As promised, here is part 2 of our blog series on grief. As you can see, everyone goes through the process differently, but the key is that there is an end to what can feel like an endless tunnel.
“…and my coloured world bled out to black and white…” – Life After the Death of my Father –
The short answer as to how losing my father to lung cancer last year affected my ability to make music is that it stopped me cold. When I learned of Dad’s illness, I was already going through a period of doubt with respect to my music, due mainly to both an ongoing problematic vocal condition as well as a brutally disillusioning record deal. Add to this mix the bewildering third ingredient of Dad’s diagnosis, and I had the recipe for a “perfect storm” of doubt and surrender. I spent six months watching this once powerful man slowly drift toward the inability to take so much as a step or a breath without considerable effort. Meanwhile, I simply stopped writing and performing, as if my ability to take steps and breathe musically were mirroring Dad’s decline. And when he eventually passed in the fall, at the risk of sounding trite, it seemed like the music in me died too. I spent the next few months mostly keeping to myself, building a tree house for my little girls. It was good therapy. As my mind and heart were being constantly flooded by sadness and frustration over Dad’s death, it was quite handy to have something to hammer the crap out of!
But that alone was not enough to reignite my desire to do much more than simply exist. What really started to tip the scales for me was simply committing to doing something musically-related, however small, day after day…even if all I did was bang out a few random notes or chords, or sing some meaningless mumblings. After months of “musical loitering”, an exciting new song idea came to me while driving one night in early May. It was, surprisingly, a very upbeat little tune. I laid down the rough instrumental and vocal tracks the very next day. Regardless of whether that song ever sees the light of day, from that moment on, it was as though the weight of sadness that had so relentlessly held me down had been lifted. I have since written many new songs for my sophomore English CD, completed the grueling ordeal of applying for a FACTOR grant, and traveled to Montreal to shop around my French CD. Most recently I participated in the 2011 SongStudio songwriter’s workshop in Toronto. Since the last SongStudio I attended eventually resulted in my debut CD, as well as a co-write on (Juno nominee) Justin Nozuka‘s debut disc, it seemed like a good way to get back into the game! It gave me the sense that I was no longer “living on the side of the road”, but was once again driving with my fellow songwriters on this crazy journey we call MUSIC!
If you are going through a challenging time, all I can suggest is that if you take even one step, one breath toward the music each day, you will soon find yourself miles down the right road, filled with a renewed zest for making music and doing something fulfilling with this precious gift of life.
Incidentally, I realized only today that the day on which that fateful first new song idea came to me was actually Dad’s birthday. Thanks, Dad. – PB