There is always a song, a lyric somewhere that will perfectly fit how you are feeling in any given moment. There is a song or a lyric that at one given moment will crush you in a second. Music has always been a massive part of my life, it soundtracks my life, I just love it. After Poppy died I lost that love for a while because I couldn’t listen to songs. Hearing about love and missing the ones you love just crushed me. It just made me feel ten times worse, music hightens emotion and I couldn’t cope with it. Slowly though this changed and I rediscovered my love for music and the power it has to help.
One of my favourite artists, Andrew McMahon released an album under the Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness. It was written during his wife’s pregnancy with his daughter. When Emily and I found out she was pregnant I was drawn to this album again. One song See Her At The Weekend had the line “my girl’s back home with the morning sick”. This just entered my head when we found out. I’d drive to work with Emily at home with her morning sickness. Now I’d see her after work but I just connected to this line in a way I never have before. That is the power of music. It filled me with excitement about the arrival of my soon to be little girl. The lead single Cecilia’ and ‘The Satellite about Andrew’s life in music, touched me in a way a song never has before.
If I could fly
Then I would know
What life looks like from up above and down below
I’d keep you safe
I’d keep you dry
Don’t be afraid Cecilia
I’m the satellite
And you’re the sky
This would be Poppy, my little girl. I’d keep her safe and dry. I’d be the satellite in her sky, watching over her. This song just hit the right note with me. I had it in my head that this would be the first song I had to listen to after Poppy was born. But then the unthinkable happened and Poppy was born so poorly. She was transferred to another hospital and I remember driving home to get some bits to take with me. Some song with the line “all that she wants is another baby” came on and I just muted the radio. I burst into tears. The realisation hit me then that Poppy might not make it. I had al these fears and emotions that I didn’t want to deal with. All I wanted was to be with my little girl and my wife. Support them, get us through this, get Poppy home. I’d deal with my emotion later.
Whats been so nice over the last 15 months is that I’ve been able to listen to this song again. I never thought I would be able to, it held my hopes and dreams in it. It was a song that filled me with excitement. When I finally listened to it again it made me think that Poppy is now the satellite in my sky. Watching over Emily, me and now Reuben. I truly believe this too, she’s watching over us and being such an amazing daughter and big sister. Now I can listen to this song and think of her in a new way, not the way it should be but still, a small positive. Also, thankfully, I can be Reuben’s satellite in his sky. My two children are now linked in this song for me.
When we left the hospital after 3 days camped out by Poppy’s bedside we just couldn’t bring ourselves to listen to the radio. I think we had it muted for weeks or we had BBC Radio 5 Live on. It was the same with TV, we stuck to BBC or BBC news. No adverts, nothing that would trigger us to burst into tears. Any advert with a Baby was just a knife in the heart. I think Pampers started their premature nappy advert around the time Poppy died and I remember feeling so angry that they had showed it.
As the weeks went on though I started to have music on in the background but I never really listened to anything. It wasn’t until we were at Emily’s mums that I really listened to a song again. Once again music took a hold and connected with me. Making me feel not as alone. I connected to songs in ways songwriters probably never thought someone would.
It is quite ironic that it was a new Andrew McMahon song was the first song I connect to. An artist who’s music has soundtracked my life was once again doing the same in my darkest moments. The song Brooklyn Your Killing Me about being lost in the hustle and bustle of New York coincided with the hustle and bustle I was lost in. Only mine was the heartbreaking sadness of missing my daughter.
My heart is a troubled captain
This line just hit me, it’s how I felt. My heart was troubled in the high waters of grief, not knowing how I was going to survive. With other lines about searching for directions it felt like the song could be written for me. I was lost, searching for directions to a better place. A place where the weight in my heart could feel lighter, easier to bare a place where I could be safe from the world I now lived in.
As the weeks went by Andrew released more new songs from his album and each one just came at a new point in my grief and my trying to move forward. One about Walking in your sleep which is weirdly how you feel after losing a baby. You are functioning but it is like you are walking around in your sleep. It is all a daze. It is like you are just walking in a dream, a shit one but actually it’s your life. One new song that really stand out though was Don’t Speak For Me (True).
Don’t speak for me
I’ll get with it, give it just a little longer
Don’t speak for me
Yeah, I’ll be there soon
Every day I feel a little bit stronger than I was when I was
This was me. I wasn’t really there with people I was stuck. But each day I was getting stronger again, learning how to live with the hole in my heart. But I was stuck and I think any parent going through baby loss is. I felt stuck between the man I was before Poppy was born, the man I was when Poppy was born and then the man I was now.I was trying to find the new me. But I just didn’t know who I was anymore. I was no longer just Pete, Emily’s husband, I was now Poppy’s Dad but she was no longer here. I wasn’t a Dad in the normal eyes of the would. I didn’t have Poppy to show off. I was the man who’s daughter had died. I know I wanted to be the man I was when Poppy was born, the guy who grew into fatherhood. Becoming a father does change you. Every day I try to be the man that I was when Poppy was born, to make her proud. What helps now is having our rainbow Reuben. But it is still hard, you are never the same after loosing a child. The world isn’t the same, you don’t see it the same as you did before. WIth Roo though he helps filter the world with rainbow filters.
3 or 4 songs were released before the album came out. I listened to them over and over again. Be it on the drive into work for the few days I was back in, in bed when I couldn’t sleep or driving home from seeing Star Wars. They spoke to me and helped me through.
I had fallen back in love with music again and I credit Andrew MacMahon In The Wilderness and his album Zombies On Broadway as something that helped get me through the first few months after we lost Poppy. Through music, as well as talking with Emily I found ways to deal with what was going on. With what had happened to us. Songs that had had a completely different meaning to me before now spoke to me in a new light. They reminded me of Poppy, or they now seemed to describe how I was feeling.
I ended up listening back to songs from Andrew’s back catalogue, Something Corporate songs, to Jack’s Mannequin songs. Some songs now seemed as if they were written for the me in this moment in my life. That is the amazing thing about music. No matter what, a song can always sync with your life. Music soundtracks our lives and sometimes we don’t even notice.
We ended up seeing Andrew play in Manchester while Emily was pregnant with Reuben. We’d bought tickets before we knew she was expecting. It was a brilliant night and in a small way another way that Poppy and Reuben were brought together. Songs that I’d listened too while we were expecting Poppy and songs that helped get me navigate the easy months after we lost her. They were sung in a small first floor room above a bar, a few days after the awful Manchester Arena attack. We created light in the dark and music brought us together. Music has an incredible power to help and heal.
The show started with a song called Swim, one that fitted that moment after an awful moment in Manchester. But also a song that I feel fits a Mother or Father trying to deal with the heartbreak of losing a child. So many lyrics that feel as if they were written for the daily struggles you have, how you have the daily fight with your grief.
You gotta swim
Swim for your life
Swim for the music
That saves you
When you’re not so sure you’ll survive
You gotta swim
I swim to brighter days
Despite the absence of sun
Choking on salt water
I’m not giving in
You gotta swim
But one line sums it up really:
Just keep your head above
That is what you have to do with the shitty hand life has dealt you, keep your head above those waves of sadness, ride them out and try and swim towards a brighter day. That brighter day won’t mean you forget about your loss but you will, I hope, have your own light in your own darkness to help brighten your days. But make no mistake you will always keep a candle burning for the baby that should still be here, you will never forget. You will make them proud and you will include them in your life. Andrew says it in another song; The Sun Will Forever Keep Rising and so will you everyday after loss, you keep rising and find a way to live with the grief as best you can.
With Poppy I hope that through me she can touch other people’s lives and help another Mother or Father get through their loss. I hope my experiences, my honesty can help them through. Most of all I hope this all makes Poppy proud of her Daddy.
Check Out Andrew McMahon’s Website and Instagram below:
The songs mentioned are just a few songs’s that have helped me since losing Poppy, please check them out below:
Something Corporate Songs:
Jack’s Mannequin Songs:
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness Songs: