LIV ON – talking life, death and music with Amy Sky

Categories: Care.

Ms Sky has recently released an album in collaboration with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Olivia Newton John, which draws on this power of music to aid and comfort those experiencing grief and loss, as well as people who are dying.

The album is titled: LIV ON, and carries the message that: while grief affects each of us differently, the reason we grieve is because we love, and it is through this love that we can heal.

“(In life) things change,” said Amy, “and this goes both ways. Life will always remind us of this. It is very hard, when you are in the middle of your deepest grief, to imagine that life will have light and love and laughter again.

Amy’s message of hope is that the heart wants to heal. “If you give it the time and space to, there will be a new you waiting on the other side of the pain,” she said.

Personal experiences with grief and loss

Amy has had her own experience with grief and loss. She experienced post-partum depression and currently works with mental health charities in her native Canada, drawing on her own experience to help others. Along with her mother and siblings, Amy cared for her father as he was dying from Parkinson’s Disease, the same year that she became a mother.

This concurrence – of her child’s life entering the world just as her father’s left it – inspired Amy’s song: ‘I will take care of you’, which is included on the LIV ON album. The song explores the idea that, when a child grows up surrounded by love and care, when the time comes to take care of their parents, they can turn around and reflect the care that they received when they were young.

The most recent experience of grief, and the one that affected Amy the most deeply, was the sudden loss of her mother five years ago. “It took a long time to get my equilibrium back,” said Amy. “Bereavement as a life space was a whole world that I really didn’t understand.” Amy realised that what was happening to her, this bereavement that deeply impacts the survivor, had to be happening to other people, and this is one of the reasons that she decided to work on the LIV ON album.

The power of music

Music is a powerful force for healing, and can be a “container” around the pain of loss. According to Amy, it gives people a “safe space to go their deepest feelings.” She noted that the process of healing involves going squarely through the centre of the pain, feeling the sadness to the very depths of it, and that music can serve an important purpose in taking you there.

Music takes people right back to a time of sadness – or of joy that is no longer there – but the song will end, and the grief can be contained within the music. “I think this is a metaphor for the grieving process,” she said.  

My heart goes out to you

Amy shared an experience that she had while the three artists were writing the album. They were just finishing breakfast at Olivia’s home, when Amy received an email. It was from a friend who had just lost her daughter, a young woman who had died suddenly.

“It was devastating,” said Amy. “I didn’t know what to say! What do you say to someone who has had such a catastrophic loss? The only thing you can offer is your support and your love.”

Suddenly Amy got up and went to the piano, sat down and started playing what would become the track: ‘My Heart Goes Out to You’.

“The song just poured out of us,” said Amy. “We needed to write a song that just expressed this support and love.”

That song in particular gave Amy the language and the vocabulary to offer support to her friend who had experienced that loss.  

You are not alone

The deeper message of the LIV ON album is: You are not alone on your journey to recovery. In society, conversations about grief and bereavement are often discouraged or not initiated, with the survivor expected to ‘just get over it’.

From Amy’s experience in the mental health world, she has learnt that the conversations that are not had can have very negative consequences. However, she says: “When you have the dialogue and people share common experience of loss and recovery, this actually can speed the healing and speed the recovery.”

This goes equally for people who are themselves in the palliative process. “Don’t put off having the conversations that are important,” says Amy. She quoted the book, The Four Things that Matter Most by Dr Ira Byock, saying that the things a person needs to say at the end of life are: I forgive you, Please forgive me, Thank-you and I love you.

“That’s a conversation that someone who is ending their life needs to have, but it’s also a conversation that we all need to have with the people who are still with us,” said Amy. “One of the gifts of loss is to learn the importance of living that conversation.”

Through the power of music, LIV ON amplifies the discussion about death, grieving and bereavement to help other people understand that what they are going through is normal.

You can download the album or pre-order a CD online. 

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