Working With Grief – How Making Music Helps With Healing

Having released my debut EP Save Me From Myself (Pt. I) earlier this year, which tackles themes of loss and grief, I’d never have imagined I’d be gearing up to put out the second half, Save Me From Myself (Pt. II), during a global pandemic. Life has changed almost beyond recognition from then until now. During this time of international turmoil – everyone all over the world has been affected in someway by COVID-19 – grief is everywhere. It unites and brings us together, and now more so than ever we need to find a way of working with it.

I’ve been writing and recording music since I was about six years old, and it’s always been a way to express myself honestly and to deal with what’s happening without feeling like I’m going to upset someone or say the wrong thing. Music, and maybe more specifically writing lyrics, is a way of saying what I struggle to say out loud. It allows me to explore deeper places. 

I lost someone very close to me to cancer a few years ago, and like many, they went far too young. To say that it’s made an indelible mark on my life is an understatement; it’s affected everything I’ve done since, and possibly always will. Grief is a strange thing – it’s like we need to find a way of living with something that we don’t want to be true. I remember being told that it takes four years to โ€œget overโ€ losing someone close to you, but having just passed the six year mark, I’m not sure I agree. I don’t think grief ever really leaves you. It’s something we learn to live with, not get rid of or fix. Accepting it as part of you, and learning to be able to talk about it is something I find is hugely important. 

The first time I addressed my grief in a song was releasing my single Flesh & Blood, and pouring those emotions into that song was a huge relief for me. I find it difficult to talk about grief with people, but I’ve found great support and healing through writing songs, and allowing myself to do this has slowly helped me to understand and come to terms with the loss.

The two EP’s, Save Me From Myself (Pt. I) & (Pt. II), are a more fully formed manifestation of this personal dialogue where, upon finishing it, I realised that the entire body of work goes through the different stages of my own grief. Having written songs when I was younger by just pressing record and seeing what came out, I wanted to hark back to this style – allowing a stream of consciousness to guide the lyrics – and suddenly I found myself singing about deeper things. There was a lot of fear, confusion and sadness – death shatters control, we have no power over it, and whilst we all know this is true, we spend our lives trying to ignore and deny it. Facing my grief through the process of songwriting, I discovered I was in a darker place than Iโ€™d realised. Writing about it was hard at first, but with each song it became easier and gradually I started to feel a little lighter. 

Most of us are slightly afraid of talking about grief, it’s uncomfortable. We can often lock it up, trying to protect ourselves by internally ignoring the pain, and externally trying to remain positive and ‘normal’. I certainly did this, and now a few years down the line I’ve learned that, for me, I need to feel the pain, stare it straight in the face and not block it – I think we need to express our feelings, and for this we also need support.

I feel very lucky to have an outlet through my music, and the songs in this second EP (Save Me From Myself (pt.II)) feel as if they are moving forward. I remember writing Unhingeable Man, which is the opening track, and sending it to my manager saying ‘I’m not sure what this is, but it feels like the start of something.โ€ It felt like I had turned a corner. In the first EP Iโ€™d written songs that stagnated in my grief and really confronted it head on, which helped me move through it and become more accepting of it as a result.

Loss doesn’t have to just be about losing someone close to you, it can be losing your home, losing your old way of life – grief is the loss of control. We are all looking back with nostalgia and looking forward with uncertainty at this time – unsure of what the future holds. Having a creative outlet to express these emotions or speaking to people is so important. Our society often applauds โ€œbraveryโ€ when it comes to grief, like getting on with things as โ€œnormalโ€ is a good thing. It feels as if the tide is turning against this virus and brighter days are on their way, but now more than ever, we need to support healthy grieving – to take time over it, and learn to live with it by holding your memories close and not being afraid to talk. Everyone’s experiences are different and whilst my songs are personal to me, grief is unifying – we all experience grief in some way, and can find it anywhere, even in the small things. 

Being frightened of my grief caused me so many more problems than if I’d just tried to acknowledge it straight away, and been able to speak about it. Don’t hold things in, let it out – tell someone how you are feeling and ask others how they are. We will be feeling a global grief for perhaps years to come after this pandemic, so let’s make sure we share the burden with each other, and just as importantly we are kind to ourselves.

Listen to MAX RAD’s new single “Back Around”

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