Before my dad died a few months ago, I had never experienced the loss of a close relative. I had, of course, been exposed to the grieving process through friends and family members who’s loved ones have passed away. But never had I felt the full weight of loss myself. Something that I’ve come to understand over the last few months is that, profound and consuming as grief is when it hits, it is by no means easy to articulate in words.
Part of the reason why grief is so difficult to talk about, I think, is that death itself is something that many of us are scared of, and that most of us try hard not to think about too much. And, unlike other emotional experiences such as love and joy, which are always welcome and even yearned for in their absence, grief is something that we hope to encounter as little as possible.
When we do think about death and losing those we care about, our thoughts tend to focus on feelings of sadness. But grief, I now understand, encompasses many other, sometimes conflicting, emotions. When I found out that my dad had died, and when I was told how it had happened, I felt deeply sad and disappointed that he’d decided his life wasn’t worth holding on to. On the other hand, however, I felt a huge sense of relief, not only that he was finally at peace after years of emotional turmoil, but that his often careless words and behaviour could no longer hurt those who loved him.
Unable to fully articulate my feelings in words, I’ve had to find other means of tapping into and expressing my grief.
Along with these conflicting sentiments came additional feelings of guilt, anger and shame, and to rationalise all of this was and still is incredibly difficult. Unable to fully articulate my feelings in words, I’ve had to find other means of tapping into and expressing my grief. One of the most powerful tools that I’ve discovered so far is, perhaps unsurprisingly, music.
Lebanese-born poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran famously described music as ‘The language of the spirit.’ Only now can I fully appreciate this assertion. Feeling particularly low whilst travelling from Bristol to my dad’s wake in London last month, I remembered a piece that was first introduced to me during a yoga class last summer. I don’t often attend yoga classes, and I wouldn’t describe myself as an overtly spiritual person. But the first time I heard ‘The End of Suffering′ (produced by Gary Malkin) in the tranquil setting of the Pyrenees I couldn’t help feeling both soothed and enlightened by its gentle percipience. Listening to it through my headphones on the crowded Megabus that day, its effect was just as evocative and enduring.
Where the words to articulate how I feel about my dad’s suicide often escape me, this piece of music speaks a language that my heart understands, mirroring through its poetry the complexity of grief to open, reach in and draw out of me all the pain that rationality cannot understand.
Like my dad, I’ve always held a deep appreciation for music. Never did I imagine that I would find such comfort and catharsis in a single piece.
Those interested in guided meditation can listen here to a second version of ‘The End of Suffering’ which features additional spoken word by a Buddhist monk.