Lisa Sniderman, known as Aoede for her music, has spent 12 years with a chronic disease, dermotomyositus. Those 12 years her life has been filled with tests, hospitalizations, infusions, helplessness, pain. But it has also been filled with songwriting, performing, recording, video production, and helping others. It has been filled with so much activity that she realized she had kept so busy she had forgotten to grieve and it was taking its toll. So, she set about to create a way to remember to grieve for herself and the thousands of others whose lives have been upended and mangled by sickness.
She created the Grieving Project, a roadmap to our hearts.
The National Health Council estimates that 157 million Americans live with a chronic disease- about 45% of the population, with an estimated 81 million suffering from multiple afflictions. When we think of grieving, we think of people who have lost loved ones; those with chronic disease have lost someone they dearly loved -themselves.
Sniderman/Aoede captures this loss and charts a way through life for people who are stuck in grief, or like her, forgot to grieve and are stuck without knowing it. And she does it with grace and beauty and sensitivity born of decades of producing award-winning music, stories, videos and live projects.
The Grieving Project is a sprawling spoken word and music audiobook based on four characters who move themselves and the listener through the 14 stages of grief, from Denial to Thrive. It is accompanied by a digital book of lyrics, and works perfectly with supporting videos – some new to the project, some part of Aoede’s music career.
To accomplish this, Sniderman/Aoede assembled a creative and production team of over 25 people, some with chronic diseases or who work with people with chronic diseases, to write, score, produce and illustrate 22 chapters of spoken word narrative illuminated with music.
As a piece of creative work, it is unparalleled. Sniderman/Aoede developed four different characters with four different chronic disease experiences who are navigating their lives, their loss, their heartbreak, their self-discovery throughout the Project. Illustrated magnificently by Jasmine Raskas, and voiced by Sniderman, Rachel Fulginiti, Lauren Freedman, David Francisco and David Sands, it is an impressive and thoroughly professional work of audio craft and visual art. And now that the Covid pandemic has happened, the journeys this team chronicles are relevant to all of us because, even if we ourselves are not suffering with a chronic disease, our nation is.
Each chapter unfolds a step in one of the four characters’ journey through grief. That trip is not linear; it is more like a roller coaster with twists and turns, advances and reversals, pain and exhilaration, feelings and reactions. The spoken word chapters take us through these journeys with words, narrative and sound, all carefully and precisely molded to build the characters and reflect the stage of the journey they are in. In short, they take us through life, as only music and story can do.
To the question, “why take on a challenge of this magnitude just to remember to grieve -why not just stay with the status quo and not have to suffer grief at all?”, Sniderman/Aoede answers in the Grieving Project’s Epilogue:
What can you do when you struggle with an illness or disability that doesn’t go away? You can deny it, You can suffer from and live in fear of it. You can scream at it….You can come to terms with it.. You can grieve. And perhaps if you grieve, you can awaken…shine and thrive, not only despite, but because of it.
With 220,000 people in the US now grieving for those they have lost to Covid, and many more for the jobs and livelihoods and homes and families that are gone because of the nation’s economic collapse, there is a national need for the roadmap to the heart that Sniderman/Aoede has produced. A spoken word and music audiobook is a perfect way to deliver that map to the minds and hearts of almost half of all Americans who need it. Not only does Sniderman/Aoede deserve a music award for her creativity, but she deserves a humanitarian award for turning her creativity into a pathway to thriving for the nation in a time of grief.