Bereavement is a normal response to losing a loved one. There is not a “right way” to grieve and there is not a particular timeline or expected length of time in which one will no longer grieve. After the loss of a loved one, it is common for grieving individuals to lose the desire to do things that they perhaps once enjoyed (especially if these activities trigger painful memories).
After I lost my mother in May of this year, I lost the desire to make music as well as the desire to listen to much of the music that we enjoyed together when she was alive. I can still vividly remember the day she came home when I was in the fourth grade from a parent meeting about the new music program at school. I had been not so patiently waiting for her to return with the news of whether or not I would be getting to play a musical instrument. I could feel her excitement fill the living room as she prepared to give me the news that there would indeed be a musical program and I would be playing a stringed instrument.
For years my mother had been sharing the beauty of classical music with me. She had already taught me so much about different symphony pieces and composers. When I found out that I would be playing the violin or viola (or as they say here in Texas either way, “the fiddle”), I was overjoyed. I pranced around the living room humming Cannon in D by Pachelbel…one of our favorites.
It was then, in the fourth grade, that my love for music further blossomed and my journey as a viola player began. The beginnings of my studies in music lead to many accomplishments in the orchestra world. In high school I was sent to state competitions and continued to play in college. I would often pull out the viola and play holiday music at my mother’s request and play “fiddle music.”
For the past four years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to play with our church’s orchestra monthly as the only violist. As my mother battled for her life against metastasized cancer, I continued to play when I could and would play recordings for her because she could no longer come to my concerts. As she moved closer to fading away from this world I let our music director know that I would no longer be able to play in orchestra until further notice.
When my mother died, the music stopped. I couldn’t bear to look at my viola without remembering that she would never again see me play. It was placed purposefully in a dark corner where I didn’t have to see it every day. I couldn’t bear listening to certain music without remembering that she would never again hum or sing along with me again. Even as I write this, there are tears in my eyes because I know that these are still the painful facts.
After about four months, the music slowly began to return. I was able to slowly listen to different pieces of music that I hadn’t previously been able to without breaking down. I knew logically that my mother would want me to remember our musical history with joy, not pain. One morning, on a day that I knew that orchestra was playing, I woke up and knew it was time. I was called to play again and without any warning to the music director or anyone else I rushed to orchestra practice. Amazingly, my instrument was still tuned and ready to go and the orchestra accepted me back with open arms.
The music returned. I was able to play again and feel good about it. As mentioned earlier, the length of time that it takes to begin to heal from loss is different for everyone. The music returned for me on that day, but this is not to say that the music will not skip or pause again. Even when we believe we have fully “healed” from a loss, the void of the life we have lost is still present, leaving a scar that won’t ever go away. My goal for myself as well as my wish for others is that we all can find that place in life after loss in which we are living the lives that our loved one(s) would have wanted for us…a life with the music turned on.