Deeper Waters of Grief

*Thank you to Sophie Gibson for sharing this piece. You can listen to her music here, more content here, and her short documentary here.*

Trigger warning: this piece discusses themes of grief and suicide.

My name is Sophie Gibson and I’m a New Zealand singer-songwriter. I lost my brother Scott to suicide in 2015. Scott had a beautiful voice, he loved to sing and play guitar. He had a great big Scottish accent and he was ridiculously funny, probably the most naturally funny person I’ve ever met! He was 25 years old when he died, and I was 15. Suicide has always been incredibly stigmatised, which made it extremely difficult to navigate for me, especially at such a young age.

I didn’t receive support for my grief at the time. In hindsight, this might have been largely due to the stigma that my family and I felt and the difficulty of asking for help. This meant that I kind of became frozen in my grief. I couldn’t move through it, I couldn’t speak about it, I couldn’t acknowledge it, I didn’t know how.

This all began to change for me when, at 19 years old, I went to a local suicide bereavement support group in my hometown Waihi Beach called ‘Riverlight.’ Before this, I had never heard people talking so openly about their experiences of grief. This helped to remove the stigma I felt. I met people who were further along their grief journey and also people who had been bereaved more recently than I had. Meeting them, hearing their stories, learning about their loved ones, and also having time for a cup of tea and a laugh afterwards gave me hope that I could carry on and that my life wouldn’t have to be sad all the time just because I’ve experienced grief.

I went home that day and wrote a song called ‘Something in the Water.’ The song is about going diving in the ocean - it’s also a metaphor for mental health. The water is a safe space in your mind, or with your whānau, that you can exist in and you don’t have to be afraid of. The song is available to listen to on music streaming platforms. It became part of a video game called ‘Beyond Blue’ and was released as part of the game's soundtrack. It reached many people from all over the world who I later received messages from. Many said that the song meant a great deal to them and helped them through tough times.

Being able to use music as a medium to share my experiences with others gives me a huge sense of accomplishment, gratitude and hope. I miss my brother every day, and life without him is way suckier than it would be with him in it, but I’ve learnt that connecting to others, being creative and expressing myself gives me the greatest sense of joy and meaning.

This joy and meaning that I feel every day is something that my 15-year-old self who just lost her brother could never have imagined.

Since then, I studied for a degree in music and psychology. I went to another grief support programme called WAVES. There I learnt more about suicide grief, more about myself, and how I could better support myself through grief. Now I continue to write music - I went on to release another song ‘Deeper Waters’ and a mini-documentary about my experience of grief which I was lucky enough to receive funding from NZ On Air. I’m also exploring doing stand-up and musical comedy - I have even toured a show in Australia and New Zealand which is all about the healing power of laughter and creative expression through grief.

I still have a lot of days which are really hard - but I also have a lot of days where I feel so happy and joyful that I could burst! The main thing I want to keep showing others through my life and my music is that it is possible to lead a happy, creative, and meaningful life even though we have experienced grief.

-Sophie Gibson

Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!

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