‘Was I made to stumble? Was I made to fall? Was I made for these ashes? And the beauty of it all?’
These were the words that bubbled to the surface of my mind as I was boiling the kettle for an afternoon cuppa. At the time, I had joined a grief recovery program and in the group I had found a safe place for my long suppressed tears to run free. Learning about grief and how to grieve allowed a deeply buried seed of creativity to be watered, a passion for writing rekindled, hope to be refreshed and my faith emboldened.
Knowing how to grieve and how to emotionally process loss in a healthy way, isn’t something that many of us are taught. Instead we hear phrases like, ‘time will heal or mend a broken heart.’ Sometimes we’re encouraged to get busy or to replace the loss. Those who love us may unintentionally minimise the loss or make insensitive comments that are meant to nurture hope, but instead skip over the uncomfortable pain of bearing witness to grief. Some people choose to put on a brave face and focus on appearing strong or may turn to behaviours that help numb the pain of loss.
Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss, where conflicting feelings are often present. Everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace. Grief can look different from one loss to another. For me, I carried childhood grief into my adulthood. Instead of fully processing it, feeling it and releasing it; grief became an invisible cloak that I wore. One moment its weight was light and during the next season of life, it was unbearably heavy and almost impossible to function with.
I could wrap myself in a heavy cloak of mourning and sit with the spirit of despair, but I still didn’t know how to properly grieve and let go. I wanted freedom from it, but couldn’t quite figure out how to heal and move forward. Emotionally I wasn’t able to connect to the loss that I intellectualised like a well-rehearsed news reporter. I knew my story. I could speak it. I wasn’t ashamed. I just couldn’t really feel it, and that continued to plague my life and my relationships. Like a kettle with a plug, the grief was bubbling away, waiting for the day to be seen and heard. Waiting for a safe harbour.
Grief recovery provided me with the space to sit with the feelings for long enough in the right environment, with the right people, to allow those feelings to finally surface in a healthy and natural way. Negative experiences and feelings were no longer locked away in chambers of my heart, body and mind. I wasn’t just angry or unforgiving. For most of my life I had avoided digging deeper into the depths of sadness and had used anger as a shield.
This has been my journey. But grief is apart of all of our journeys through life. No-one can escape loss. No-one can escape grief. But we can learn to embrace grief for what it is, and learn how to grieve in a healthy way.
In the midst of this journey, God was with me every step of the way (even though I didn’t always feel or recognise His hand at work). And He continues to bind and heal my broken heart. He has comforted me and provided abundantly. He bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of despair.
During this time of grief recovery, through a series of interesting events, I was connected with the father of my favourite singer. I had listened to Kasey Chambers sing since I was a teenager and continued to find much comfort and joy in her music. Kasey’s voice had a way of piercing my hardened heart and connecting me to the feelings of love, loss and loneliness that I normally tried desperately to suppress, even if, just for a short while.
Kasey’s music was a safe haven, where I felt welcomed, and in the presence of warm vulnerability. I was allowed to sit with my own broken heart without fear of judgement or concern for how my grief would negatively impact others. I enjoyed Kasey’s songwriting, the relatable stories she would share and the passion that she expressed. I admired her sweet boldness and her authenticity, and still do. She sings because she has something worthy to say and the courage to wear her heart on her sleeve.
It’s been a couple of years down the road now and the intentional work of grief recovery has spilled over into new areas of my life. I now write daily and enjoy making music. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be mentored and to co-write with Kasey’s Dad, Bill Chambers. A journey way cooler than I ever could have imagined or been bold enough to pray for. If that’s not God at work I don’t know what is.
Turning inwards and sharing outwards was my first step to removing the plug from the boiling kettle of suppressed feelings. Nervous whispers became stories to share, tears to shed and laughs along the way. There’s been pain. There’s been discomfort. There’s been joy. There’s been growth, and amazing new friendships, sweet refreshments to my soul. Words have become poetry, weaved into songs, and then to many songs.
Wildfires & Daisies is the name of the album I’ve been working on, and will be recording with Bill in January 2023. The ashes of my grief have become the lyrics to songs that Bill has helped me to bring to life with his melodies and arrangements. Bill has been a patient teacher, reviewing the good and many bad attempts at songwriting with kindness, honesty and gentle nudges.
I pray our songs will bless others on their journeys through life, love, loss and grief. And I will be forever grateful for Kasey’s influence on my work, and for the privilege to create music with the ever encouraging, talented and humble, Bill. Recording is my inner child’s daydream and an adventure that I have ahead of me. It’s something that I wish I could whisper into the ear of my teenage self, ‘God will take what the enemy meant for evil and turn it into so much good. Just hold on and trust Him.’
I used to hold the pen so tightly and attempt to write the story of my own life. Make my own plans. Find my own way. Do things in my own strength. But now I choose to hold that pen lightly and write about the life God has planned for me. I write from experience. I write to share about Him. He is a far better author and his plans are far greater than my own.