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Wouldn’t you know it, this is the final piece of the puzzle! It may have taken me a long time but it’s done and I almost can’t believe it. What a long way I’ve come since I’ve started. I decided to keep this panel for my final post. It makes the most sense to bring the whole thing back to community which has been and always will be a big part of life, even for an introvert like me…

 

After my friend passed away I remember thinking no one was in the same shape as I was, or understanding the grief the same way and it made me feel very alone. I searched around for groups to help me, I looked for ways to express what I needed to all along not realizing my group was already all around me. The first people I noticed were my other band members. They were a group I felt understood the bond I had to our fellow band member.

 

Our first practice without him was to get three songs together to play for his service. It felt so quiet without him there and we all felt it. I remember very little being said except I managed “This is really hard.” At almost every practice we had one of us would break down and cry.

 

Our group as a whole is a little quiet, but we stay connected through music. What was said, was brief and honest. I remembered and laughed the most with these men about who our friend really was. He was our band dad. He was grumpy and stressed out at times. He was loving and nervous and funny. He always made sure to keep things running as smoothly as he could get it. I connected more to remembering him as a whole person with all his quirks rather then as the hero or a sad story.  This was my grief group.

 

On the day of his service, we bought some very good whiskey which we took with us to the church. Three of us drove together, staying pretty quiet. At one point I took that whiskey bottle and hid outside with it. We each spoke briefly during the service with our arms around one another surrounding the one speaking. We performed on that big stage and through wavering voices sang those three songs. I made the whole church get on its feet and asked them to dance. I sang to him, I sang to and with my bandmates and just like every time I perform I felt a part of something bigger.

 

Gradually it got easier to play without our sweet band dad. And eventually we added a wonderful human being to our group who brought his own style to lead guitar. He was so gracious, patient and understanding about what he was entering. About a year later we performed at the private music festival and introduced our new band member to a group that knew and loved our decease friend. I had no expectations so when we started playing and we got yells of love and claps of joy and dancing with heart, I was as humbled as I was elated. The performance was like none that I have had since. We all played our hearts out and the audience was ready to catch it. When we finished I blissfully walked to the edge of the stage where my husband with open arms asked “How are you?”

 

I shook my head and hugged him and said with tears welling up, “I’m good, I just need to go off and cry somewhere – too late.” as I sobbed into his shirt.

 

Then I heard our drummer say “Hey, can I get in on this?” and we opened up our arms and held each other. It was the first time I had let myself opening sob about this in such a public setting. It was only for a moment and then, my band mate pulled away, wiped his eyes and said “Thanks.” That moment was a turning point where I felt whole with my grief instead of stifled or hidden.

 

In my most raw and confused moments, words always fail me, what a gift to have such strong communication during those times with so few words. I felt safe, I felt loved and I felt understood and that’s all we really need to heal.

 

As I started to rise further out of my fog I could see how amazingly big my community really was. That whole audience sent us love. My good, good friend who knew about loss from terminal illness was and is always willing to cry with me. I had other strong women who traveled the road through his illness with me. I had friends that wouldn’t let me stay sad and would invite me to rejoin the world. I had a family around me that was quiet, gentle and patient through it all. And I had my husband who despite his own pain and opposite nature held me, gave me room and kept me honest. I had a councilor who helped me get back in charge of navigating my way through all the big changes. To all of these people in my community, to all of the little kindnesses I found along the way, I dedicate this whole work to you all.

 

May you see the love and gratitude in every piece!  My sincerest thanks to each and every one of you!

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