The Terror and Privilege of Mourning

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Leonard Cohen is dead.  Long live Leonard Cohen.

Letting go of a person whose words and music have touched us at the deepest  soul level is one of the most difficult tasks human beings face.  Love, irony, beauty, self deception, horror, and . . . , always . . . , truth . . . , these themes place Leonard Cohen’s work in the highest order of the arts.  As poet, novelist, singer, songwriter, musician, monk, and of course – ladies’ man –  (I smile at his ironies as i write this last), for more than five decades he wooed us to the gates of enlightenment with his earthy wisdom, his “golden voice,” and his unshakable compassion for our wayward ways.

Leonard Cohen is dead.  Long live Leonard Cohen.

 On Mourning

This past US election week has delivered up  many things to mourn:

A once vibrant and glorious centre of democracy further shredded by horrifyingly primitive impulses to dominate and control;

Immigrants, people of colour, women, and activists terrorized by predatory fascist policies intent on purging diversity and dissent;

Children traumatized by shouting matches among people they count on for safety and security;

Spectres of repealed social-justice programs in favour of more deeply entrenched inhumane inequities.

And . . . , in the midst of this chaos . . . , Leonard Cohen’s inspired “Anthem” lyrics mourning with us:

“The wars they will be fought again, The Holy Dove She will be caught again, Bought and sold and bought again, The Dove is never free.”

Thankfully, he does not leave us in defeat; rather, he transforms his dirge into a celebration of our ability to Love in the face of the worst human impulses and behaviours:

“Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack, a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

Mourning requires we embrace our vulnerability, and, for a time at least, feel fully the anguish of our broken hearts.  It is the one devastating emotion we have all felt at one time or another, and at our very core.  For this reason, mourning is perhaps the premier emotion that ensures our continued humanity:  mourning over lost species, lost habitats, lost loved ones, lost civility, lost respect, lost dreams, lost elections, and, yes, lost poets.

Transcending Death and Broken Dreams

Because he forged a connection to us  through song, despite his death Leonard Cohen remains present to us for as long as his descriptions of damnation and redemption, of hatred and compassion, reverberate in our bodies, our hearts, our souls.  Expressing the broad range of our contradictory emotions and behaviours and holding up the mirror to our madness, even in death his songs and poems and novels continue to delight, surprise, terrify, and inspire us in these bleakest of circumstances.  He continues to sing in death as he did in life and as we sing with him,  we learn to dance and to embody his melodic renderings of bewildering, all encompassing Love.

Leonard Cohen is dead.  Long live Leonard Cohen.

As long as we sing, as long as we dance, as long as we cultivate together the courage and agency to face what is and, despite the ugliness,  learn to effect positive change, we spread inspiration for healing, for understanding, and for that Light filtering through our cracks to illuminate our darkest places.  More than ever, we need this Light.

Because he answered the call – to sing, to make harmony and coherence out of the chaos of our times, to make meaning in the face of the absurd – we are not entirely bereft because of his passing.

Leonard Cohen is dead.  Long live Leonard Cohen.

with tears, slip steps, and hope



Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner,, 802-533-9277

Jane is a Learning Coach specializing in neutralizing cultural age, gender, and race constructs to support learners of every age.  To engage her coaching services, please contact Jane by phone (802) 533-9277 or email,  Be sure to put Coaching Query in the subject line.