Waving Goodbye – 5 Things Joan Rivers Taught Me About Happiness

by: Alicia M. Blanco

2006 Gala of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Well, Fashion Police on E! will never be the same and neither will the world. Today we lost a woman who filled a room with so much light and laughter. She was known for being a trailblazer, wild and crazy, an icon, a bit neurotic, nipped and tucked, uncensored, without a filter, uniquely hilarious… but she was also known for mastering a trait we all hope to obtain in our lives- happiness.

Over the span of her nearly five decade run in Hollywood, Joan was constantly quoted saying how genuinely HAPPY she was in her life. She was madly in love with the industry, even with all of its insanity and setbacks.

It’s important to note that she didn’t always have such a happy state of mind…

After her husband suffered from a heart attack which resulted in the depression that led to his suicide in 1987, Joan also began to feel the sting of depression when her career plummeted. E! News journalist Ken Baker shared that at one point, she candidly told him in an interview that “she seriously contemplated suicide herself and what stopped her was her Yorkie ‘Spike’—she actually had a gun and she was going to do [it] and she said the Yorkie jumped in her lap to stop her.”

Chills much? So glad I just got myself a Yorkie! (Joan would’ve wanted me to say that.)

Joan used that incredibly dark time in her life to propel her forward into happiness.

So it made me think even more deeply on what it means to be happy and ways to be happy.

Here’s what I came up with.


1) Have a job you love – the more and more I learn about life, the more it becomes clear that people need to start doing what they love and not what ANYONE ELSE wants them to do. According to Joan, her parents “went insane” when she told them she wanted to be an actress and go into show business. Some of you are going to have to break your parents hearts tonight and tell them you’d rather do x instead of y. #sorrynotsorry but you better do it. Joan’s career lasted almost 50 years. Can you imagine doing something you hated for that long? Yet imagine the joy if its something that you passionately love. Priceless.

2) Have a best a friend – whether it’s your sibling, your roommate, or your dog – have a best friend who can always be counted on for an uplifting conversation, and a hearty laugh. Who you do life with is important. (Btw – it’s a proven fact that animals really do bring so much joy and bliss to life. Heck, Joan’s dog ‘Spike’ literally saved her life!)

3) Transparency – Joan Rivers had 16 plastic surgeries throughout her lifetime and she wasn’t shy about letting the world know it. She was blatantly honest and confident about it and everything else. All. The. Time. She also admittedly suffered from depression and contemplated suicide earlier on in her career and I think she was able to overcome her depression because of how honest she was about it. There was no pretending with her. I can’t stress enough how healing it can be to share your story rather than pretend you’re perfectly fine. Additionally, SHE DIDN’T CARE WHAT PEOPLE THOUGHT ABOUT HER OPENESS, LOOKS, OR ANTICS. And she made that perfectly loud and clear, too. Bingo.

4) Laugh. A lot. – Melissa Rivers, Joan’s daughter, said that her mother’s greatest joy in life was making people laugh. Laughter is contagious. When you put more effort into making others laugh and smile, it will always come back to you. I once heard that people who laugh more frequently live longer. I don’t know the science, but I’m willing to bet it’s true. For example, I’m not sure if you read my other blog about “The Secret”, or not, but part of The Secret talks about “laughing diseases away.” It sounds weird, I know, but one woman in the book/DVD was diagnosed with cancer, yet told herself the cancer was gone and spent months ONLY watching funny movies without taking any medicine. Within months her cancer was gone. (Cue sci-fi music.) Now, I certainy don’t recommend going without medical treatment, but you get the point…laughter is great medicine too.

5) Acknowledge Depression & Don’t Pretend You’re OK if you’re not. TALK IT OUT OF YOUR SYSTEM! – I know this last one may surprise you but I truly believe that success is made sweeter by the moments in life that sting a little bit. You learn to appreciate the good times when you have something to compare them to from your journey. Joan didn’t always have raging success. In fact, she had a lot of setbacks, like being fired from every job she had in the beginning of her career, suffering with bulimia, a strained relationship with her daughter Melissa, watching her husband suffer with depression and then committing suicide… I meannnnn, what a list! She recognized those dark chapters, acknowledged them for what they were, and then used those times to help others with her story. She even went on to say, “you can turn things around.” – no matter how crazy life can get…

…and her life was a living example of exactly that; a transformation with a dash of crazy – and isn’t that what life is all about?

May she rest in peace and may all that she taught the world about laughter and happiness live on forever.

(P.S. I’ll bet that Joan Rivers and Robin Williams are making God laugh together in Heaven!)

Joan Rivers | 1933 – 2014