Lady Antebellum. Yo-Yo Ma. Etta James. Bobby Womack. India.Arie. Quite an eclectic music mix. In my journey of grieving losses the melodies of these musicians helped me heal. I feel the grace of God as I realize mourning is not a one-size fits all experience.
2013: A Year of Loss
I lost much in a span of seven months. A beautiful 82 year-old grandmother named Lena Mae who I believed secretly had a superwoman cape hidden under her clothes. She was just incredible – laughter and love wrapped up into southern hospitality at its best. She was safe. She was human. And she was mine.
Ten days after my family buried her I was rear-ended by a driver who lost control of her vehicle. The collision totaled my car, which was given to me as a gift six years prior and paid for. The physical impact of the crash required six months of chiropractic rehab for my neck and spine.
The emotional trauma left me with diminished mental capacity, anxiety driving and a fragile heart that wondered “Why would God allow this much pain in such a concentrated way into my life?”
On the heels of these experiences, I also lost the opportunity to mentor children I tutored for three years at a local community center. The center closed due to low funding. Seeing the kids for the last time, I tearfully said goodbye and thought “This is not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Two more losses took place in 2013 – in the spring and at the year’s end – also pouring into this concentrated funnel of pain. My pastor of eight years resigned abruptly. Significant transitions were coming at my job and several people would be leaving following spring.
At times I couldn’t find words to describe the perfect storm of the grief I felt and the hurt that lingered.
When My Words Left
Music became my interpreter. It reminds me I’m alive – in all of its gritty blues, playful twang, honeyed rhythms and sweet succession of its sounds.
Music tells me I will sing again. And when my words left me, melodies took their turn to help me heal.
These specific melodies are my feelings – vulnerable, contemplative, transparent, gutsy and real. I believe when there are no words there is definitely a set of chords that will play the truth of the heart.
Grief silenced my words for a very long time. Music helped me find them. These songs gave me the gift of dreaming again. They aren’t specifically about grief but they amplify my emotions as I’ve discovered how to live from loss. I created my own “Mourning and Living” playlist from these songs:
Lady Antebellum’s “Somewhere Love Remains” is slow and purposeful. It’s full of acknowledgment and asks for pursuit in its hopeful country melody.
Yo-Yo Ma’s “Quarter Chicken Dark” is funky and bold. Its beautiful violin banters and airy moments welcome thoughtful considerations.
Etta James’ “A Sunday Kind Of Love” makes me want to put on a stylish dress, a pair of heels, go to a throwback classic soul dance party and slow dance with my man. It’s full of sass and soulful demands and beckons for love.
Bobby Womack’s “That’s The Way I Feel About ‘Cha” is bluesy and guttural. Full of belly wrenching emotion and truth. It encourages me to feel.
India. Arie’s “Life I Know” is storytelling in pure form. It’s beautifully raw and authentically simplistic.
Feeling God in Grief
God uses different things to help us in life. People sometimes. Places next time. Things this time. Music is my thing right now. And it’s helping me express my grief as I ache for people and experiences that have left my life.
Grief is hard work. It depletes you. It can be brutal. And sometimes people around you don’t know how to respond or help as they see you in the “valley of the shadows.”
When pain enters my life I often ask, “Where is God in all of this?” and “Why did he let this happen?” Do I say he’s a mean God because for whatever reason he permits though does not inflict upon us suffering and violence along with brokenness and traumas that seem to make our hearts break, our souls ache and cause our minds to shatter?
Or do I say he’s a gracious Father and a loving Creator who in the midst of all this hell breaking loose also permits and gladly offers us the celebrations, the gift to live and the choice to love, to hold close those we embrace and let go those we’ve lost but will never forget?
Deep Calls to Deep
Suffering is a part of living. God gives the gift of grieving to help our hearts acknowledge, “Yes, I have loved this person, this is how I loved them and even now I still do love them though they have passed.”
God’s grace towards me is tender as I mourn. The first few months after my grandmother died and the car accident I couldn’t read the Bible even though I tried. I had no mental fortitude to sit, focus my thoughts, read and internalize the words.
God met me where I was. He spoke truth to my heart. He gave me music to help me express my emotions. The God of the universe stepped into my grief – sobs, anger, depression, questions – and stays in it with me as he walks me toward healing. I’ve healed a great deal in three years and my faith in God changed. It’s deeper. It’s more human. Way more personal. I’m alive, I’m here, melodies and all.
Originally written September 24, 2014.