At first, in the early stage of intense grief after I lost my older son Brent, I couldn’t even listen to music — at least not without crying. The only music I focused on was picking out the music for the wake and funeral. My head felt so foggy, I could not even read, never mind follow the story in the music. During short occasional moments when I could hear the lyrics, almost any type of music would connect me to my loss and make me miserable.
Over time, music became a great comfort. There were the songs that my son had liked, the ones we sang together in those long weekend car rides to and from his military high school in New York, and the ones we danced to together on vacation or even sometimes in our living room.
That thought reminds me of a New Year’s Eve home party we had when hip hop and rap music was new. A friend in the role of DJ put some new music on and I was surprised to see Brent demonstrate a comfortable knowledge of the words and how to dance to it. When I asked him how he learned that, he said he had a group of African American buddies who loved that music and were great dancers, but they wanted to learn to wrestle. Brent was the captain of the wrestling team, and he wanted to learn how to dance like that, so they taught each other! When I hear those songs, it makes me smile and remember that fun party with him.
I maintain a list of songs that are written about the loss of a child or sibling, and I relate to them as do most of the families I work with. We use them in our support group activities and events. Those songs include “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, “There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill, “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice, plus others.
But now I find myself not only smiling when I hear songs that remind me of Brent, but it makes me feel a connection to him. I was on the treadmill this morning and listening to a ‘shuffle’ of songs on my iPhone. Brad Paisley’s “Anything Like Me” played and I had to smile at how the words fit what I felt about Brent growing up. Then I felt Brent’s presence – very strong, like he was enjoying the music with me. It continued into the next song “Banjo” by Rascal Flatts – a song that had nothing to do with Brent, but I felt strongly that it had a message, that Brent was somehow trying to make me notice. The song talks about “when I lose my smile” having to “get out of the concrete jungle” and “going deep, way on back” until you hear “banjo”.
To me, that feels like a metaphor for parts of our grief journey. Sometimes, we need to just keep going, until we find that spark of relief, something not easy to find and not always where you expect it… but it makes you feel a little better somehow. You remembered a positive memory, and maybe even connected with your child for a moment or two.
Love and peace,
PS The timing of when certain songs play, especially in the car makes me wonder also – doesn’t this seem too big a coincidence sometimes? :-)