Music, Triggers, and Katy Perry

I met with a new therapist this morning — a very smart and caring woman who I’m looking forward to working with. We talked a bit about triggers and that lead me to tell her about my first encounter with a triggering song. In the early months after Odin was born I couldn’t listen to any music at all. Capital “b” Before I tended to listen to pretty sappy emo music that could make me cry even pre-loss so pretty much everything in my catalogue was off-limits. I also didn’t want to associate any of my favourite songs or albums with the deep depths of despair I was experiencing. I was trying to protect my Future Self from triggers.

Eventually, I started listening to Top 40. But it took a long time.

One day in the fall, shortly after returning to work, I was at my desk listening to (what I thought was) a super-safe playlist of pop songs all written by the supreme goddess Sia Furler. All of the songs were fine until Katy Perry’s Double Rainbow started playing. And I started paying attention to the lyrics. And sobbing.

“You’re a one-of-a-one, a one-of-a-kind/ That you only find once in a lifetime […] You speak to me/ even in my dreams/ Wouldn’t let you go for even the highest price/ They say one man’s trash is another girl’s treasure/ So if it’s up to me I’m gonna keep you forever/ To the bottom of the sea I’d go to find you/ Climb the highest peak to be right beside you/ Every step I take I’m keeping you in mind”

I can’t even copy-and-paste these lyrics for you without getting emotional. You might be thinking, “Katy Perry? Really?” But, like grief, music is both a powerful and very personal thing. Some days I can listen to songs that other days I will find incredibly triggering. Just like some days I wake up and feel pretty okay and other days I want to stay in bed and stare at pictures of Odin with a mountain of Kleenexes at my side.

I’ve got a playlist that is a work-in-progress in case I’d like to sit and have a good release-cry someday. So far I haven’t actually listened to it in full because I’m still crying pretty regularly and at will. But I know some day I will be grateful for the work I’ve put into it. The song (“Bloom” by the Paper Kites) is actually what prompted me to write this post. It popped up on a random Spotify mix and right away it resonated with me because the lyrics are exactly what’s in my heart today. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m at a crossroads with letting go of some sadness and embracing the work of parenting Odin. (Heads up: this will be my life’s work and I’ll be figuring it out as I go.) I love the lyrics of “Bloom” because, for me, they are about the work of keeping Odin close while also carrying the sadness, loneliness, and longing of losing him.

“In the morning when I wake/ And the sun is coming through/ Oh, you fill my lungs with sweetness/ And you fill my head with you/ Shall I write it in a letter?/ Shall I try to get it down?/ Oh, you fill my head with pieces/ Of a song I can’t get out/ Can I be close to you? […] Can I take you to a moment/ Where the fields are painted gold/ And the trees are filled with memories/ Of the feelings never told?/ When the evening pulls the sun down/ And the day is almost through/ Oh, the whole world it is sleeping/ But my world is you.”

The song is very sweet and not overtly sad, which is how I eventually want to be able to look at my relationship with Odin. The song definitely got to me but, at least for today, I’m not crying about it.

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