I Don’t Know How to Feel: Grief & a Billie Eilish Song

August 7, 2023

Billie Eilish is singing, though it’s more like a delicate and heartfelt whisper. Her words are touching places of my heart that I usually have so hidden, not much can reach them. I listen intently to each lyric:

I don’t know how to feel, but I want to try. 

I don’t know how to feel, but someday I might. 

The words she’s singing, the ones she’s crafted, were meant for a purpose unmatched to the ones they’re reminding me of. Grief has a way of attaching itself to moments that aren’t meant for it and lyrics that were made for something else entirely. It’s a lesson I’ve learned over the years.

The song continues as tears are streaming down my face. I’m seated in a movie theater, grateful it’s dark enough to hide the impacts of this song and this emotion. Even though I hear others in similar reactions, I sit wondering what they’re thinking about, wondering if they feel what I’m feeling– the sting of death and the fragility of life. The weight of grief.

The music continues,

I think that I forgot how to be happy.

Something I’m not, but something I can be.

Something I wait for, something I’m made for. 

And with each lyric my heart hurts. It stings. It feels impacted by an absence that I didn’t get a say in, something completely out of my control. And I relate to each word that I hear. 

I don’t know how to feel. I haven’t since the day my mother died. I’m not sure I’ll ever know how to feel, or what to feel, or why to feel again, at least not in the ways that I used to. And I don’t know how to go on and forward, only that I should.

And I did forget how to be happy. My mother’s death stole happiness for a very long time. Some days, it still does. It stole light and hope and faith and joy. It returned with time, but in an entirely different capacity and structure. Grief comes and makes you think you’ll never be happy again. Each lyric to this song matches a reflection of the impact grief holds on a person once they’ve lost someone they love– someone irreplaceable.

I used to float, now I just fall down.

I used to know but I’m not sure now.

What I was made for.

What was I made for?

And now the song has finished but the tears and ache remain. Losing someone you love feels like falling down again and again. It feels like being unsure of the world you’re left in, now void of someone you cannot replace. It feels like knowing nothing and questioning everything. 

And when I said my forever goodbye to my mother, I wondered what I was made for, now that my first teacher, friend, and guide wasn’t here to help me.

And grief made me fall, again and again.

And it made me wonder how to feel and how to live.

And it stole my happiness and made me think I’d never find it again.

And it made me question my purpose, my future, and what I was made for.

This song hit each of those delicate pieces. This song made me think of grief. It made me feel grief. It made me feel everything.

I wonder if Billie Eilish knew the connection this song would have on grieving hearts. I wonder if she herself has known immense loss and profound heartbreak. I’m sure she has. None of us are immune to it. Eventually it finds us all, ready or not, usually the latter. 

And when grief finds us, we wonder how to feel, and how to be happy, and what we’re made for. And eventually you heal and learn to live with the unavoidable weight. And then a song like this one comes and brings it all to the surface in ways you couldn’t have predicted.

And it’s grief. And it’s love. Joined together in a beautiful melody. Just like life.

xox, Chels

2 comments so far.

2 responses to “I Don’t Know How to Feel: Grief & a Billie Eilish Song”

  1. Juliette says:

    I lost my dad this year. I miss him so much. Love to you. Losing a parent is horrible.

  2. Sam says:

    Wow, you describe the impact the song can have so well. Heard it in the car, it shattered me a little bit tonight and is still echoing in my head. Her voice. One of my kids were in the car. Asked him if he liked it. Luckily he was not as affected:) I looked it up just now and found your blog. Courage to you and strength to keep sharing.
    Thank you.

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A wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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