Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

The Grateful Dead as Grief Advisors



I didn’t listen to the Grateful Dead when I was growing up in Wisconsin, too busy, I suppose, swimming in the lake and hiking through the woods. Today the Grateful speak to me of the journey of grief. (Yes, I know, most things speak to me about grief.)
Micky Hart, one of the group’s drummers, was my late introduction to the Dead because he wrote about percussion instruments from around the world and I was heavy into percussion in high school. In books and CDs he explores the different and complex rhythms that are indigenous to various cultures around the world. From him I entered the Dead.

The group’s singing wasn’t the best, but the instrumental playing was inspired. Much of the time a performance seemed like a long improv, with musicians picking up what the previous soloist had done and doing something creative with it, shifting the emotion and taking it somewhere else. The songs were long, not the 3-4 minutes ditties that play on the radio. Dead songs went on and on. They were an experience.
The lyrics in “The Wheel” speak of the movement and nature of life — “the wheel keeps turning, you can’t hold on and you can’t go back.” This is the movement of a wild river, always moving, dancing, and taking what has happened and going on to see what might happen next, completely giving itself over to the movement and passion of life. It’s also the movement of grief, if we have the courage to open ourselves to it allow it to flow through us.

Grief is a Grateful Dead improv. There is no set path. We find our way as we step forward into the unknown.
                                                        

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