As most of us know by now, the lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, has taken his own life on Thursday morning, in his Los Angeles home. To say this is devastating is an understatement. His passing is not only a tragic loss for the music industry, but a huge loss for his family, friends, and thousands of fans whose lives were changed to Linkin Park’s music.
I didn’t want to write anything more about this, because I didn’t want to be just another writer dolling out her condolences for yet another talented life gone too soon. But Linkin Park is different, and more so, Chester’s death is another reminder that what kills us, cripples us, hurts is, is more often silent and personal than any disease or crime. So, I write. I write because Chester and his band were creating art, and in my mind, art is an expression of what you can’t just sit down to a dinner with family and share. Art is something we create because it’s the only tool we have and are good with, to take our internal chaos and make it into something beautiful. Their music reminds me of so many of us who struggle to let that chaos fuel our art; more often than not, we allow it to kill our light.
As I nostalgically listen to their songs, specifically to their last album, every lyric and word is eerie and ghostly because the voice who carried them is now gone. And I’ve always known Linkin Park’s lyrics to be dark and rebellious, but this last album is a giving up. And while his passing in general hurts so much, just realizing that he was sharing his pain in these last songs with a plea for help is that much harder, because we didn’t hear it.
His death has been the hardest celebrity death for me to come to terms with, and I think it’s because his passing is so much more than just a musician gone too soon. This is bigger than just Linkin Park. We all grew up to their music, and their songs came to us at times when we, ourselves, were lost and broken. I remember catching their first video on MTV for “Crawling,” and I never looked back since. They became the band that made more sense to me as I got older and experienced more of life than any other band I listened to. Their lyrics and presence in those lyrics held space for me to explore my own, messy, chaotic teenagehood. And those awkward and difficult moments, where I felt un-seen and misunderstood by parents and teachers and friends became easier to digest because of Linkin Park. For that, I am grateful beyond words.
In my Facebook post earlier yesterday, after hearing the news, I wrote:
…You make space in your life for music, and music fills the gaps and gives every event in your life a soundtrack…
I am immensely grateful for that soundtrack. I’m grateful for every song that made me angry or sad or both, because it helped me shape those emotions and understand them. I went out into the world and I respected music for this very thing – this support that it gave me, to feel and live my life in accordance with things that made this world beautiful. That’s what Chester and the guys did – they made this world beautiful, even when it was ugly, even when it was broken, and us along with it all.
Before this post ends, I want to add something. Chester’s death is a wake-up call for all of us. For too damn long, we’ve pushed aside the need to treat mental health as a serious disease. We’ve held friends in the pits of depression with the empty hope that they’ll just “get over it.” And we’ve failed them. Chester’s passing hit me hard, personally, because of my own struggles with depression; and while I’ve never come to terms with my demons long enough to allow them to pull me under, I’ve known days and nights where time runs through motions and nothing feels real enough to make me smile anymore. That’s a dark place, and I get it. I get the need for expression, like music or art or writing, because it’s the only outlet you sometimes have and are willing to share. And mainly, it’s the only way you can be vulnerable enough to allow people to see that you’re not OK anymore.
What we need is to love one another, even when love is not what we want, even when we don’t know how to accept it when it’s offered. We need to put aside our desire to understand someone’s pain, and just sit by them as they feel it. Because we’re not friends and daughters and therapists and teachers to fix our broken brothers and sisters. We’re people who can hold space and hold out a hand for when it’s time to come home, home from the dark.
As hard as this life is, as painful as it becomes to one day just wake up and not know how to move, please stay. Today and tomorrow and the next day. There is still something beautiful and purposeful for you here, and you gotta find it! I’m finding it, still broken and confused. We’re all searching for it, holding on to the same lifeline. And if one of us falls, we all do.
In the powerful words of his last song, “One More Light,”
Who cares if one more light goes out? I do.
I do. We all do.
If you are thinking or have thought about suicide, if you are worried about someone you know, or if you just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with their counselors online here. You can see more of their services here. All services are free and available 24/7.