I interrupt our usual shenanigans to talk to you about my experience with grief and how music has been a life raft in my journey towards healing.
Today marks the 2-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
There’s an innate emptiness that comes from watching a parent deal with a sickness. It’s an all-encompassing black hole that consumes the aspects of your life that might have been a priority had your situation been different. To experience anything other- whether it be love or a social life, would be selfish, right? Just the idea of focusing on anything other seemed merely impossible, and so I isolated myself.
My Mom first became sick back in 2008 when I was 14. The next 12 years were filled with counting the ceiling tiles of hospital rooms, listening to her beautiful anecdotes of the life she had lived, and relishing in every single moment I was able to breathe the same air she breathed.
On March 13, 2020- my world shattered. Every single Doctor’s appointment and hospital stay somehow failed to prepare us for her loss. In the wake of her death, I clung to anything that might keep me afloat, and music became a sense of peace for my war ridden mind. For the moments when the voices got so loud, when the water began to fill my lungs, when life felt so lonely that I sometimes wished it could just…. stop.
I’d isolated myself and my feelings for so long that I felt as if I needed to keep up this facade that everything was okay, even when I was alone. And so, I sat in my house and in my car, just to allow myself to feel what the music could help me work through. It took a long time, but I finally feel like I’m on the right path.
I wanted to share a collection of songs that remind me of my mom- whether they are some of her favorites or they somehow put into words the pain I’ve felt in loving and losing her.
“Older Than I Am” by Lennon Stella is a beautiful ballad about the toll that taking on major responsibilities and being forced to mature at a young age can take on someone. I remember sobbing the first time I heard her sing the opening lines of “My heart’s seen things I wish it didn’t, somewhere, I lost some of my innocence and I miss it“. Being released just over a month after I lost my mom, it felt as if Lennon made this just for me (obviously she did).
Taylor Swift’s beautiful songwriting has long been a friend to me throughout most of my life- but in recent years her openness about her own mother’s battle with cancer has anchored her in my heart. On “Soon You’ll Get Better”, she chronicles the fear of losing her mother through every step from the doctor’s office diagnosis to the ways she needs to cope in order to remain positive.
“And I hate to make this all about me, but who am I supposed to talk to? What am I supposed to do, if there’s no you,” she sings on the bridge, unable to fathom a world without her best friend. At first, I couldn’t cope but I found peace in knowing that my mom would never want me to crumble beneath the weight of the sorrow. She’d want me to go on living, after all she taught me the meaning of strength through every battle she faced.
Patrick Droney’s “Glitter” describes the duality of grief in that the memories can be beautiful, but the pain can be impossible to be rid of. “See grief is just like glitter, it’s hard to brush away. Bright light and it still shimmers, like it was yesterday,” he reminds us of the beauty in the overwhelming grief. The immense loss can be so blinding that you lose track of the happy moments- something I struggled to remember for quite some time.
Some of these songs are painful, but I find comfort within the pain. Grief can be so isolating and yet, it’s what unites us all. I hope you find solace within this little collection just as I have. As the closing track “Healing” says, “the smoke ain’t gone, but it’s clearing.”
Much love and healing on your journeys.