From Life to Grief

Just before Monday afternoon’s session, I got a sudden call from R, the supervisor.

“I’ve got rather unfortunate news… Susan (not real name) passed away.”

To say I felt shocked is an understatement. The last time I saw Susan (one of the group), a strong-willed woman in her 60s in a motorized wheelchair, she was still in all her loud jewelry and clothes, singing her heart out, cursing and swearing to everyone’s amusement, and playing around with her iPad and cursing and swearing even more when she couldn’t get it to do what she wanted it to do. She apparently had a lung infection, not uncommon for people with spinal chord problems, and that eventually led to pneumonia, and her feelingly untimely death.

“Do you still feel up to having a session with Di?” The supervisor asked. “Yes… As long as she’s willing to come”, came my hesitant reply. In my mind I was wondering what could I do for Di, who was a close friend of Susan? I knew she would be distraught. They had known and lived together in the facility for at least half a decade, and had shared many aspects of their lives together. Losing Susan was going to be a great loss of emotional support and friendship for Di. R was very supportive in giving advice and pointers on how to approach the situation, encouraging me by saying that he trusts me enough to know that I’ll know the best way to go about it.

Finally, they arrived, we went into our room, and I sat down in front of Di. She spoke quietly, tears filling her eyes.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “I know I have to let her go, because if I keep wishing she’d come back, she can’t go in peace…”

We continued talking for a while. I knew there was nothing I could say that would take away the pain, and this quote came to mind, kindly shared by the Comrade a few days back:
I tried to do that, just being there inside the pain, with her, as close as possible. We then played an improvisation on the keyboard, a peaceful, lyrical attempt at depicting the journey of life and how we’re never sure when each journey will end, but how we’re fortunate to meet our friends and loved ones along the way, making our journey that much more meaningful and memorable.

As the last note faded away, she whispered, with a hint of tearfulness: “It’s a pity we have to stop.”

We sat in silence for a while more.

“The music… Is able to take me away for a while”, she continued. I added, after some contemplation: “Yes… It reminds us that there is something bigger than ourselves”, thinking of all the times when I turned to musical expression to fulfill what the world couldn’t do for me.

“Well… Time will heal all wounds, won’t it?” Di spoke with a sad smile.

“But sometimes we don’t want the wounds to heal completely, do we? We want something left… to remind us of the one we loved.”

“… Oh, yes, that’s true.” And she said that in a more uplifted tone than she had since the beginning of the session. She turned to half-smile at me. “Thank you for that.”

We ended the session shortly after, with her saying that she did feel lighter. But I know the process of grieving is a complex one, never a one-track route. There will be days when one feels that the pain has passed, that life can finally move on, and there are days when the realization of losing that loved one hits you mercilessly all over again, and one feels thrown back into the depths of never-ending sorrow.

I feel bad that I won’t be able to see her over the next few weeks (due to the upcoming hospital placement), at this time when she needs the support and therapy more than ever. I suggested that she try to put her emotions to words, and perhaps we could work on creating soundscapes in the second half of the year. She seemed agreeable, and I hope it will be something that could help her cope over the next few weeks.

Praying for strength for Di to get through this period, and for wisdom to do what is right and best for her.
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