I’ve never been to therapy after my mum’s death. Or before, for that matter. She’d had cancer for more than 10 years when she passed away at 57. I was 22. It’s been five and a half years. People were telling me I should “go see someone” while my mum was sick as well as after she had died. It’s just always felt more right for me to process everything on my own; in high school I spent many nights playing video games because I couldn’t sleep and risk dreaming of my mum dying; I’ve spent countless hours writing both in my diary and in a notebook I later published on the internet (it’s in Swedish, though) and also writing songs; I’ve done my best to ask myself all the questions I’ve felt an urge to reflect upon or those I’ve thought a therapist would’ve asked me had I gone to see one. Some ways better and more effective than others, obviously. But talking to a stranger has just never been my thing.
Reading about similar situations has also helped, of course. Many times in the form of novels. Other times in magazines. Surely I’ve seen some films on the subject. But most of all: music. Listening to music about death and loss and basically being the one standing beside, watching someone you love fade away has helped me in ways I can’t even describe. This is still what does most for me when it comes to dealing with the void after my mum. Music has a special way of feeding me new thoughts and evoking new questions I need to contemplate. I’m terrified of what happens if I ever stop actively searching for these new perspectives. Pianos Become the Teeth’s music has helped me more than any other when it comes to this. In the most heartbreaking way, Kyle Durfey’s lyrics often deal with his father’s death. Kyle is always one step ahead of me. When Pianos released The Lack Long After I dreaded the day that I would fully be able to relate to all those songs about losing a parent (I once wrote a letter to Kyle about this); on their latest release Wait for Love the song Blue describes the duality of utmost happiness on one hand and deepest sorrow on the other. The happy part: Kyle now has a child. The sad part: Kyle’s dad will never meet Kyle’s child and vice versa. Finding a way of handling the fact that I’m currently happier with myself and my life than I’ve ever been but that I’ll never share this with my mum occupies most of my brain activity these days. If or when I have a kid… I can’t even think of that. It’s one of those new thoughts brought to me, and now I’m going to spend a lot of time reflecting upon how I might handle that situation. Thanks, Kyle. I’m forever grateful for all you’ve written.
On the topic of death, loss and moving on carrying your experiences: I recently found a record that would turn out to be one of my favorites of all time. I am already sure of this. It was basically written for my emo soul. This I wasn’t ready for on my way to work the other morning when I listened to it for the first time, because I never would’ve chosen that time to consume it had I known. The record is A Crow Looked at Me by Mount Eerie and every song intimately describes Phil Elverum’s undying love of his dead wife. On Real Death, the first track, Phil sings about when he opened a package sent to his dead wife containing a backpack she had bought for their daughter. The following track, Seaweed, begins with “Our daughter is one and a half / You’ve been dead eleven days”. Need I say my heart was punctured by this record? The lyrics and melodies combined perfectly depict the mood I was in and what I experienced after my mum had passed: the everyday chores as a constant in times of chaos, how the presence of death froze all creativity, the quiet melodies because anything else is too much to handle, how meaningless it is trying to find meaning in death because it is truly meaningless, the absurdity in situations such as the one with Phil and the backpack – or like in my case, when I called to cancel mum’s appointments or cleaned out her office or when her phone received a message from someone who had no idea she had died and my family and I had to decide whether to reply or not. Phil has said that the album is “barely music”. Much like being alive shortly after someone you love has died is barely life, I guess.
I’m not saying that listening to records such as Wait for Love and A Crow Looked at Me is better than a therapy session. I wouldn’t know. All I know is that I like spending time with myself and my thoughts and that these albums offer about 40 minutes each of just that.