5 Ways I’m Healing Through Grief With My Debut EP, Boxes: A burwell Guest Blog

by - March 22, 2022

If you’ve ever been through grief, perhaps you can agree it’s a whole mess. I joined the grief club, not by choice, in fall of 2019 when my mom was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. Waking up to this reality felt like falling on concrete pretty much every day, too real to shake the funk where it put me. Along with my family, emotions were heightened as we experienced some of our highest highs and lowest lows, never wanting to miss any moments of opportunity to create memories together.

Call me an optimist, but there’s been hope throughout my grief journey that I’ve only come to know by actually going through it.

As soon as I realized loss was inevitable, I sought help from a grief counselor to help me navigate it. Before long, I came to understand the five phases closely aligned with grief, both through research and through personal experience. But what I realized in the course of “facing it” was how unboxable it all is. Unable to contain it to an hour-long therapy session, I’ve also realized I’m unable to label it with five stages and be set. For me, grief has brought up countless emotions. And that’s perfectly okay and even normal.

My debut EP, boxes, was inspired by the mess of boxes I inherited from my late mother upon her passing in March 2020. While it is a reminder of my loss, it is also a glimmer of the life she lived and how I’ve been blessed by it. Each box is filled with gems of every kind; photo albums, holiday decor, china sets and her gardening tools. I’ve found myself overwhelmed by all of it at times, but have come to know it as a gift to be unwrapped every time I “face it”. Loss, not unlike boxes in an attic, can bring life with it too, if we let it.

With time, I’ve wondered how to answer this question about grief: “What does healing look like?” And for me, it has so many answers. One of them, though, has been “reflection”. With a song for every [messy] stage of grief, below is a glimpse of how I’ve been healing.

1. Stage: Denial | Healing: Presence | Song: “anywhere but here” | Lyric: “if death is something we must face / love could be the way that we come back to life” 

Reflection: Like most of us, I have a tendency to run away from things that might cause pain or simply aren’t fun. Growing up, we used to take small, “anywhere-but-here” trips to escape hard situations. While I still do this not infrequently, I have learned the power of presence comes from staying put for things and people who mean the most to us.

2. Stage: Anger | Healing: Forgiveness | Song: “hold me, still” | Lyric: “like the faintest flame that flickers underneath / all that is becoming” 

Reflection: When I don’t want to deal with difficult things, the burden of repressing it can manifest as anger in its direction. While it does little to solve the actual problem, it also begins to crack at the venire I’m hiding behind. Forgiveness from others, and even for myself, is one of the ways I’ve tried to address anger in my life. There’s a lot of light that can come in through the cracks we acquire.

3. Stage: Bargaining | Healing: Purpose | Song: “boxes” | Lyric: “found the tools she used for gardening / i’ll make a garden of my own / maybe it’ll help me grow”

 Reflection: While writing my way through grief, I unearthed a desire to find meaning from the whole experience. The boxes in my attic are a good example of this search; some kind of justification that what happened isn’t a total loss. It’s been strange to realize this project is a kind of bargaining, but also beautiful for how it’s brought purpose with it… this project feels like it matters.

4. Stage: Depression | Healing: Wonder | Song: “in the dark” | Lyric: “you call me out to wide open spaces / making room for wonder to awaken” 

Reflection: This song was inspired by that feeling of being in a dark place, wondering if there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I have witnessed how real love - the pure, unconditional kind - shines through the darkest places where we might find ourselves, sometimes.

5. Stage: Acceptance | Healing: Honesty | Song: “whole again” | Lyric: “i don’t want to fake what i’m feeling / honesty is a part of healing” 

Reflection: Getting to a place where I can say “this is real life” takes time and practice. Part of the “process” around grief reminds me that it’s never really over, and I may need to redefine progress at times. Being honest with myself about where I am in the process has been a form of acceptance for me; if I can accept where I am, I can move forward… one tiny step at a time.

I hope the songs on this EP feel like you're unwrapping a gift, as that’s what they’ve been for me these past two years. I’ve laughed and cried my way through the whole process enough times to realize it’s not over, as much as I might still want it to be. While losing anyone or anything isn’t something any of us would choose willingly, it’s helpful to know we are never alone on the journey.

You May Also Like