Living with grief
We’ve all heard of the seven stages of grief. It is said to be a journey from shock and disbelief, through guilt and anger, on to acceptance, passing through various other phases such as depression. It’s a process that sounds very clinical and defined, suggesting that one could easily put their finger on where they are at and look forward to what’s happening next. It’s as if when at the depression stage, you can be led to believe that hope is always around the corner.
The reality for many men is that things are not quite so clear cut. Our individual journeys can skip and replay any of these phases in any order. C.S Lewis described grief as ‘a long winding valley, where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ Grief is rarely predictable.
For Chad Gardner, of Seattle-based group King’s Kaleidoscope, the process of working through grief was a public one. As lead singer of an increasingly popular alternative rock band, Chad’s music and lyrics took people through many of the stages of grief. Ahead of their second ever UK gig, David Taylor talked to Chad about his journey and his music.
You experienced a period of pain that would have finished most men. Can you share what you went through?
I don’t know about finishing most men, but it certainly finished parts of me and changed my life. I had a period of six months while making our first album where my wife and I left our church and jobs. We lost our first child to a stillbirth, as well as two other extended family members. In addition, my wife’s father died from brain cancer in ten weeks, out of nowhere, and she was also in a car accident. It was a lot in a short period for sure.
As a Christian, did you feel sufficiently supported by the church, and your peers, for dealing with this?
I did. We had and still have an incredible network of friends and family who deeply love us.
What is King’s Kaleidoscope (KK)?
King’s is a band that was birthed from a church plant. I was a music director and had a rag-tag group of people that played consistently together until I left the church. Then we made our first record in 2014 and here we are in 2020, still making music. The line-up of musicians is ever-changing on the road but we still get most of the alumni into the studio when making albums.
Your albums take people on a journey with you, and you don’t hold back from being honest about how you feel towards God or society. Was this intentional?
I don’t know any other way to be. For better or worse, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, it’s a very natural way for me to write music, and a consistent outlet for processing my own faith.
In ‘Backwards’, a track on your latest album Zeal, you talk about being ‘sick and tired of church and chess’. What do you mean by this?
If this was a live interview, I’d flip the question and ask you what it means to you! I’m speaking poetically about the endless, distracting circle of church politics.
Does being a Christian bring added pressure to the journey of grief?
I haven’t had that experience. Being a Christian has been my foundation for grief and hope. I wouldn’t know how to go through anything difficult without hope for the future, and the redemption of all my pain.
A lot of men handle grief by trying to take care of those around them, feeling pressured to be ‘the man’ in the situation. What would you say to these guys?
That scenario sounds like a distraction method to me. I would encourage them to trust their community and loved ones and be honest and open about their feelings. But firstly, be as brutally honest with those feelings directly with God and let him begin to comfort and heal.
Zeal ends on a high, as you sing that ‘It’s gonna be okay, with a little bit of grace.’ Do you feel you’ve completed the journey, or is there more to come?
The journey is never complete this side of heaven for me. I feel like I’ve learned 1% of what I began to uncover with Zeal, and that is, simply, to stay in the fight for faith.
During their London gig, Chad opened up about a family member’s suicide. Referencing a poster in the green room, he explained that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in the UK. He dedicated a number of the songs to those struggling and encouraged men to talk and ask for help.
King's Kaleidoscope’s latest album, Zeal, is available on all formats at kingskaleidoscope.com
Interview with Chad Gardner, King’s Kaleidoscope