When A Piano Offers A Lesson in Grief

I had the privilege of always having a piano in the house when I was growing up and I had taken lessons from a young age. When I was in high school, my parents replaced our upright piano with a baby grand piano.  My mom and I were ecstatic and eager to play the piano again after having taken a few years off from piano lessons. We started taking piano lessons from the same piano teacher, and we practiced duets together. We both shared a love for the piano and helped each other grow in our technique.

I remember listening to my mother play her new piano, and I could see the joy she got from playing. She played the piano for our church worship band, so she often played praise songs in preparation for Sunday. The piano didn’t come easy for her, but she devoted her heart and soul to it, practicing almost every day. She truly loved it, though, especially when she could use it as a form of worship to God.

It’s hard to imagine that she’s been gone for twelve years today. For some reason, this year, I am absorbing her absence more. It could be because this Winter Olympics marks the fourth Winter Olympics since she’s passed. But I think it has more to do with her piano that now sits in my living room.

When my dad moved, my husband and I inherited her baby grand piano. We’ve tuned it twice in seven years, and played it sparingly. With little kids in the house, we found playing the piano with little “helpers” was more frustrating than fulfilling.

About a month ago, my son expressed interest in learning to play the piano. We started piano lessons for him. As my son sits to play every day, I’m realizing there are so many memories wrapped up in this one instrument. I can’t help but stare at her picture that sits above the keyboard every time I help him practice. Her bright smile fills the photo and reminds me of the joy she carried throughout her life.

Lately I seem to carry with me a lingering sadness tied to my mom’s passing. It seems that after 12 years, I shouldn’t still be sad. Then I remember she was my mom for 27 years before she died. I depended on her and loved her deeply. That kind of love doesn’t just disappear because she is no longer living.

I’ve learned that I’ll never be “done” grieving the loss of my loved ones. The immediate pain and inability to function does get better with time. I find I now have longer spaces of time in between episodes of grief, but I don’t think I can simply erase the loss. The pain doesn’t ever disappear completely.

And I’m not sure it should. I think grief is our body’s way of reminding our hearts of the love we once had. We shouldn’t sit and wallow in our sadness, but I think it’s ok to spend some time remembering our loved ones and grieving what we once had.

I recently started playing the piano again too.  And now as I pass her legacy onto my son, it stirs in me a memory of a love of music I once shared with my mom. Playing the piano again has uncovered another layer of grief for me, but I’m thankful that God is bringing it to the surface.

If you find yourself in a new space of grief after the loss of a loved one, I want to encourage you. Give yourself grace and space to grieve, even if it’s already been one or two years. Spend time in it. Entrust your tears and your heart to God and let Him hold you. Continue to look to Him, even if all you can do is cry in His presence.

We can go to God with our sorrow and our grief. We can stand right where God places us knowing that we will find hope in Him. Grief has a beautiful way of shining a spotlight on the one person in our life who will never change. If we take time to look through our tears to our unchanging Father, we will find hope in the midst of the pain.

Today, praise Him for the years you did have with your loved one. Thank Him for their life, however short or long it was. Then lay your broken heart at God’s feet and let Him breathe hope into your life. Let Him turn your brokenness into beauty.

I’m learning that grief can be a gift. It can push us to love those around us intentionally and deeply. Grief can remind you of what’s important and can motivate you to spend your time wisely. But above all else, grief can point us back to the giver of life, and it’s here, where we will find our eternal hope and joy.

In honor of my mom, I’ve put together a playlist of various praise songs on Spotify that has helped shift my focus from myself and my grief to God. My mom loved praising God, and it’s in her memory, that I want to share these songs with you. Sign up to receive email updates every time I post, and I’ll send you a link to my re:focus playlist on Spotify. If you have already signed up for my email updates, than look for the link to my re:focus playlist in your inbox.



4 thoughts on “When A Piano Offers A Lesson in Grief

  1. So, so beautifully and poignantly written, Sue. I’m in tears. Thank you. Love you and loved your mom. Heaven’s going to be grand!

  2. You write so beautifully, Sue. You have so much insight and discernment in your loss–beauty for ashes. The picture on your piano is one of my favorites. I took it at Strongbow’s on a Sunday two weeks before your mom passed away. That morning I had a very strong impression that I needed to see Judy—and Bruce said, “Yes–let’s go.” After the church service at Grace New Testament church, we asked if they were free for lunch. It was a shot in the dark–spur of the moment-so thankful it worked out to spend some time together. Pat and Lew went with us and what a wonderful time we had. Your mom was amazing–even though she was very sick –she enjoyed her meal and was her wonderful self. How thankful I am for her life and friendship and how thankful I am for you, Sue.
    Thank you for sharing your gifts. Much love to you.

    1. Jane, Thanks so much for sharing. I love that picture but I couldn’t remember the full story behind it so it’s neat to hear your perspective. I knew it was taken shortly before she died but I didn’t realize it was taken only two weeks before she died. Thanks for following God’s prompting to see her that day. That picture is my favorite picture of her so thank you for giving me that memory.

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