suffering and struggling he still went out and performed,” Zak said.

DEALING WITH ROBIN’S MENTAL STRUGGLES

The conversation then migrated to the subject of Robin’s “mental struggles,” with GMB host Ben Shephard asking Zak how did that manifest in the actor’s his family life.

Zak said that more often than not his father kept his mental struggles to himself and what was really difficult when a member of the family sensed that something was wrong was to get Robin to open up and share his feelings.

“It was sad to see someone who was suffering there was helplessness from my part. I didn’t know what I could do or how I could be of best support,” Zak admitted.

AFTER ROBIN’S DEATH

According to Zak, the celebrity status of his father was especially difficult to deal with following Robin’s suicide, since he felt he had to support his huge community of fans and had little time to work through his own grief.

“It was hard to differentiate between what involved private grieving and experiencing that loss versus public grieving and experiencing that type of a community interaction and communicating, and I wasn’t prepared,” he added.

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Introducing you to my little family! My fiancé, Zak, and I were so happy to welcome baby McLaurin to the world on May 22nd. We are beyond thrilled he chose us to be his parents, and obviously think he’s the best, smartest, and cutest baby ever!! In life today, we expect everything to be live shared on social media, and many who are close to me are even just learning this news. 😬 We’ve kept this news private for a number of reasons, one of which is my increasing emphasis and appreciation for living life away from social media and focusing on my offline relationships, another being the challenges that face us as women startup founders. I have a lot more to say about this later, but at a high level... Becoming a mom is something I’ve always known I wanted, but as an early stage startup founder sometimes sounded impossible, not because I didn’t think I could manage it, but because I knew the extent of bias in the industry against me as a female founder and the fight to be taken seriously in building a business focused on solving social challenges for women. (Not to mention the fact that maternity leave doesn’t exist for me!) As I’m proud to have successfully built a business that doesn’t rely on Silicon Valley VCs taking women’s friendship seriously to operate and has an amazing supportive team, I’m excited to be expanding my role from global change-maker startup CEO, connecting millions of women to their best friends, to a milk factory, raising a really amazing little man who has a boss mamma. None of this would be possible without the most incredible and supportive partner a woman could ever hope for. Zak, the headline is true, you’re already and will always be, “World’s Greatest Dad!” Mickey and I are the luckiest. 🥰 [Photos by my super talented future sister-in-law @zeldawilliams]

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“The boundaries of in terms of how I experienced grief and shared my feelings and how the world experienced and shared their feelings was blurred in a lot of ways,” Zak continued.

He finished by sharing how unreal it still was for him that his father was not around, even if five years have gone by, and he also thanked Robin’s fans for their continuing support and for keeping the memory of his father alive.

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“There’s no education in place to tell you how to deal with this. To balance how to grieve privately with your family and then also to have to grieve publicly. While it was nice to be heard, I was spending time on the outer layer instead of on the inside. It wasn't just the survivor network for me, it was the whole world.” . . Zak is the son of beloved comedian Robin Williams- a suicide loss survivor, entrepreneur, investor, and mental health advocate. He serves on the board for Bring Change To Mind, an org whose mission is to end the stigma and discrimination around mental illness by creating campaigns, storytelling movements, and youth programs to encourage diverse & cultural conversation around mental health. I prepared for days before, venting to a dear friend moments before Zak arrived. Would I make a fool of myself? Would I accidentally say ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ and burst into tears? I was overwhelmed.Then my friend said something important -they said, “Be yourself, share your pain. His pain is the same.Remember who you are and why you’re there.” So that’s what I did. In front of me sat a man who lost a loved one to suicide. A man who understood the same level of devastation as I did, as so many of us do. I shared my story, of attempt and loss. Then I was honored that he shared with me his feelings of loss, devastation and growth. THAT is what I strive for:To create a safe space for ANYONE who’s been touched by suicide so they feel able to share. For 90 min, we were just 2 people who had lost someone, and found a common ground in our pain. After he left, I packed up, got in my car and started to drive.Then immediately I realized, OH YEAH, I’m not ok. I pulled over to the nearest park and I sobbed for 30 minutes. The tears were a culmination of what I’d accomplished in 18 months, they were hearing this man tell me my project was “extraordinary” and that he was happy to be part of it. That somehow, through the death of my sweet brother, I’ve been able to provide a safe space for Zak and so many other people. It was a defining moment for me and for my project. I’m so fortunate to share words & photos from Zak’s session with you all week.

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HE GREW TO BECOME A MENTAL HEALTH ADVOCATE

Although Robin wasn’t very open about his own struggles, he was passionate about getting others to leave the taboo about talking about mental health behind, as GMA host Kate Garraway pointed out.

Nowadays, Zak has become a mental health advocate, inspired by his father and his tragic fate. He recently lent his image and testimony to an Instagram campaign called “Faces of Fortitude.”

The campaign aims at offering a “safe space” for individuals affected by the suicide of a beloved one, with several participants sharing their perspectives and personal stories.

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