The music of grief

In grief, music is both a trigger of painful emotions and a way of coming together when talking is too painful or not sufficient.

Preforming Arts


In our house we are coming up for what we call The Tunnel. It’s the period leading up to my daughter’s birthday – she would be 23 in December – followed by the anniversary of her death and the anniversary of her funeral. Already people are on edge. My partner is not sleeping. I feel in a constant state of alert. I’ve felt like that for the last three years, but it is exacerbated during The Tunnel.

I’m trying to ward it off by keeping endlessly busy. Distraction is the only thing that works so far – and it doesn’t work that well because however much you fill the spaces, there are still gaps. Driving is the hardest thing and I do a lot of driving to pick people up and drop them off. I try to fill the driving time with the radio or talking. Not music. Music always has the capacity to overwhelm, unless you’re ready for it. Daughter one loved music and had a very broad-ranging, encyclopaedic approach to it. She would have been shattered by Christine McVie’s death this week. All her siblings listen to music endlessly. When they play a certain song we all know it is for her and that we are with her even if we can’t talk about her too much because it is still like walking over razor blades. One slip and the pain is intense.

Daughter one seemed to know every genre of music. She approached everything like that, excited by new ideas and outlooks on life. Her friend asked me recently what she was reading as she always had a book in her pocket. She intends to read all daughter one’s books and ‘get smarter’. You couldn’t keep up with daughter one. I’ve just found her Tumblr account from when she was 16. There were so many different things in there from music to photos of fur-lined baths. Her mind embraced them all.

This week I met up with one of my daughter’s friends and with the head teacher of her first school and I went to an event for an organisation that is campaigning against press intrusion into grief. On Sunday the family went to a Hindu temple which daughter one loved. Someone sent me a song that daughter one’s friend wrote for her and a portrait another friend had done. My stepbrother is unexpectedly coming over at the weekend…It’s all about keeping busy, but also keeping daughter one here.

Every day we are living in ghost time. Every day we do daughter one and we send out our love to the universe. Sometimes I wonder about the overwhelming power of love. It cannot just be an evolutionary thing. We don’t really need so much love to reproduce the species. Love is an additional force. Surely it can reach into places that other things can’t, into the pockets of the time/space continuum we are caught up in. The story about the telescope that might be able to see back to the Big Bang really caught my imagination recently because it effectively means that all time is saved. And if all time is saved then daughter one is there somewhere.

Losing a child is not just about losing A child. It’s about losing THAT child, that person. I’m writing up my family blogs into a book for the kids to have, but I don’t think they do daughter one justice. Her wit shines through, but I haven’t captured fully the bits between her words and her presence. Of course, she wasn’t perfect. She was too interesting for that. I’m not sure words are enough to convey who she was so it’s fitting that many of her friends are resorting to music, her favourite medium. Several have written songs about her and one is recording a whole album about her. My daughter the muse. That way she’s not just in our thoughts, but in the air around us. Nowhere we can see, but everywhere.

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