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Losing my dad in 2021 was and still is the hardest thing I have ever been through.
While writing about my emotions and grief doesn’t come easily, writing about music does. I never thought the two would be so closely linked until Mindful Melody gave me the opportunity to reflect on my grieving journey thus far. This reflection has shown me how pivotal music has been in both the initial stages of grief and now, almost a year later.
I first encountered music in my grieving journey fairly soon after my dad passed away. Planning a funeral actually involves thinking about music a lot, to my surprise. Perhaps more so for us, as my dad was such a music lover. We started to think about which songs my dad would want played, which songs reminded us of my dad and which songs encapsulated his life. There was even the option to have a service entirely made up of music. However, at this point I couldn’t even comprehend listening to a song. It was strange to no longer find comfort in the music which had always been in the background of my daily life. Eventually, after much debate (and many tears), we settled on the songs we felt my dad would most like to hear, and ones that reminded us of his great music taste, his sense of humour and his life. The playlist was mainly composed of Elvis and Oasis - my dad’s two favourites. The choices showed me just how much music can define a life and how much music becomes linked to our memories. The songs were connected to my dad’s favourite football team, his hometown, his friends and his family, proving to me just how central music can be, and how songs can become the ‘soundtrack of a life’ (as cliche as that may sound). Still, despite the music being a key part of a ceremony which perfectly celebrated my dad’s life, it felt too soon for me to listen to music and not tear up. It made me wonder if I’d ever enjoy something which had been part of my everyday life since I was a teenager.
About six months into my grief journey, my perspective on music and memory began to shift. Being in a family of music lovers meant that I could not avoid listening to music for very long. I saw my family energised by music, remembering my dad happily in his favourite songs and albums, reminiscing about long-gone family parties. I hadn’t thought of music like this before. I had seen these songs as a painful reminder of what was no longer, like salt in an open wound. Whereas the rest of my family saw this music as a chance to celebrate and connect with my dad and his memory. I hadn’t even considered that music could be a way to positively remember my dad and all our memories. It had only ever served to be an agonising reminder of time gone by… until now.
A night with my family listening to all of my dad’s favourite songs was just what I needed to change my view on music and grief. For the first time, I remembered my dad and smiled rather than cried. The relief this brought after months of living in a music-less world was immediate and huge. Music became a tool for me to remember and to remember with a smile. Music began to help me cherish my memories with my dad and see them for the positivity and love they held, rather than the sadness they used to provoke. I started to compose a playlist of songs that reminded me of my dad and my family that helped me when I felt my lowest. This playlist is still my go-to, and some of these songs even feature on my daily drive to work. Before this night, I couldn’t possibly imagine listening to these songs at all, never mind hearing them daily!
Now I couldn’t imagine my drives without them. Hearing my dad’s song on my drive to work uplifts me and has the power to get me through the toughest days. In a way, the music I used to dread hearing is now what I look forward to the most. Now, I’m not saying music cured my grief. It hasn’t. My grief is still raw and sore. But music has revealed some memories I thought I could never bear to relive. Memories I couldn’t fathom the thought of losing, but also couldn’t bring myself to remember. Music has helped me and many others to celebrate my dad’s life and all that he was, and still is. For that, I am very grateful.
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