LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — When Joan Rivers unexpectedly passed away in September of 2014, life as her daughter Melissa knew it came to an end.
But their mother-daughter bond lives on. Rivers says she often finds herself asking: what would Joan do?
“First of all, people always say to me, ‘Do you feel her?’ ” to which she jokingly replies, ” ‘No, I hear her constantly chattering in my head.’ That hasn’t changed. It’s like that same white noise.”
She has decades of entertaining memories with Joan as a comedian, actress, writer, and producer.
But it’s the personal stories that warm the heart.
Rivers says a little known fact about Joan is that she was a stress eater. She recalls a conversation she had with her mother:
“She called me. It must have been like 8 a.m. here to tell me something work-wise that had happened and I couldn’t understand,” she said. “And I [said], ‘Mom, get the turkey leg out of your mouth.’ And she goes, ‘How’d you know what I was eating?’ ”
For Rivers, the healing process means talking about the difficult memories as well.
“I tell people who lose anything or anyone in any way, ‘Only you know how to grieve. Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve. There is no right or wrong behavior.’ Everybody processes in their own way.”
She shared her last moments by Joan’s side in the hospital.
“The last night, I had them set up a cot in the room for me next to her bed. And after everyone had come and said their goodbyes, I gave a number of her friends an opportunity that last day to come and spend some time, and then … uh it was just, me and Coop, and my mom.
“He sat there for a while and cried and just layed on the cot with me.”
Beyond entertaining, Joan’s world revolved around her daughter and beloved grandson, Cooper.
“At one point, Cooper said to me, ‘Nothing will ever be good again,’ because they were so close. And I said, ‘No, that’s not true. Things will never be the same. They’ll be different but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be great,’ ” she said.
Rivers would know. She was only a teenager when her father committed suicide.
“One of the things I discovered and this was back in 1987, it was still considered shameful and something you didn’t speak about and was an embarrassment. And through grief and recovery, my biggest thing was, ‘Why am I supposed to be embarrassed by this?’ ” she said.
For years, she has made it her mission to help survivors of suicide realize they shouldn’t be embarrassed, either.
Last week, Rivers was honored by the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services organization for spreading the word about suicide awareness.
“One of the things I hated and I hated it from the time that my father passed, when people would candy coat, ‘Oh, it’s going to be alright. They’re in a better place,’ ” she said. “‘Well, maybe they are in a better place, but I’m not.’ And, I’ve always been someone that cut to the chase and say, ‘OK this sucks. It’s gonna suck. There is nothing fun nor good nor pretty about this but you’re gonna be OK and that’s the truth.”
Rivers is involved with a local grief support center called Our House, where people grieving under similar circumstances are grouped together. Some of the counselors, who work with teens, have even gone through the program themselves.
Grief / Suicide Prevention Resources