Phil Collins, Divorce and the Barking Seals

Anyone here love the 1981 track by Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight, like I do?

The mythological feature of the song is unmistakable; the barking seals – a 3-second explosive drum riff midway through the song where the mood changes from simmering, subverted grief to full-blown expression, rising through the variegated ranges of anger regaling in the isolated confusion of a life event: divorce.

Many of us have been there; in the agony of separation, enduring the uncertainty of change, suffering the loneliness of loss. Each person who is divorced, whether they initiate it or not, suffers much. So much readjustment is required, and for what seems like years we feel decommissioned.

In the song Phil Collins enunciates what we cannot really find words for. Yet Collins himself says that the lyrics were all improvised. The song is full of anger, the expression of depths of sorrow.

That’s the nature of pain. Out of my own divorce over a decade ago, I was poleaxed in a moment. Overnight life changed. No more guarantees of the good life did I then know. I had no idea really what was about to take place. I had no idea just how lousy I was doing as a husband – how lonely my wife really was. The barking seals summed up what my life – at that loneliest of times – had come to be.

You may be enduring the excruciation of divorce right now. Perhaps it’s a friend or relative. Such a grief of separation is life-ending. Life must end before it can recommence. To be windswept by emotion seems cruel, but it is necessary. Grief suchlike insists upon our attention. What we cannot deny is for our own good. Anger, sadness and fear are all-too-real and all-too-important. Without them we won’t find out how much we need God.

The healthiest response in grief is the expression of our ugliest emotions.

In a season of loss, grief forces us to relinquish self-reliance for what God teaches in the wisdom of God-reliance.

Though loss is unbearable, ultimately what it teaches us an abundantly good thing.

We must be emotionally real.

May God truly bless you and yours who suffer with His comfort of hope.