While Peter Gabriel’s music soothed my broken heart, Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, understood me. He knew the darkness and rage that boiled just below my sweet exterior. He knew how daunting it was to try to escape the darkness, to make an effort, only to be yanked back and beat down again.
It wasn’t just his lyrics and his voice. Even the music understood me, the powerful bass, drums, and guitar of his bandmates. In my Jeep Wrangler, when I played my Soundgarden mix tape and turned up the volume, I felt the music wrap itself around me, intertwining its complex melodies and rhythms with my soul. It filled up my head and kept my lonely, angry, fuck-this-shit thoughts company. It said to me, Yeah. I know.
After losing my sister, I didn’t feel understood by anyone until I put on a Peter Gabriel or Soundgarden song. Their music is on opposite ends of the genre; they are nothing alike, except in the richness of lyrics that I relate to and the intricacy of the accompanying music. Their music was the perfect accompaniment to my range of emotions. Grief. Sadness. Self-hatred. Rage. Loneliness.
When I turned up the volume on a Soundgarden song, the thoughts racing and chasing each other through my brain were drowned out. It was comforting in a loud, angry, relieving way. It released something from me that I couldn’t release on my own. The music flowed through me like oxygenated blood. It heated the cold loneliness. It took my rage and took my hand and said let’s turn it up all the way and everyone and everything can just fuck off.
A wine-fueled January 14, 2014 post on Facebook reads, “Soundgarden and Peter Gabriel totally helped me get through my sister’s suicide. God bless you, Soundgarden and Peter Gabriel. Time. That was helpful, too. Good music is fucking amazing.”
Well before my sister took herself from us, I loved this music. After she left, I fell more in love with it.
It’s been almost 21 years since my sister left us. For almost 21 years I have been working through all the emotions and questions her suicide left behind. The love and sweet memories, the weighty guilt, the fiery anger, the hollow ache of missing her. The conflicting emotions of being with other sisters who have a great relationship with each other, being with aunts doting on their nieces and nephews, having the vague feeling of a betrayer when I dance foolishly with someone else.
I’ve been working on this piece a while and for several months I’ve been working Soundgarden song references into the book I’m writing because it was so instrumental to my survival. Even when it was bad and painful and I simply wanted to bail, I stayed. Soundgarden is dark and angry and complex. I was dark and angry and full of complex and contradictory emotions. But I kept on going with my personal soundtrack playing in my subconscious or on my stereo or singing lyrics at random-not-so-random moments.
I kept on and I made it out of the dark and angry.
If you are in crisis, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.