True Sadness:On Healing
Time. It’s how we quantify our day, our lives. And as I’ve gotten older, for some reason it seems to be moving faster. Our children remind of us of this as we, literally, watch them grow into themselves.
Time not only changes us from children to adults. As time passes our experiences can change how we view the world and how we feel about the people in our lives. And it can dramatically change our feelings on a grief journey.
Shortly after Lucy passed away, people that have lived grief told me that time will help to ease the pain. And at that time, in agony, I couldn’t believe them. I wanted to, but I didn’t.
It turns out they were right.
Does it take away the heartache? Never. But what I ‘m learning, is that as time passes, it makes the hard days less frequent. And it allows you to feel joy again in places that were once extremely painful.
As we approach Lucy’s 2nd birthday, I’ve been reflecting a lot, as you can imagine. Getting through the first year, to the date, of her passing was a turning point for me. That doesn’t mean the pain was gone or that the long lasting effects of the trauma was gone. And time will never change how our family was affected by the loss of Lucy.
But I’m happy to say that it is right with my soul. So how did I get here? Besides time, what has allowed me to heal in a way that I am at peace with the death of my youngest daughter? While time happens on its own that’s not all that has allowed me to heal. I’ve had to push myself and do some heavy lifting in areas of my life that required it.
I’ve said this many times before; my oldest daughter has been my savior. Without her, I don’t know how I would have put one foot in front of the other again. She has been my hope. My ray of light, guiding me towards the future.
Art has also had a healing effect on my sadness and trauma. Music in particular has been a tremendous help for me. It has been a way for me to connect with what I feel and also ease the isolation that I felt in my pain.
I’ve always had an appreciation for music. Even as a young kid, I remember playing tapes in my room on Saturdays while I cleaned. I guess that was my Saturday chore? When I could finally drive, there was always music blasting and I remember making mixes, trading bootlegs, going to concerts. I ended up listening to the same tapes and over and over again, getting to know the lyrics and being touched by their meaning.
Also in the spring following Lucy's passing , rather than going back into the classroom, I got a job at a plant nursery. The job itself was therapeutic in many ways. I’ve understood for awhile the healing power of plants and worked with plants before I became a teacher. I remember reading about studies that showed patients in hospitals with a view of a park or even trees went home sooner than patients looking out to a parking lot or a street. I’ve worked in school gardens with at risk youth and seen firsthand the power that plants can have in providing developmental assets to kids. So just getting my hands dirty, doing physical labor, enjoying the ascetic beauty of plants again was healing.
On days that I worked in my department alone, I would play music on a blue tooth speaker. I didn’t have much music on my phone and not much data to use Wi-Fi, so I ended up listening to one album in particular over and over again. I got to know the songs, and connected with their message or at least their message for me.
That album was True Sadness by The Avett Brothers. This album has so many great songs, but right away the title track resonated with me. The song made me realize that everyone experiences extreme pain in their lives. And that helped me move away from the “Why us?” mindset. Why did this happen to us? Why were all our dreams shattered when this was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives?
But I still wake up shaken by dreams
And I hate to say it but the way it seems
Is that no one is fine
Take the time to peel a few layers
And you will find
The song also reminds me of the gratitude that I have for the people that supported us and how important it is to support the ones that we love.
You were a friend to me when my wheels were off the track
And though you say there is no need I intend to pay you back
When my mind was turning loose and all my thoughts were turning black
You shined a light on me and I intend to pay you back
I saw a short clip of an interview with Seth Avett talking about the album. And he said something like, If you wait long enough, the sadness will show up in your life. And he’s right.
I know plenty of people that have suffered pain and loss. Some at a young age, dealing with tragedy that no one, especially a child should have to live. Others later in life, the point being, when I stop and think, there’s not many people that I can think of that have not experienced true sadness.
His brother Scott, explaining the meaning of True Sadness said that we can’t really celebrate the joys of life without knowing true sadness and tragedy.
“I’m not saying you can’t be happy until you’ve felt hard pain, for sure you can be. I’m living evidence of that. But after, you understand that gratitude is beyond painful life-changing events. I witnessed people around me who utilized that. I see them enjoying life and utilizing life in a much more sincere way. So that being said, true sadness is possibly fuel for the gratitude of life, which is part of the joy.”
Yes. Yes! When we were at our worst, our loved ones supported us and got us through the true sadness. So our tragedy shined a light on everything we have to be grateful for in our lives. And it taught us to appreciate the normal days and to live life again making new memories.
Link to True Sadness Video
Another song on the album, "No Hard Feelings", made it difficult to water plants without shedding tears.
When my body won't hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?
This is a beautiful song about leaving this world harboring no hard feelings and having no enemies. More inspiration for me to be better and not bitter.
Link to No Hard Feelings Video
Last night I started watching The Grateful Dead documentary Long Strange Trip and Jerry Garcia was explaining how that band got the name and what it meant. At the time they were the Warlocks and they discovered there was another band, who later became the Velvet Underground, with the same name.
In their search for a new name, Jerry ended up opening a dictionary and the first thing he saw was “Grateful Dead”. The entry was a folk tale motif about a wandering man that pays for the burial of a stranger with his last penny. The the man is then helped by the spirit of the dead. After losing his father at a young age, Jerry understood that once you confront death, you know how to live.
And then last summer, at the Phish show. I was hoping for a Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, still am, from anyone live! I didn’t get that, but I was touched by “Miss You”, followed shortly after by “Free”. Like those songs were hand picked for me on that warm summer night at Wrigley Field.
And then on the one year anniversary of Lucy’s freedom, music spoke to me again. I was on my way out the door to the gym and stopped myself. Although I had planned on writing later that day, I sat down and shared the lyrics to “If You Want To Sing Out”, by Cat Stevens. This song captures all that I wanted for my sweet Lucy and all that I want for my sweet Violet, freedom. Skeptics would say it was a coincidence when this song popped up on my Pandora feed 20 minutes later at the gym. I almost fell off my treadmill and ran over to my sister pointing to the song playing on my phone. She looked at me like I was a crazy person at first, but I told her I had just shared this song on my blog in honor of Lucy. And this song was one of the last that played for Lucy as she started her journey home. Again, a Pandora selection. Did it randomly play for me on those days? Not what I believe.
Never underestimate the power of art in healing. Artists put their heart and soul into their work, so of course it has the power to evoke emotion in us. There is nothing greater that I think of than touching someone on an emotional level. And that is what music does for me.
So as Lucy’s 2nd birthday approaches, we are planning our 2nd “ 10 Acts of Kindness Event”. While we try to show kindness every day, deliberately spreading kindness on Lucy’s birthday is our way of honoring Lucy and her lessons and spreading the kindness that was shown to us, with gratitude.
You never know what someone is going through so please be kind! And as you do, you may be surprised at how that kindness spreads.
Cue all Avett Brothers fans “And It Spread”.
Please join us on Lucy’s birthday, July 10th, as we honor her sweet memory with 10 acts of kindness.
Drum roll…….I’m excited to say that some of our acts of kindness will take place at The Avett Brothers shows at Red Rocks in a few days, just days before Lucy day!!
My name is Lou and I am a mom of two girls living outside of Chicago. I never would have imagined this, but our oldest daughter is at home and our youngest is not. She will be in our hearts forever. Lucy was an amazing soul and we continue to learn lessons from her today.