It’s hard to explain why I picked the song. I realize that it’s a love song and that dedicating it to my late cousin makes me look a little Deep South-ish. But there was something in the sadness that just resonated with my grief at the time. Maybe it’s the part about escape. And sleep.
Music has always been the place for me to release sad energy. I refuse to watch sad movies or read sad books. But put on anything by Ben Harper, and I’m ugly crying in .2 seconds.
So when the Brothers & Sisters project came together, a collection of songs dedicated to my cousin Jimmy Wiedner to raise money for the Epilepsy Foundation, I felt compelled to sing the song that was weighing on my heart.
The song was recorded with my very dear friend, Eric Pedersen, in his very cold basement on a very brutal February night. I look back on that night and all I remember is not remembering anything at all. My heart was so broken. Now, from a September perspective, I try to reflect on what I’ve tried to learn from Jimmy. And his absence.
Grief is a strange beast and, as anyone knows who’s endured it, strikes us all in different ways. I came to understand that whatever you’re feeling in that moment is exactly how you’re supposed to feel. There’s no right or wrong. No playbook. No two journeys of grief look the same.
For some reason, people seem to have lots of opinions on grief and how we should process it. The most hurtful thing you can do to someone who is grieving is imply they should feel a different way than they do. Grief is complicated. It’s messy. And emotions range moment to moment–guilt being a big one. The last thing anyone needs while hurting is feeling they shouldn’t feel the way they do.
You’re probably reading this thinking, “WHO would do that?” But it’s really pretty common. People love to use the passage of time as a grief barometer: “It’s been six months. Hasn’t she gotten over it yet?” (Girl, may I remind you that it took you two years to get over your ex? And we still happily bash him every chance we get.) Or the ever-so-helpful: “These things are just a part of life.” Yes. That makes it all better. Why don’t I just put on The Lion King and have Rafiki explain it to me?
But people who are judgmental about grief have the same issues as anyone who passes judgement: they’re assholes. KIDDING. They’re just working through their own stuff, too. Joe Schmoe’s opinion on how I’m handling my grief certainly has nothing to do with me, but rather reflects how he hasn’t addressed issues inside himself.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck when someone tells you to “move on” after your cousin dies.
Such a weird phrase, too–move on. I’m not even sure what to do with that. Here’s what I am sure of though: I still cry, dry heave, sleep/don’t sleep, and drink Budweiser as a part of my grief. I also laugh, run, call my family, take walks, order Thai (peanut free!), and write as a part of it, too.
It’s strange to hear my voice in this song, at the peak of heartbreak. It’s not that now, nine months later, my heart is less broken. But it’s broken differently. And I can’t explain it, but that’s a good thing.
There’s a sense of protectiveness in this song. Jimmy was a person that we–all of us, it seems–wanted to protect. And he had a free, wild spirit. Jimmy did not want our protection. He wanted to live. And now he’s free.