“Grief Is the Price We Pay for the Love We Share”: An Essay by Jay Putty for Mental Health Awareness Month

Jay Putty © 2024
Jay Putty © 2024
Throughout the year, Atwood Magazine invites members of the music industry to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Jay Putty shares his essay, “Grief Is the Price We Pay for the Love We Share,” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Mental Health Awareness Month series. Says Putty, “After an unforgettable day spent with my father in January 2022, his passing and my struggle with grief and alcohol led me to realize the importance of confronting my pain and honoring his memory through vulnerability and storytelling.”
Jay Putty’s music has amassed hundreds of thousands of streams on digital platforms. His talent has caught the attention of esteemed brands such as Ralph Lauren, Busch Gardens, and Draftkings, who have embraced his music as the soundtrack to their campaigns. Hailing from a small town in Indiana, Putty found his musical calling after picking up a guitar to cope with sports injuries. Since then, he has cultivated a loyal following by fostering genuine connections with his fans. Known for his engaging optimism and empathetic spirit, Putty’s transparently vulnerable songs offer a glimpse into his experiences of love and self-reflection.
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by Jay Putty

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In January 2022, I had just spent the most incredible Sunday with my father.

One I really won’t ever forget. I still remember the smell of the asphalt parking lot baking in the winter sun as we walked into a Japanese restaurant, talking about the new soccer stadium in Nashville. I can still hear my dad’s laugh and then winces in pain because of the joke he just told about how he is a redneck that can use chopsticks better than my oldest brother can. Wincing because even though he was about 5 years removed from his cancer and surgery, the effects from getting a lung partially removed still lingered. A pain that was worth it for the time he got back, and laughter he still got to share with the people that mattered most

But the lasting effects of that strain and pain from that surgery eventually led to the heart attack that took him from us. And as cliché as it sounds, if I would’ve known that day would’ve been the last I saw of my dad, I would’ve tried to freeze time. Steal back moments. That last hug. The last I love you dad. Would’ve lasted longer. But life isn’t fair sometimes. A lot of the time it isn’t.

Jay Putty © 2024
Jay Putty © 2024

Grief is one of those things that really does entirely shake your world and change who you are.

For me, it affected my mental health so badly that I turned to drinking. Something that started I would say as harmlessly as you could when speaking on binging. A few drinks to help cope with the enormous loss. The hole in my chest is the size of the man that was taken. Then it turned to “this is how I operate now, if I have alcohol I have mental stability because it took away negative thoughts and made me fun”.

It’s hard to really pinpoint the moment personally when I let my own mental health crumble under the weight of the grief. Maybe it was the moment on the floor, getting the call from my mom that my dad was gone, and I was yelling until there was blood in my throat. Just an immediate fracture that crumbled the foundation slowly, or maybe it was the day I watched his headstone be put into place, signifying with emphatic punctuation, that this wasn’t a nightmare it was real.

Regardless of it, I had to own the fact that while yes I was dealing with tremendous grief, I wasn’t doing anything to help it. Abusing alcohol to give myself a false sense of masking. That needed to change because the self-destructive behavior led to incredibly dumb, and irrational decisions that thankfully didn’t get me or anyone else hurt or killed. That’s when I knew the one thing I hadn’t been doing to help process and grieve was using the tools that are so needed. A very great grief counselor and a therapist.

Jay Putty © 2024
Jay Putty © 2024

They say that grief is the price we pay for the love we share, and I believe that.

I realized from talking to my therapist that the reason why my mental health was affected so much by my dad’s sudden passing was because of a huge light that left not only mine, but everyone who my dad ever talked too’s life. The man who never met a stranger. That love was so large that the only logical choice felt like to run from it. Instead of allowing myself to sit in that grief, feel it all the way, and understand that the answer as to why it happened, will never satisfy me.

It’s in that love that the best antidote, for me at least, is to be open, honest, and vulnerable about my dad. Share his memory with anyone who will listen. Share the man the world is missing. Because in those stories, in those memories, he is never really gone.

As Banksy once said, “You die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” – Jay Putty

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