Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dealing with Loss: An Uncharacteristically Personal Post from Kyle Murphy

Let me start out with this. Now I know we have a lot of fun at Flatted Third, but I recently visited my grandfather at the nursing home - the last remaining grandparent I have - and he has taken a turn for the worse. This wasn't anything sudden like a stroke or heart attack that weakens an individual overnight, it just seems like he's given up. The last time I visited, only a few weeks ago, he was cognizant, witty, and seemed in somewhat good condition. After a lump was recently discovered in his throat, medication was increased - he was in a lot of pain, but completely unaware of the lump. When I visited yesterday, he was drifting in and out, never fully holding a conversation or even an exchange, and didn't know who I was. The other deaths of my grandparents seemed almost detached, as if years of suffering had slowed down the grieving process, spreading it over time. But now that I only have one left, this time around seems much more difficult. My grandfather has already left us mentally, leaving only a tired husk, struggling to survive. I consider myself someone who can take things logically and in stride, though yesterday saw a man warring with losing the last of his grandparents, the wise supporters of his youth.

I don't mean to elicit any sympathy, but I did want to share a selection of songs that seem to help with the grieving process, for me at least. I searched through my song library to find five songs that coincided with the K├╝bler-Ross Model for dealing with loss, as most people know it: "The Five Stages." After about an hour of finding the perfect songs for each step, these are the songs I picked. Many of them are heavier in sound, as I find myself somewhere in between the anger and bargaining stages. I hope this may one day help you, thanks.

1. Denial: "Baraga Embankment" by Bear vs. Shark (Terrorhawk; 2005)
As soon as the first piano key is struck, an instant sense of doubt is instilled. The song detail loneliness left to brood in a community where the sufferer is seen in sharp negative light. Bear vs. Shark is my favorite band to recommend to people, hoping they will feel the same connection as I do; they have provided me with one of the most intimate ties to a band I have ever felt. If I could summarize this song with one statement, it would be "Oh no, not me." Denial seems juvenile at first, eventually evolving into a separate reality in itself. The rich imagery portrayed in lyrics such as "The kids were pushing their fingers in tarmac, the pavement / The lightening was breathing in faces" creates a surreal picture, an alternate reality's grappling with the extraordinary, all in the split second of a lightening strike. 

2. Anger: "Against the Tide" by The Homefront (Sacrifice; 2007)
Sorry for the live video - The Homefront are sort of a local band, what I consider to have been the last great Boston hardcore band. I have included the lyrics to this song for some clarification. Anger doesn't seem to describe this stage well enough for me. I think it would be more appropriate to call it frustration, frustration with uncontrollable outcomes. The song title alone describes a losing battle; fighting the tide will only weaken you, distracting you from the real struggle. But I think the most poignant lyrics come from the phrase "I'm giving up on giving in," a failure to compromise. Frustration leads to anger, as Yoda once stated in one of the reprehensible Star Wars prequels, but misguided anger isn't what dealing with a loss is concerned with. The anger is focused, but the option that the war may be won is unfounded and unrealistic, furthering frustration. This vicious battle is as constant and cyclical as the barking tides.

3. Bargaining: "Marked" by EMA (Past Life Martyred Saints; 2011)
A sense of desperation seems to always accompany bargaining - one side is always given the upper hand, forcing the subservient side to sacrifice in order to continue soem level of stasis. This is the feeling of EMA's "Marked", a outstanding cut off last year's amazing Past Life Martyred Saints. It feels like Anderson is pleading with someone while in a fugue state, aiming for the smallest bit of humanity from her counterpart. The use of drugs in the song resonates well with death - Yes, my grandfather is delirious with painkillers and not the same person, but I cannot imagine how he would be without them. Bargaining helplessly with something uncontrollable is demented, but when it's your only option, you'll do whatever it takes to get things back to some sense of normal.

4. Depression: "Replica" by Oneohtrix Point Never (Replica; 2011)
Depression is a tricky bitch, almost exponential in its growth. "Replica" illustrates the loneliest piano line in the world, surrounded by a frightening environment of blown out dreams and distant lights. These are the final stages of loss, the longest days you'll ever live through. Every detail of the room has been inspected, as a means of escaping love ones' glances. The retirement home bed has felt this before: the lifting of body weight, the glacial movement. Fact cannot be accepted until it has been proven to an individual, and until I leave freshly disturbed earth, my grandfather is still with me. These are the longest days.

5. Acceptance: "I Am Extraordinary" by Blacklisted (No One Deserved to Be Here More Than Me; 2009)
To finish where I started, hardcore/post-hardcore music, Blacklisted sees the final stages of death - what I consider to be experienced post-mortem. "I Am Extraordinary" is the perfect song, both to close this list and dealing with the acceptance of a loss. The fact that someone is able to impact another's life is beyond ordinary; we are miracles for even being alive - why should consciousness be assigned to human beings? While this song calls for the death directly, aggressively, "Just do what we agreed on and beat my brains in," it's a confident, brave acceptance of death; I have lived and now I am done. It also accepts a lot of responsibility with lines like "I am only scared because by myself I'm scary." Mourning is never enjoyable but necessary.

With my catharsis blinding most of the above writing, I hope someone can make sense of this. When everything is said and done with my grandfather, what comes next? My parents have recently become grandparents, creating a new generation in my family. Getting older has its advantages, but they come at the cost of the people responsible for your existence. It's impossible to close out this passage with something conclusive or concrete, so I'll try my best to leave with some dignity. I am only one person, and I love my grandfather very much; whatever happens from now on out is going to happen no matter what level of my own interference.

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