When a Child Dies #9 . . . The Healing Gift of Music
For other parents who’ve lost children: What songs, what pieces of art, what books, what poems, and what movies have spoken into your grief? Please take the time to drop a note in the comments.
So many songs spoke right into my grief: Led Zeppelin’s “All My Love” (written by Robert Plant as a tribute to his young son, Karac, who died in 1977 from an infection), Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel,” so many older hymns (“It Is Well With My Soul,” written by a grieving father, especially helped articulate my loss and hope), etc.
But perhaps no song spoke for me more than “Tears in Heaven.” Eric Clapton lost his four-year-old son, Conor, in 1991 when he fell out the window from a 53rd-floor apartment in NYC. Clapton later spoke about his sorrow in the following days: “It becomes like someone else’s life in a movie. I went into shock. It felt like I shut down . . . .”
Equally moving is Clapton’s “The Circus Left Town,” about his last day with Conor before Semenax his death:
For a long time after Megan died, movies just weren’t safe for us. Grieving parents are raw, tender. Our emotions can run from slight joy to sobbing quickly. In fact, it’s dangerous to be in any public place for a while. Some parents find they just can’t be at church for weeks or months. It’s not that their faith is weak (though it may well be shaken); it’s that they can’t control their emotions. One line of one song could send them over the line.
Still, a huge part of the healing process comes from the power of music, art, and literature. We find there expressions of true grief (not the formulaic kind of grief that gets doled out so often) and of hope.
We have survived by friends who supported us. But the healing community was much larger. So, my special thanks to those I’ll never get to meet: Wendell Berry, Henri Nouwen, Anne Lamott, Pat Conroy, C. S. Lewis, Handel, Eric Clapton, John O’Donohue, J. R. R. Tolkien, Horatio Spafford, Nicholas Wolterstorff, John Claypool, etc.