Pop Therapy

This summer, after my husband died, the only music I could tolerate was “Top-40” hits. Not exactly sure why. I just couldn’t listen to any other music. Certainly not anything sentimental that would remind me of him; I just couldn’t bear it. And I couldn’t deal with the news, it was empty chatter that I couldn’t make meaning of. But I had to fill the silence otherwise my mind would just go crazy. So I gravitated toward the morning-show people. The ones who play hits, make jokes about bodily functions, and intentionally banter about nothing. No dark corners there, just pop. I’ll take it! An escape.

But here’s the thing about pop music. It’s designed to grab you, and pull you in. Eventually a catchy song will get your attention, and then you hear it everywhere. The song just speaks to you, and there’s no need to question why. It has the to power to completely slay you, or emblazon you. It doesn’t matter where you are, if the song comes on, it stops you in your tracks at the first few notes. You’d recognize it anywhere, be it in the car, the store, at the gas station. You know how it starts, you know how it ends, you know all the little nuances and turns of tempo or phrase. You even know which lyrics you don’t know. And that’s ok, because it is possible to love something completely without “understanding” every single thing about it…

…much like a soul mate.

And much like the life of my soul mate, the song I fell in love with this summer just happened to be one of those songs that leaves you hanging at the end, wanting more. You know the end is coming, it’s inevitable. You’ve heard the song so many times before, yet each time you hope there will be just one more refrain. But there isn’t, and it’s over, too soon. I only made that connection after a couple of times of hearing the song. It ended so delicately, so lovingly, so longingly. So fitting. My husband just barely made it to his 39th birthday. And though the doctors “told us” he didn’t have long to live, and though they “told us” the chemo and radiation would not “cure” him (only extend what was already to be a short life), and though we checked him into hospice, “knowing” that people go to hospice to “die”, the end, his death, completely blind-sided me.


When the conversation comes up, and it often does, about whether it’s “better” to lose someone suddenly, or over time (due to illness). My answer is always the same. It doesn’t fucking matter. When someone you love dies, whether you had time to prepare or not, it is TOO DAMN SOON. No matter the circumstances, even through the strange fog of disbelief, shock, denial, exhaustion, or confusion, there is a moment where you comprehend it in painful clarity. The razor sharp dagger of finality. It’s a punch to the gut you can’t prepare for. It makes you sick to your stomach and completely takes your breath away – but not in a romantic kind of way. It’s an experience we spend our lives in FEAR of, and with good reason.

Yes, I had time to tell him I loved him. And I am so thankful that I did. But I wish I could have told him again. I wish I could have said it over and over and over and over. Bathed him in those words, filled his body with those words, filled the room with those words, rather than with my shock, sadness and longing. But even if we had been given another day…or week…or month, or year, and I would have been able to say those words ALL day, EVERY day…I know the “end”, his death, still would have come too soon.

And for anyone curious, Lights by Elle Goulding was the song.

3 thoughts on “Pop Therapy

  1. I was 59 when my husband died. We had 41 years together. And I agree with everything you said today. The songs that we connect with, the never enough time, feeling blind-sided when the ‘end’ arrived in spite of the cancer and dialysis and chemo and hospice. Diamond Rio’s “One More Day” hits me every time I hear it. And I, too, believe there is absolutely no “better” way to lose your love.

  2. My husband was 48 when he was given 5-7% chance of surviving the weekend. He didn’t know this – he was too sick. He survived, and we had 6 more months together, before HE made the decision to stop all life supporting measures.

    It was much the same. I had watched him over 6 months, fighting, coming close to death, having mini-heart attacks, pulmonary embolism, lactaid levels too high to support life and to keep coming back to me.

    Until he was done.

    And there was no way I any of it made sense. One of my earlier blogs talks about how the fantasy of him coming home – because everything is the same as when he left – is still there… It doesn’t feel like he’s gone – then suddenly the reality hits that he’s NEVER. COMING. BACK.

    And it’s as suddenly painful as it was when he took his last breath.

    For me, it’s not songs, necessarily. It’s tv shows we watched together. It’s books he loved reading. It’s movies we’d planned on seeing together. And when it hits, it hurts so much it takes my breath away.

  3. the unanswerable question..which is better? Buy you answered it….it doesn’t fucking matter.
    My husband died suddenly, shock and awe….doesn’t fucking matter. Left with the same thing…a dead husband.
    I am so sorry

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