Judy Collins Says Joan Rivers Helped 'Pull [Her] Up' After Her Son Died by Suicide at 33

Judy Collins says she was "at her darkest" after losing her son in 1993

Judy Collins
Judy Collins and her son Clark in 1983. Photo: Erica Goldish

Judy Collins faced the unthinkable when she lost her only son, Clark, to suicide in 1992 at age 33.

The singer-songwriter, 82, had dealt with plenty of setbacks over the years, including alcoholism, a decade-long battle with bulimia and a suicide attempt of her own, but for the first time, she was ready to hit pause — until a famous face stepped in.

"I was at my darkest after Clark's death and had already started to pull the plug on everything. I got a call from Joan Rivers, who lost her husband to suicide," Collins recalls to PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I was going to cancel all my shows and put my career on hold, and she said, 'You can't stop working, because if you stop, you'll never get out the other side.' [Healing] is about therapy — and having people who can pull you up."

Rivers, who died in 2014, was married to Edgar Rosenberg from 1965 until he died by suicide in 1987.

For more on Judy Collins, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Judy Collins, Joan Rivers
Judy Collins; Joan Rivers. Getty (2)

Having someone who could relate, and who could give tried-and-true advice, was helpful to Collins, who has long leaned on optimism to push through difficult things ("It's necessary to get through dark things," she explains).

She also became a suicide prevention advocate, writing the 2003 book Sanity and Grace: A Journey of Suicide, Survival and Strength on the subject, and is a frequent keynote speaker on mental health and suicide prevention.

"Clark died 29 years ago now. It's hard to think that it's that long," she says. "Get [these taboos] out into the open, whether it's addiction or suicide."

Getting the unspeakable spoken about has been something the "Both Sides Now" singer has done since she was 23, when she started therapy.

"Starting therapy at 23 was essential to me. I had to talk about the alcoholism, and I had to talk about the depression and the suicide attempt," she says. "Princess Diana was the first person that I ever saw in public talking about bulimia. I didn't talk about it at the time, but I knew all those years that I had a problem. Alcoholism is an illness, and so are eating disorders. There's been a huge sea change in people's ability to talk about these 'taboos.'"

judy collins
Judy Collins. Brad Trent

Collins, who is now a great-grandmother two times over, will release Spellbound, her 29th album, on Feb. 25. The record is her first to feature a tracklist written entirely by her.

"You have to be somehow in a place that you can trust yourself and the rest of the world," Collins says of her revealing new music. "It takes courage, and I wanted this to be my story."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to


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