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How Music Both Hurts and Heals Me as I Grieve My Son's Death

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I wonder sometimes about the capacity of the human soul, to keep absorbing pain and to keep moving forward, under that ever increasing weight. What is it that allows that forward motion? Is there a limit to the layers that can be piled on top, just like that proverbial straw that broke the poor camels back?

Sometimes it seems the feather-like layering of grief or stress or anxiety or depression, or all of the above, is a continual trial by fire. You survived the massive, thundering, landslide of rock and debris that landed full force on top of you, Maria, when your son died. You continued to live and to breathe and to move forward, inch-by-inch, out of that mountain of broken shards and sticky mud. You did that.

So why is it, then, that you can hear a song, that he might have heard, and you slump with despair, as though it was the first time you had felt this pain, this overwhelming, confusing, incomprehensible truth, that Harry really is gone?

“When the tears come streaming down your face

When you lose something that you can’t replace

When you love someone but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?”

Music is so often a trigger; I usually drive in silence now, practicing my balanced breathing and avoiding the noise and the music. My car was so often the place I could finally cry, in the early days, that my eyes seem to have retrained themselves, and often I find the tears will spill unheeded, as I drive towards the next red light.

“She keeps a lock of hair in her pocket

She wears a cross around her neck

Yes the hair is from a little boy…”

I remember days, the endless days into nights, when I would sit on my lounge room floor, surrounded by mountains of incomprehensible documents… hospital notes, reports, affidavits… over and over, cross-referencing, remembering and remembering, and never forgetting because that was all that was left. In the mountain of pain, all there was to focus on, this feeling that if I could make sense of it all, if I could push through it all, then on the other side of this massive mountain, of the boulders obscuring the sun, and the mud gluing my limbs in place, and slowly sucking me under… what?

“Oh if the sky comes falling down, for you

There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do”

I struggle now to make sense of all that struggle. It was so important to me, that the truth would out, that the words, in a public arena, would help. Not me, I don’t think any words could ever really help me. It is that eternal striving, of a parent who has lost a child to suicide, the deep, intense knowing that this should never, ever happen again, and another family loses their child, and is left, abandoned in the debris of the life they once lived.

I don’t really understand the way this big grief works, the way the impending handing over of the keys to my old home to a new owner scares me so much. The way I have started counting Harry’s birthdays over again, we’re nearly at number five again, the fifth Happy Harry Day he won’t be here for. The fifth. How can that be? How can my life have moved on so far, over the past five February 24ths, and yet Harry remains
as he was, forever 18?

“The first time ever I saw your face

I thought the sun rose in your eyes

And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave

To the dark and endless skies”

I do also find comfort in music, not always pain. I often lose myself in the healing power of worship music, and I force my arthritic joints to continue dancing because that gives me a lot of joy. And I layer, like whispers of tissue papers, moments of glittery joy, between the grey layers of grief. It is those whispers that help me carry the load, that allow me to continue to climb this endless mountain of grief, and witness the glorious sun rising, and feel the gentle glow of the moon, when I choose to hide away in the dark.

“In the arms of an Angel, far away from here

From this dark, cold hotel room and the endlessness that you fear

You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie

You’re in the arms of an Angel and may you find some comfort here”

I think that is it then — the thing that gives me pain also brings such amazing joy and healing. The capacity of the human soul, to keep absorbing pain, and to keep moving forward, and to continue to feel joy, is just continuously updating iterations of shades of black and white. The music hurts me and heals me; I love my son and continue to grieve his loss.  And the sun and the moon continue to rise and set every day. Maybe it really is that simple, maybe it is.

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Photo by on Unsplash

Originally published: February 19, 2018
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