An Artist's Guide To Grieving

Last month a friend of mine suddenly passed away from pneumonia. His name was Norman. He had a long-running blog called Nu-Soul Magazine which uplifted independent artists around the world, especially in the L.A. soul and electronic music scene. Personally, he was a champion of my music from the beginning. No promoters in this town celebrated my artistic growth year-over-year as loudly as he did. He was a healthy young man, full of contagious energy. And then he was gone.

For me, losing someone like Norman was a first, both in its unexpectedness and its closeness to home. But I can’t help thinking that my new sense of self-awareness and emotional literacy prepared me for this.

The truth is I’ve been grieving an entire year over someone even closer to me than Norman was: the old me. 

Photography by  Jonathan Bean

Photography by Jonathan Bean

As evolving creative people, we don’t just mourn lost friends and relatives. We need to mourn lost relationships and identities. Lost world views and paradigms. Crashed hard drives and stolen equipment.

The soul-searching journey that spurred me to start Still Mind began with me stripping away a lot of deep-seated limiting beliefs (e.g. fear of failure and fear of success). I went deep into my childhood, pulling at the roots until they gave way to an understanding of how I came to think the way I did. And how that thinking informed my habits. And how those habits kept me from achieving all that I was here for. Once all of this was uncovered, I had to make a decision to either hold on to this old idea of myself or kill it off. It sounds intense, because it is.

I ended up killing off a part of me. The way I think, the people I hang with, and the choices I make are increasingly different than before. It’s not easy. I worry about what my parents think. I wonder if my friends feel abandoned. I get embarrassed when I look at old pictures or think about the way I used to let people treat me. But instead of glossing it over or pretending that history doesn’t exist, I get to pay tribute by acknowledging the past as a part of my journey. I breathe through it. I laugh about it. Most importantly I stay grateful, because without going through those things my head never would have made it to the place it is today.

When you’ve made a drastic change, give yourself time to say goodbye to your old ways and mourn the loss. It’ll make moving forward that much more refreshing.