Some may call Amanda Palmer the queen of the over share. If you haven’t heard of her (and, truly, I’m jealous of the musical discovery ahead of you) Palmer is a musician and author who has been known to take to her blog and social media to share tons of intimate details about her life. From posting pictures of her period on Tumblr, to singing naked to combat sexist media, to writing in depth about her miscarriage, Palmer’s life has been an open book (speaking of books, you definitely need to read hers, The Art of Asking).
Recently Palmer took to her Twitter and her Patreon page to talk about the process of her mentor and best friend Anthony dying. Their special relationship started when she was his next door neighbor as a child and flourished over the years as she became famous (again, read her book — it tells you all about it). A few years ago Anthony was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it for years and it seemed like he finally beat it. Unfortunately it came back in a big way, and Palmer had to fly last minute to Boston from the UK with her husband (author Neil Gaiman) to be by his side in his final hours. Amanda’s fans were able to follow this saga via her daily blog posts and tweets, and we all felt her pain as he died quietly in his home.
Death is never easy to deal with, but Palmer’s choice to give it a place in the public eye can teach the rest of us a lot about living, loving and letting go. Here’s what we learned from following along.
It’s okay to be open
Sometimes people catch flak for being overly emotional on social media. Talking about how you’re really feeling in a public forum can sometimes feel like airing dirty laundry. But the cool thing that happened as a result of Amanda being so open about her grief was that a ton of fans on social media reached out to offer support and sympathy. They also were able to share stories of their own experiences with the death of a loved one. “Seeing all of your love and prayers and crazy cancer stories and well-wishes makes me so grateful to be part of this beautiful world filled with so much kindness and goodness,” Palmer writes. Knowing you’re not alone can aid in the grieving process.
Love everyone around you
That’s a quote from Amanda’s blog the day she raced to the airport to get to Boston — “love everyone around you.” Life is so random and unpredictable that death or tragedy could strike at any time. It may seem excessive or out of nowhere, but take a second today to tell someone you love them and why. Text your best friend, call your mom, remind your partner, just take time today to spread the love.
Celebrate the positive
Even though Palmer was devastated to lose her friend, she counts herself lucky to have gotten to spend so much time with him. On his deathbed she remarks that “it was four years ago that they said he had six months to live,” meaning that even though she’s sad she realizes that she was gifted with more time than she thought she had. When a loved one dies it’s easy to focus on the negatives, but it will help you if you zoom out and realize how lucky you were to know them at all.
Even the sad parts of life are essential
Palmer said that this experience of her vigil at Anthony’s bedside made her realize”how screwed up the new systems are, how we’re all so far from death and life and birth all the time because we no longer live in tribes and villages and close quarters.” Because we’re so removed from it, death can often seem abstract and thus jarring and scary when we actually come in contact with it. We need to understand that death is a part of life. It’s gonna happen to everyone some time or another. It doesn’t need to be scary or inherently bad.
Music can help
Anyone who listens to Palmer’s music knows that her songs can help people overcome dark times and express inner emotions. When Palmer grieved, she found comfort in Nina Simone and in Sufjan Stevens. Stevens’s new album Carrie and Lowell chronicles the death of his estranged mother. This album says beautiful things about life and death and healing and is unsurprisingly the perfect album for what Palmer was going through. Listening to music is a good way to process complex feelings and express emotions articulately. As Palmer writes,” music is the door”. Find an album that helps you grieve, and when you feel a little better, find one that makes you happy to be alive.
Realizing life goes on
The day after Anthony’s death, Palmer tweeted about life going on. That’s an important thing to realize in the wake of grief: life continues. In regards to her pain and the feeling of missing her friend, Palmer says “it’s going to hit me again, and again, and again, and the blows will strike a little lighter each time.” Slowly but surely you’ll get back to normal, which doesn’t mean things won’t still hurt every now and then. Still, life goes on.
Amanda, our good thoughts go out to you and thank you so much for sharing.
What music helps you deal with hard times? Tell us in the comments.
(Photos via @amandapalmer)