What I Realized After Chris Cornell's Death, as Someone Who Related to His Music
I used to think Chris Cornell was the survivor of the grunge deaths, the “living legacy” taken forward in ways beyond grunge. His voice perhaps is the most truthful voice I have heard, and his liquid tone made me fall in love, every single time.
At the age of 17, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. And since then, there have been few things that have helped me hold on. Words are my refuge. Poetry, literature and lyrics. Cornell became one of the few people whose voice cut through the fog of dark I’d get in, and his songs were some of the few things I could always lean on. They were always there for me. His voice always spoke truth to me. He always spoke of pain as if he felt it as much as I did, as if my truth was his truth.
News of his suicide have haunted me for 24 hours now, and makes me wonder if these people who give us reasons to hold on to life, who build a solid foundation upon which we rest our lives and thoughts and beliefs — it makes me wonder if they really exist. If their art was a way to communicate, to reach out to tell us they are suffering. Were we too indulgent in our own grief, own problems, own coping mechanisms that we used their art to build ourselves a ladder out of the pit, but never really saw what they were saying all along?
Chris’ songs talk about death repeatedly. Cries about self-expression, self-worth, grief and the deep dark pit he lived in, repeatedly. And I never paid attention to the fact that they came from him, his suffering, and instead used them to resonate with my own.
Maybe we should stop using art to say “me too” and listen, really pay attention, to what the words mean, see what the artist is really telling. Not miss the signs, not only use the signs.
Maybe we should stop only responding to art, but really look at it. Maybe we ought to not only see what art is making us feel, but explore the places it comes from. Maybe we will see a pattern, the hints are always there. Art is the truest form of expression, only it’s easier to critique than to understand what places it comes from.
Maybe then, we can try and understand these suicides. Maybe then, we can help. Maybe then, we can hope to prevent them.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Lead image via Chris Cornell’s Facebook page