Dolores O'Riordan Provided the Soundtrack for My Life

By Lea Grover 01/25/18

The Cranberries were there for me through it all - depression, suicidal ideation and eventually recovery. 

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Dolores O'Riordan

In 1994, MTV came into my life. My older sister turned on the station after the news of Kurt Cobain’s suicide, and from that day on, the TV rarely played anything else. On the cusp of my own adolescence, I was both frustrated by this change in my lifestyle, and amazed. I was amazed by Beavis and Butthead, by Liquid Television, and most of all, by the music—so different from what I’d listened to with my parents my whole life.

I soaked in every moment of the music, the videos, Bjork and Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots. But the moment that sticks in my head, the moment I think of as when I left the safety of childhood and entered adolescence full throttle never to look back, was a September day when I came home from school, turned on MTV, and "Zombie" began as if on cue.

I was dumbstruck. I was paralyzed. I was obsessed.

That weekend I emptied my piggy bank and walked downtown to the local Sam Goody, and bought a cassette tape of No Need To Argue. When I wore it out, I bought both the Cranberries’ albums, and then To The Faithful Departed the week it was released.

The Cranberries were the soundtrack of my insomnia, when I sat awake reading Tuck Everlasting or The Lord of the Rings. They were the soundtrack of my deepening depression and growing unhappiness as a young woman erupted from my childish body and I found myself facing the challenges of teenage-hood.

They were the lyrical comfort I sought out after being raped. They were the soundtrack of my suicide attempt, playing as I wrote goodbye letters and swallowed fistfuls of pills. And they were the sound of my recovery, the same sad, haunting melodies a comfort, a friend, as I tried to make peace with a life I didn’t want but resigned myself to accept.

"Dreams" would play, and I would weep, as though Dolores O'Riordan was speaking to me alone, telling me that every day would be better, promising me that the future was a place that I wanted to be, that I could and would and must find joy in life. I believed her, and I recovered.

Much later, when I suffered through postpartum depression and another bout with suicidal ideation, Dolores O’Riordan’s presence was there for me; all I had to do was turn on my iTunes and hit play. The music was as great a comfort to me as an adult as it had been a decade before, still there when I needed it most.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Dolores O’Riordan suffered the same horrible, painful, intrusive and destructive thoughts as me. I didn’t know it then, but she was battling mental illness, eating disorders, the scars of childhood sexual abuse, and suicidal urges.

None of her lyrics said this overtly, but it was something I heard in her voice, in her wails, in the whispers of “Sorry” and “Daffodil Lament,” in the breathy moments between words, in the declaration, “I’m free to decide, and I’m not so suicidal after all.”

Dolores O’Riordan has died at the age of 46, in circumstances that are both mysterious and ominous. The cause of death won’t be revealed to the public at least until April, and at least until then, the limbo hurts. The limbo is a place in which all declines into suicide happen, where there is nothing but believing the worst-case scenario, and having no choice but to face the worst scenario quite possibly being the truth.

My love affair with The Cranberries and with O’Riordan in particular began because of a death. It was what helped me through my own experiences with suicide. And it is where I turn to come to terms with her death, as well.

A dark cloud has settled over me, which feels like survivor’s guilt. I am alive in part, I know, because of what she gave to me. My heart breaks for her children, her family, her friends. My heart breaks for her millions of fans, for the people of Limerick. But music is a selfish beast. Falling in love with a band is putting them at the center of your story, drawing them into your life and making them part of your identity, coopting them and claiming them.

And so, despite knowing she never knew I ever existed, that her music ever saved me or scarred me or defined me, my heart breaks for the girl I used to be, the child standing slack-jawed in front of the TV and staring at her gold-painted form, whose chest opened up and heart bled for a world she never knew existed, for a war that never touched her, for a people she had never met, and for a woman who seemed to sing the harmonies of her own soul.

My heart is broken for that girl, for me, and for everyone who loved and cherished the gift that Dolores O’Riordan was to the world.

Today, Dolores O’Riordan was laid to rest, and I am listening to “Cordell” on a loop, finding comfort in Dolores singing her own eulogy.

Your lover and baby will cry, but your presence will always remain/Is this how it was meant to be?

You meant something more to me than what many people will see/And to hell with the endless dream.

Cordell, time will tell, they say that you’ve passed away/And I hope you’ve gone to a better place.

Time will tell, time will tell, we all will depart and decay,

And we all will return to a better place.


Lea Grover is a writer and speaker living on Chicago's south side. Her writing has been featured in numerous anthologies, and on websites ranging from Cosmopolitan.com to AlterNet to Woman's Day. She speaks about sex positivity in parenting and on behalf of the RAINN Speakers Bureau.

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Lea Grover is a writer and speaker living on Chicago's south side. Her writing has been featured in numerous anthologies, and on websites ranging from Cosmopolitan.com to AlterNet to Woman's Day. She speaks about sex positivity in parenting and on behalf of the RAINN Speakers Bureau. You can find her on Linkedin and Twitter.

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