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The Music of My Grief

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Music has always been with me in my grief.

Music can be with me in my pain, ease my hurt, or make me hurt more, even to the point of dissociation. Certain songs have become part of my soul, and the opening notes can bring me to a place far outside wherever I might physically be.

It was over a year before I could listen to my husband’s favorite classic rock songs without feeling as if I would drown in grief. The songs he loved, we loved, the ones we listened to while riding for hours in the car with his hand on my knee, kids in the backseat, me singing off-key to “We Will Rock You” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

It still hurts to hear the songs that bring me back in a split second to those summer days on the back roads of Arkansas and Missouri. But now, the pain has a sweeter edge, because the sharpness has worn down a tiny bit and the enduring love can peek through again.

The music of Tom Petty, though, was an exception. It was a guiding light through some of the worst of my grief. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to “Refugee,” or “Walls” or “American Girl.” It felt like his voice reached the depths of my soul, the corners where insanely painful feelings lived in darkness and silence.

And, for some reason, I listened to Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” so many times that it was my most-listened-to song on Spotify for 2021. I listened to it over and over and over, sang it in the shower, played it in the car, not questioning why this particular song was carrying me through, because it was enough that it lightened my burden and made me feel like there was still some kind of meaning in the world.

Music is my solace and my pain and my whole experience of life, wrapped in a million different combinations of notes and words and memories and despair and hope and grief and joy.

Tell me about your songs. Tell me about the songs that soothe your soul or release your inner rage or bring back the touch of a loved one’s hand.

Getty image by Klaus Vedfelt

Originally published: March 8, 2022
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