I’m writing. Not songs, for the time being, but pages and pages of stories. True stories: some of the ones I’ve been telling in songs for years are now finding a new place as I continue to try and understand and share the experiences, and some I haven’t told before.

As it stands, I’m writing a book about loss. And as I write and research, I’ve been reading many other books about grief and also memoir in general.

This week, a column I recorded with Shelagh Rogers for The Next Chapter aired on CBC about the books I’ve turned to.

You can listen to that interview here.

But let me explain.

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The first three — H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, Certainty by Madeleine Thien, and Hot, Wet, & Shaking by Kaleigh Trace are explained in the interview.

But in case you skip the audio, the inclusion of the third needs elaboration because at a glance you are saying, “that’s not a book about loss, that’s a book about sex,” and well YES you are right.

I read Hot, Wet, & Shaking because I was looking at forms of memoir; I read it because it’s written by a disabled woman and as a disabled woman myself HOLY SMOKES is it hard to find our voices represented, much less on the subject of disability AND sex (gasp).

And there are ways that I have equated disability to grief — the space it can take in my days and the planning around it. So this book made it’s way on to the list for that reason as well.

AND Trace’s book empowers difference and different bodies. Which is pretty much everybody/every body. I felt really good about being in my skin after I read the book. You probably will, too.

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The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown is a book I read at my son Ford’s bedside during the months he was in hospital. Brown and his family spend time navigating the medical system for their disabled son, and I felt comfort is seeing that part of my life reflected. It may not be a book about loss, exactly, but it is, to me, a book about adjustment, acceptance, and parenting.

When speaking about Hawk during the interview, I mention the inspiration I’ve found in books about the natural world. Trauma Farm by Brian Brett is included in this list as one of my favourite examples of that. I find the descriptions of life and death in the animal world refreshingly frank; I relate to the visceral presence of breath, blood, and bodies.

Brett is also very funny.

(I stayed at Trauma Farm, the actual place on Salt Spring Island, while on tour with C.R. Avery in 2012, before I read the book, so I had the delightful insight of knowing the sound of Brett’s voice as I read his words — not required to enjoy the book, I’m sure, but look up some interviews with the guy, he has warmth and character.)

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is like the grief classic. I read it just a couple month’s after my son Emmett died and it was the first truly understanding voice I heard in those months. Her experience of loss, in this book, is that of her husband. It didn’t matter the type of loss: the blurriness of time, the in/visibility of the bereaved, all of it was “yes, yes, yes, exactly that, thank you for saying so” for me.

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All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. Well, goodness. This book ties for first with Magical Thinking as far as Books That Best Articulate Grief and Chronic Trauma for me. It is full of dark humour, as a life filled with loss often is; it’s beautiful and it aches.

Sorrows, like Certainty on this list, is fiction. But I feel little difference between non- and fiction on the subject, and these two are books that grew out of lived experience; both are full of the author’s own heart break. What feels real is real in these stories.

Pema Chodrin’s When Things Fall Apart is a good, heart-opening approach to suffereing, though I must admit when I first read it, the hardships she was talking about didn’t seem hard enough. This book is perfect for ordinary heartache — not easy heartache mind you, but the kind we’re surrounded by. The book vibrates with compassion.

theheartandthebottle-220If you have, in your thoughts or on paper, written letters to a loved one, perhaps with the things you wish you could have said in person, Paula by Isabel Allende will reach you.

Lastly, the kid’s book The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers is on the list as sometimes pictures and just a few words is all you need. There are many kid’s books about loss, and a lot of them bad. This is one of my favourites, as far as how we carry heartache forward.

And that’s the 10 that came to mind when I was asked to put together a list. I am always looking for more friends in books, and I hope you may find a friend in at least one of these, and if not, at least, a little joy or comfort. We can all always use a little more of that.

xoc

In Room magazine 36.1, I was interview for the “BackRoom” section, but they didn’t have room to print the full piece. It’s now available online.

Christa Couture: Creating Beauty from Grief (full interview)

Christa Couture survived adolescent cancer and the loss of two sons in infancy. Her indie-folk music faces grief with vulnerability, beauty, and wit. She won a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for her album The Wedding Singer and the UndertakerThe Living Record is her latest release.

Are there writers or musicians whose work helped you overcome grief and loss? Joan Didion’s book “The Year of Magical Thinking” felt like the first kindred spirit I’d found after my first son died. Since my second son died it’s become harder to find work that I can continue to relate too—but maybe by making my own I’ll find others.

You create such beauty, sonically and lyrically, from grief. Do you ever feel conflicted about this? Yes, it can be hard to reconcile. After the most recent tragedy in my family I wondered if I could ever return to making music at all—as important as writing and creating is to me, as much as I enjoy it, three years ago I was on a very different path, and it’s one that I desperately ache for now that it’s gone. Making these little beautiful works felt like a distant second to what I wanted, but at the same time, I’m so grateful to these little beautiful works for being there in the distance regardless, for giving me something to pour my energy into, even if it isn’t what I had planned.

Is performing your music difficult? I don’t find it difficult, though it can be emotional. At its best it’s cathartic and freeing to release some of these stories every night by telling them over and over. It helps me continue to process and learn about the experiences I’ve written about. Sometimes the emotions are too close to the surface, or the audience isn’t totally on track with me, and then I feel too vulnerable, but I can play different songs when I need to, depending on how I’m feeling. Mostly I like to pour my heart out though and I’ve already drawn lines on what I’m willing to reveal and not when I chose which songs to record for the album.

What is is like to have three “permanent records” filled with the people in your life who shaped you, especially those you have lost? It is meaningful to me that the songs make their way into the world—I feel sometimes by sharing them, I’m really just asking a big “know what I mean?”, looking for that conversation that can happen through sharing music and hopefully the reply “yes” so that we can all feel a little less lonely. Like anyone, I am comforted by finding common ground with others—grief in particular can be a kind of exile, so when a person lets me know that they connect with my work, it helps break down those feelings of isolation, for both of us.

I admire your ability to be vulnerable when you tell your story through music and interviews. Is there anyone you admire for this? Any writing or music that inspires bravery in you? …

Read the rest at: http://www.roommagazine.com/news/christa-couture-creating-beauty-grief-full-interview

It’s no surprise of course that I get asked often about grief. My press release, bio, blog and, last but not least, music all speak to some of my experience with it and generally that’s what media is curious about.

As I’ve described before, some exchanges and interviews are meaningful, others can be abrasive. But being included in the latest issue of Room magazine was the former, and an honour.

It’s a beautiful issue on the theme “mythologies of loss” and I recommend finding it (and me on the last page) at a shop near you or online at: roommagazine.com/magazine.

Thank you Rachel Thompson for the interview!