For When You Want a Lullaby, But You Cannot Sing: An Essay on Loss.

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PrestonRecent

“You want a lullaby, but you cannot sing…”

The texts came at 6:10 a.m. on a Thursday in late spring, before the sun had finished rising. Half asleep, I read: “Kathryn, call us back. Please, it’s very important.” There were several missed calls accompanying the text, with voicemails confirming that my family urgently needed to talk to me. Such vague, imperative messages were atypical of my family. I dialed back, already paralyzed with dread and unease.

“Though you try, you don’t feel a thing.”

The line picked up, my mom speaking softly. “Kathryn…Preston died last night. The cops came to our door a few hours ago. He shot himself in the head…there was a letter. When can you come home?” In those moments, the world stopped and everything I’d ever known to be true was a lie. I often still wish I had not woken up that morning.

“Troubled, unable to soothe your tired eyes and your weary mood…”

Preston Douglas Wood was sibling number six in a family of 10 children. A middle child, he was easy going and sweet. He didn’t seek attention, but didn’t mind being recruited for teatime by his little sisters or trouble making by his older brothers. In fact, he kept his opinions and feelings to himself. When frustrated, hurt, or sad, he wouldn’t say so. Instead, he’d clench his teeth and fists while tears welled in his eyes. He’d simply walk away—sometimes to his room, sometimes outside—but always alone.

“…I never knew this fragile side of you.”

As Preston grew older, the tendency to keep negative emotions hidden only increased. In our rural Central Pennsylvania hometown, the “strong and silent” male typecast was favored. Men don’t cry. Preston knew this and followed suit. Like many teens, Preston struggled with purpose and self worth. Rather than face these emotional challenges head on, Preston turned to another solution: alcohol. By the time he was a junior in high school, drinking was his primary—if not only—coping mechanism. And with each year, it worsened. All unbeknownst to our family.

“I love you, do you know?”

As Preston’s oldest sister, I’ve spent countless hours thinking about him. I obsess over what I could have done differently, what I could have said, why I didn’t recognize the gravity of his depression. After all, I am the oldest—I’m supposed to fix things. Sometimes I’m ashamed; I’m ashamed that despite several years helping others with mental health issues as a clinical music therapist, I couldn’t help Preston. No amount of education or experience can ever change that.

“When you’re breaking, slipping low…”

In the months since Preston’s passing, I’ve reached a level of depression I could never have fathomed. Many know me to be optimistic and resilient, with a thirst for life; depression seemed so far from me. But as days turn into weeks turn into months, grief has given way to doubt, purposelessness, overwhelming sadness and anxiety. If what I feel is even a tenth of what Preston was feeling, I understand why he wanted to end his years of mental anguish and emotional pain. I only wish he would have asked for help, answered, “How are you?” honestly, or let his tears show just once, instead of choosing suicide.

“…filled with doubt, lost and angry…”

Three years ago, I started writing a song with chords and melody that came almost instantly to me. But no matter how much I wrote and re-wrote, I could not find the appropriate lyrics to complete it. It was the first time I was unable to finish a musical project in a lifetime of songwriting. So, I left it sitting in the corner of my mind, gathering cobwebs, reminding me of its incompleteness. On March 26th, 2015, this fragmented song not only finished itself, but also became a respite I never dreamed I would need.

“…I hope you find the peace that you need.”

There is still so much I wish I could say to Preston, and yet, everything I would say has become everything I need to hear from someone else. Music has been my one true reprieve in life, and though it’s sound has deafened since Preston passed, it is the only way I can begin to string together all the thoughts, feelings, and questions involved in grieving him. So after three years of sitting on that half-finished song, in the days following Preston’s death “Lullaby” practically wrote itself. It is my letter to Preston, to my family, to myself…and to anyone else hurting, lost, hopeless and defeated. For the times when you want a lullaby, but you cannot sing.
~

 

 

Relephant Favorite: 

What Death Teaches Us.

.

Author: Kathryn Rose Wood

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr/Eddie Van 3000

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Kathryn Rose Wood

Kathryn Rose Wood is a board-certified music therapist, songwriter and musician residing in New Orleans, LA by way of Honolulu, HI and York, PA.  She is the second oldest (and oldest daughter) of ten children in a “Big Catholic Family” and those who know her understand what this means about her personality.  Through Kathryn’s work as a music therapist, she has served those struggling with mental health issues, physical handicaps, developmental disabilities and other delays. Kathryn truly believes in music as medicine, and seeks to help others experience the same.

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anonymous Jan 6, 2016 6:08pm

Thank you for sharing, so very touching and beautiful. You have a gift

“… if you’ve found some peace, would you send some to me? … ” really says it all. sending some love to you and your family.

anonymous Jan 6, 2016 12:39pm

What a gift to your brother, very moving. Quite Beautiful, brought tears to my eyes…thank you!

anonymous Jan 6, 2016 12:36pm

What a gift to your brother, I am so sorry. Very beautiful, thank you. Brought tears to my eyes

anonymous Jan 6, 2016 7:31am

Just beautiful…

Kathryn Rose Jun 20, 2016 4:10pm

Hi Elephant Journal readers! As you may know from my Elephant Journal piece, "For When You Want a Lullaby But You Cannot Sing: An Essay on Loss" I released a music video/song project, "Lullaby (to Preston)," in the aftermath of my 19-year-old brother's suicide. The song seemed to resonate with many people, and I received a outpouring of messages of empathy, gratitude, and hope in the light of mental health challenges that others felt from "Lullaby." I'm reaching out to you because I am recording and releasing an album of the songs I wrote amidst struggling with the grief process and my personal spiral into a suicidal depression after Preston's death. I am utilizing Kickstarter, the crowdfunding website, to help fund this record. I hope "Lullaby," and my mission to release this music to help others with mental health issues, will resonate with you; that you consider pledging to the campaign. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kathrynrosewood/in-the-ashes-an-album-on-grief-loss-and-the-afterm As much as I have wanted to keep these songs for myself, I know that there are others who need to hear them; "Lullaby" showed me that allowing personal traumas to be displayed through music can help the greater community to heal - a massive positive from a difficult negative. I know I must publish these songs for the world, because someone, somewhere, will be able to find comfort, encouragement, their own healing, through the songs. That is enough for me to put in the work - emotionally, financially, physically - to bring this music to the public. Please help me in making the album, "In the Ashes," a reality. Any donation will help, and any share on social media, email, text or word-of-mouth will allow "In the Ashes" to be recorded and released en masse, with the utmost of quality and care given to ensure the songs reach their full musical, and emotional potential. Thank you so much for your consideration, support, and time. It has meant the world to me, and will continue to do so. <3 - Kathryn Rose Wood