I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between grief and art lately. This has been a big theme for me as I do my own work, as well as bear witness to the work of others (Like Kidd Pivot’s show Betroffenheit this weekend in Portland!).
For myself, songwriting is an incredibly powerful tool for processing grief. As author Martin Prechtel says, many people in our culture don’t know how to grieve properly. We have stigma around it. We avoid it. It gets stuck, we distract ourselves with work, kids, friends, sugar, etc. We don’t know how to deal. I can relate. Sometimes, when things happen to me, I want to distract and avoid out of avoidance of pain. With song writing it is the exact opposite. It asks us to face it head on.
Songwriting is a room for which grieve and praise can play in. It requires a full immersion into the feelings and stories, as we chase them to the edge. And further, it asks that we indulge it it for as long as it takes until the song comes out. What fun! This is the exact opposite of distraction. It is beyond a welcoming of the feelings and thoughts. It is seeking them out and exploring them.
When my dad died 7 years ago, I remember having an urge to avoid the internal process brewing inside me. I didn’t want to sit in it. I could barely handle accepting the reality. This all changed when a dear friend sent me a 30 minute recording by Martin Prechtal, a man who studies grieve and praise as his life’s work. “By not grieving, we dishonor that which we have lost. And dishonor that part of ourselves that loved it so much.” He said. And we let it get stuck in us, it stews and will either prolong the process for years to come, or end up as disease and heartache. He spoke about how grieving is actually praising, “Grief is a form of praise of life…because it means you miss it. You miss the damn thing. It means you loved the thing you lost….when you’re grieving for the thing you got, it’s called praise …when you praising for the thing you lost, it’s called grief…”
I changed course at that point, and decided to sit in my room, go on walks and feel it. And I wrote music. I stewed in it. And so much came out that needed to. And I made some great songs that I now have as a way of honoring him and that part of myself. I’ve done this every time I lose something I love. Heartache craves expression.
I believe that this is where the most impactful art comes from; when people go into the cave and dare to dive in and swim among the sharp rocks and stones of their own honesty.
This process has helped me to process some of the hardest things in my life. It’s helped me to feel it all fully and eventually come to terms with it. And, one of the most beautiful parts is having something to share with others. This creates a lot of catharsis and healing. Music is truly the best medicine. And all Art is so powerful for healing our own relationship with what we have lost.
So thanks Adele, Ray Lamontagne, Miss Winehouse, Gotye, Bonnie Tyler, Everly Brothers and 1000’s of others…We’re all in this together. We all feel the same shit. Now, let’s make it beautiful!