Melissa Rivers gasps and utters “tragic” when asked about advice for Mindy McCready’s two young sons, Zander, 6, and Zayne, 10 months, who lost their mom to suicide this week.
The reality star, whose show Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? premieres Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on WeTV, knows all too well what it’s like to lose a parent in that way: Her dad, Edgar Rosenberg, who was married to mom Joan Rivers, took his own life in 1987, when she was 18.
“Her sons are so young, so I don’t know how you get any child through the loss of a parent at that age," the Fashion Police executive producer, 45, tells me Wednesday while promoting Blockbuster Awards Night Movie League, an interactive website designed to host, manage and facilitate participation in a fantasy league celebrating the 2013 Oscars.
“I do know for myself, the biggest healing moment for me was when I was able to admit that I was really mad at my dad, and what he did was sh****. But feeling that way doesn’t mean that I didn’t love him.”
For Melissa, therapy was a huge help.
“You’ve got to go to grief counseling,” she says. “This is not a path you can walk without help because there is so much anger. The biggest moment for me is when I realized that I could be angry, and I could be pissed at his decision, but that doesn’t mean that I loved him any less or respected him any less. Being able to separate that is a big moment.”
She chooses to remember the good times.
“My dad was great,” she says. “He was my protector. I was daddy’s girl.”
Still, her father’s demise has had a lasting impact.
“For sure, I have abandonment issues. I think anyone who goes through a suicide has abandonment issues. Someone’s choosing to not be there. Especially when it’s a parent.”
In fact, she continues to struggle with feelings of abandonment today.
“Somewhere in your head, you always wonder ‘was it me? Why wasn’t I enough?’ You have to play out all the ‘what ifs?’ and ‘if onlies,’ and then you must put them to rest, and not let it define who you are.”
She adds, “For years, I felt like there was a big giant ‘S’ walking with me on my chest. I felt very stigmatized by it.”
In 2010, the most recent year statistics are available, 38,364 people tragically chose to check out of this world. That’s 105 people per day; one person, every 13.7 minutes.
How would she stop someone from ending it all?
“What’s so ironic is I had a friend from high school who killed herself, and my father’s the one that told me — and then didn’t heed his own advice — that ‘suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem.’”
With her dad gone, Melissa shares an unbreakable bond with mom Joan.
What’s the best advice the comedienne has given her?
“No matter what you’re going through, this too shall pass,” she says. “Everyone goes through stuff. You scratch the surface of anyone, and they have a story. Everybody has stuff they have to deal with, and stuff that isn’t so pleasant. You have to remember that whatever you’re going through, it’s going to pass.”
If Melissa’s dad were here, he would be pleased to see how well his daughter is doing with her TV shows Fashion Police and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best?, plus her gig promoting Blockbuster Awards Night Movie League, an interactive website designed to host, manage and facilitate participation in a fantasy league celebrating the 2013 Oscars, which air Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.
“It’s the Academy Awards, it’s a huge time of year, and you get to compete online,” she says. “It’s like the world’s biggest Oscar party."
If you or someone you love are having thoughts of suicide, please get help immediately and prevent another tragedy. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Have you been affected by suicide? What would you tell survivors? Tweet us @okmagazine.