Grief is a harsh, awful, painful, yet ultimately normal part of life. We all experience it, we all feel it, but not everyone is able to process it and move through it. Fortunately for us, there are other people out there who feel what we feel and express it through music, which in turn helps the rest of us to get through whatever we’re struggling with. Since today wraps up the series, we’re going to look at ten songs that I personally find helpful when trying to accept what has happened.
Alter Bridge – Brand New Start
Sometimes we just need to make a brand new start from the pieces torn apart… wait, that sounds like the lyrics from this song. Indeed, ALTER BRIDGE have released a song called “Brand New Start” way back in 2007. “We will make a brand new start / from the pieces torn apart” is about as relevant to accepting what has happened to you as anything could be. As a dear friend once told me, “when we break, we don’t shatter like glass. We’re like Legos. You pick them up and you start building something new and better.” This song captures that feeling implicitly, with its knowledge that no matter what happens, we can always pick up and make a brand new start.
Michelle Branch – Goodbye to You
For those of you who watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the ’90s, “Goodbye to You” by Michelle Branch should absolutely need no introduction, as it was the soundtrack to one of the most gut-wrenching moments in the entire series. For the rest of you, this song is one of the most impactful songs from its era about leaving behind a person that you love deeply after coming to the realization that the relationship is doing more harm than good. The lyrics are honest, brutal, and the music that goes with it is devastating… but underlying this is the immense sorrow that accompanies the strength to pull the plug on something that just wasn’t what you hoped it would be. There’s something cathartic to listening to this song when you’re miserable and letting it help you find your way.
On this occasion, I will include the TV series’ video alongside the original, simply because it shows so many heartbreaking moments (spoilers for the show, obviously, but there’s no dialogue to say what’s going on):
Sara Bareilles – Get Over You
It’s a bit ironic that this song was given to me by a friend whom I later had a rough breakup with, and this song was the one I turned to when I was betrayed. However, ultimately, moving on is all about desire and perspective. We don’t move on and leave things behind until we are both willing and ready, and this song is perfect in that sense, because it accepts that things went to hell, that things are over, but outright states, “I’ll be all right, just not tonight.” So ultimately, no matter what sort of grief you are going through, remember that you will be all right, but also take time to yourself to not be all right until you are ready to accept what has happened and move on.
Merry Clayton – “Beautiful Scars”
You may remember from last year that I’m a big fan of empowerment anthems and one of the strongest that came out was “Beautiful Scars,” by vocalist Merry Clayton, whose main fame comes from backing vocals in many classic rock hits like THE ROLLING STONES‘ “Gimme Shelter” or LYNYRD SKYNYRD‘s “Sweet Home Alabama.” This track shows the most positive possible attitude towards life and its hardships, saying that “these are beautiful scars that I have on my heard | this is beautiful proof that I’ve made it this far | every hurt I’ve endured, every cut every bruise | wear it proud like a badge, wear it like a tattoo…” Coming from a woman who lost her legs in a car accident, surely we can take her word for it when she says that you can come through grief and hardship and be stronger on the other side.
Bruce Dickinson – “Broken”
In the deep dark depths of Bruce Dickinson‘s [IRON MAIDEN] solo discography, you’ll find a Best Of collection that opens with a track called “Broken,” which immediately starts making statements like, “I will not be pushed | I will not be stamped, defiled” and goes on to roar in the chorus, “I stand alone now I can see | you won’t bring me down | for all the pain and misery I’m not broken…” If you’re looking for something heavy and uplifting to remind you who you are and what you stand for, look no further than this surprisingly unknown yet empowering-as-hell track.
The Halo Effect – “Shadowminds”
I had been obsessing over “Shadowminds” by THE HALO EFFECT for a year before I read the lyrics and realized how deeply relevant they were to my situation. The song refers to a “watershed moment” (for those of you unfamiliar with the phrase, it is a critical moment wherein everything changes), the pain such incidents can cause, but ultimately seems to be positive, as per the main lines of the chorus: “let the now begin today / to the past a swift farewell / innocence is nothing when shadowminds prevail / let the fear be gone today / to oblivion we cast it down / when shadowminds prevail.” If that isn’t a message to leave the past behind and live in the moment, I don’t know what is… and it certainly doesn’t hurt that the song is catchy as hell.
Smackbound – “Drive it Like You Stole It”
If you’re looking for a local act that are going to play music that makes you feel good when life’s got you down, SMACKBOUND belong in your music library. While my personal favorite empowerment anthem off “20/20“ is “Hey Motherfuckers,” there’s something really delightful about the metaphor of “driving it like you stole it,” which I take to mean that you should live your life at a reckless high speed and enjoy yourself, because we only have one life, after all, so we should live as best as we can, right?
Brother Firetribe – “I Salute You”
Oftentimes when life is hard on us, sometimes it helps just to have someone out there who just recognizes how hard you’ve been trying to get through things, day-by-day. If you don’t have a person in your life to say it to you, allow Pekka Heimo from BROTHER FIRETRIBE to sing it to you with the words from “I Salute You” off their latest release, “Feel the Burn.” The lyrics say it pretty nicely, “through the fire, through the rain | all the heartache, all the pain | you made it this far, I salute you…” Sometimes, that little pat on the back goes a truly long way.
Bring Me the Horizon – “Throne”
While metalcore is a treasure trove of songs for depression and anger, it’s worth remembering that these artists have also survived a lot of loss and drug abuse, etc., so they’ve got songs about coming out the other side of grief stronger than ever. BRING ME THE HORIZON say it pretty nicely in their 2015 hit, “Throne,” which states that, “you can throw me to the wolves | tomorrow I will come back, leader of the whole pack | beat me black and blue | but every wound will shape me, every scar will build my throne.” If that doesn’t show that no matter what life throws at you, there is strength to be found to face it, I don’t know what does.
Ayreon – “Day 20: Confrontation”
Of course, if you haven’t guessed by now, I was obviously going to end this series with the final track from AYREON‘s 2004 release, “The Human Equation,” because “Day Twenty: Confrontation” is all about processing your emotions, coming to terms with what you have done, as well as what’s been done to you, and finding your strength and support in order to move forward. There is a very tender part, where the main character is confronted by his emotions one last time, as he is asked, “it all seems so unreal to you | can you decide what to do?” and he replied, “yes I can, oh I will survive | look at me… I’m alive,” as the music swells and brings the song musically and emotionally into a pure catharsis. This is life!
Written by Bear Wiseman