I wanted to give a little introduction to this blog to share that the bulk of it was written about six months after my Dad suddenly passed away.
I have since held on to the thoughts and words for a while, not knowing if it was just something for me to help process my own private grief or if it was something I could share.
It is now coming up on 11 months, and I am feeling stronger and more prepared to navigate the conversation that publishing this might bring.
Also, I know of many people who are currently going through massive life shifts and probably can relate in ways to some of my thoughts on how loss in all aspects of our lives affects not only our creative souls but our whole worlds.
I have not edited the blog much as even though it is a heavier tone than I would usually want to put out there for "Art and a Song," my thought is that maybe by sharing this experience in the raw "time and place" that was written can, in some way connect with other hearts who may be navigating deep loss and feeling atrophied or lost. I resisted the urge to re-write and sugarcoat where I was then.
My Dad was a horse trainer, among many other talents, and you can bet he would never let me wallow or lay in the dirt for too long after getting tossed off a horse. And yes, I did get tossed off horses, and he ALWAYS made me get back on!
Well, this last year, metaphorically, I have hit the dirt hard, but it's time to get back up, dust off, and get my head back in the game to be able to get back on the horse.
Slowly, I am moving forward, healing my heart, and learning to accept this new way of life without Dad, and I am starting to stoke some creative fires again.
But I am accepting and learning that being a sensitive person, overwhelm can be tricky, and sometimes you just have to be easy on yourself and forgive yourself for not being able to excel or even be mediocre. Sometimes, it is just about keeping your head above water and guarding your energy until you can swim again.
So, with that, I send my love to you all who might connect with some of these words or who may need some extra comfort with whatever you may be navigating in life.
(Richard Crossley - Jun 1st, 1944 - Oct 22nd, 2022)
April, 2023: When Your Rock Falls Away
We are all on this life journey that is filled with so many dynamics. Times of ease, joy, wins, starts, stops, times of struggle, times of deep love, and then there are times of profound loss.
I have been so lucky to have my beautiful parents, friends, and family to support me through the ups and downs, especially over the last three years that, included pandemic job loss, subsequent retraining, the hard work of building my own business, and the stress of uncertainty through all of it.
There were days through all of this, and as the world got wacky and upside down, the certainty that I clung to was my family, close friends, animals, music, and the family farm. I was blessed to have this circle of love, creativity, and sanctuary to help me through it all.
But what do you do when you feel you are getting close to the end of what you thought was one of the most challenging climbs you have ever had, and then your hero, your best friend, the strongest rock in your life, your support, ...falls away?
We lost our Dad suddenly on October 22nd, 2022. It was shocking and heartbreaking, and it continues to feel painful and surreal. I still cannot believe he is gone.
The day he passed, it felt like a vacuum sucked away everything stable in my life, leaving a gaping black hole and no ground under my feet.
How do you carry on? How do you keep it together? How do you navigate not only the loss but also learn to go on and figure out life without the person who was always there to take care of the big, scary things?
How do I carry on without the person who held me up strong and who was always there to help me navigate this world?
Our rock fell away, and I can only explain it as a feeling of "free fall."
It is now six months since Dad left us and left this earthly plain, and since I put a hard stop to parts of my life and work to be able to cope and be available to come together as a family, help our Mom, and take care of the family farm. It has felt like being inside a weird game of snakes and ladders with months of whirlwind, but also like a blink of an eye.
I have barely written, worked on songwriting, or even dreamt much about anything creative since we lost Dad. As a family, we have been in survival mode, stumbling through figuring out all the property ins and outs and management details that were mostly in Dad's head. I have a million questions to which only he had the answers.
To cope, I had to let the numbness take over for a while, and I had to put blinders on and become a task machine. The busyness of figuring out the farm and the details that come when someone passes has probably been a blessing in some ways, as stopping and feeling was too much for a while.
Nevertheless, as a family, we are navigating, and slowly, I am starting to come up for air, and I am starting to see bits of sparkle around my world again. We have moments of laughter again and feel like victorious warriors whenever we get through another colossal task.
But things are different. I feel like I have changed fundamentally, and I don't recognize parts of my life; reality feels strange and foreign without my Dad. I also don't know how much I want to feel right now or if I want the numbness to ease. Feeling, remembering, and processing hurts.
My Dad, the builder, the horse trainer, the carver, the cowboy, the engineer, the husband, the father, the grandfather, the lover of animals, and the "ROCK" in our family. How do you even start to process who he was, how his life shaped mine, how to honour his life, and how to keep moving in this world without him?
As some of the fog of the past months slowly lifts, and the darkness of what we have gone through lightens bit by bit, I know that it is time to allow this feeling of "free fall" and the chaos of change to land into the softness and the realness of "art" to heal.
This "landing" and this new beginning is where dreaming and creativity need to start again. In my heart, I know this will help me process my grief, and by living, carrying on, and creating, I will honour my Dad.
I don't know where this next phase of "Art and a Song" my music or creative ideas will go, but I will allow it all to pull me to places of healing, light, tribute, and deep creativity.
Stories about my Dad, his art, and my journey of coping are sure to pop up, and it is my hope that with honesty and sharing, it may inspire others who may be stuck in grief or loss to reach for creativity to help heal.
If we are lucky, we will all grow old, but along the way, we will all lose people we love, feel loss in different areas of life, be shifted into new, uncomfortable roles, and eventually, each of us travels to the other side as well.
None of us are exempt from the waves and realities in life. But in these swells and tides, there is also deep love, beautiful experiences, and creative magic that keeps us afloat. It is a crazy ride!
But right now, it is my turn to experience one of the hardest transitions - the death of a parent.
This new reality is my journey right now. I have entered the next phase in life, joined a club that no one wants to join, and as much as I wish I could go back to simpler times, back to being a kid with my pony and my Daddy by my side, here I am.
But I am ready for the light to come back in. I am ready for the void to be filled with creativity and for the free fall feeling of loss to stop.
I still can't help but still have these questions: "Will the ground I walk on feel solid and familiar again one day? Will I eventually be able to become my own rock?" ...Time will tell, and time will hopefully ease the ache.
All I can do now is surrender and open my hands and heart to let Love, Art, and Songs guide and heal me.
Dad, I'm ready to get back on the horse...
Book Recommendations :
- Your local Hospice Foundation as they often provide counselling, group therapy, courses and classes to support family members through grief free of charge.
About the author:
Ellen Crossley is singer-songwriter, vocal coach and artist coach.