Eleanor Pinkerton – Coping with Grief and Loss

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Eleanor Pinkerton is an inspiration, using her own experiences of coping with grief and loss to help others who may be going through similar circumstances. Eleanor’s a talented vocalist and songwriter, Gestalt Psychotherapist and a volunteer with Lifeline. Her music spreads the message about enjoying what’s important in life, and above all – a message of hope …

You were born in Scotland – how many years did you spend there?

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland. I spent the first ten years of my life there.

What led you to start singing? 

My earliest musical memories are of my sister and I singing and entertaining family and friends in Scotland. My mother always had records playing in the house. I grew up with a range of music from musicals like My Fair Lady, to The Beatles. My father was a sportsman, and the only music he would listen to was Scottish music. I grew to enjoy Scottish music too. One of my cousins played the bagpipes.

Your family eventually moved to New Zealand. What brought about the move?

My family moved to New Zealand when I was 10. My father had been in the Navy before I was born, and he said New Zealand was the country that reminded him most of Scotland. Dad had a brother who already lived in New Zealand, but I think the bad weather in Scotland was the reason we moved.

Your life, like so many others, has been touched by heartbreak and tragedy. What are some of the things that have influenced you most greatly – and what impact has this had on your music?

My sister died suddenly of Lupus when she was only 35 years old. In that same year, two of my closest friends (who were the same age as my sister) also died suddenly. A year later, two more of my close friends died suddenly.

The impact these events had on my music was enormous. I wrote a lot of songs as a way of expressing my grief. Unfortunately, I was unable to sing them publicly. My sister and I had sung together for so long, I found that grief prevented me from singing publicly for 5 years after she died.

I auditioned for a singing teacher in Sydney who taught opera, and I trained with her for three years. My sister and I had never sung opera together, so I was able to train this way – there were no painful memories associated with opera.

As an adult with a husband and children of your own, why did you and your family ultimately move to Australia in 2006?

My husband, Graham, and I had lived in Sydney for 8 years when we first got married. Our two oldest children were born in Sydney. We used to live in Newtown, and I sang in a band in Sydney. We returned to live in New Zealand when the children were young, as we wanted them to get to know their grandparents.

When we moved to Port in 2006, it was for a range of reasons. Both of my parents had died suddenly of heart attacks within 13 months of each other the year we returned to NZ. Graham’s father had also died. Our youngest child, who was born in New Zealand, was a chronic Asthmatic, and the climate in Hamilton was making the condition worse. We were advised to move to a warmer climate, so we chose Port.

Describe some of the things that have helped you come to terms with loss and grief … 

There are a variety of people and things that have helped me come to terms with loss and grief, including: raising my three children, the support of my husband, grief counseling from Hospice, working as a volunteer Lifeline telephone support person and training as a Gestalt psychotherapist for 4 years …

One of the hardest aspects of dealing with loss is the sense of isolation and helplessness that you feel. I had a need to try to understand the whole process of grief and loss and learn how to deal with it. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is the expert on dealing with grief, and I found her books to be fantastic.

These events of loss in my life have changed my whole attitude to life. Live your dreams now. Don’t wait until tomorrow if you want to achieve something; do it now. Follow your passion. Follow your heart. Don’t get caught up chasing money or status. People, not things, are what mean the most to me. The Buddhist idea of living in the now … This is what my Gestalt training taught me.

My sister’s death led me away from Rock music into opera training. I’m grateful for the training, as it has taught me how to protect my voice. My Gestalt training helped me to move through grief by facing my pain, not avoiding it. Until I did my Gestalt training, I felt blocked creatively. I am writing songs freely again, which is wonderful.

Recording my debut CD is a continuation of this creativity.

As you mentioned, you recently released your first CD, The Circle is Broken. What are some of the songs on the CD?

There are a variety of songs on the CD, and some of them are about loss. Several songs were written after my sister died as an attempt to express my own feelings.

The title song was a reaction to my daughter’s news that she was moving back to NZ for good. Allowing your children to lead their own lives when they choose a path you least expect is never easy.

There are several songs about that euphoric feeling of being in love.

The final song, Outside the Circle, is about the importance of integrity and being yourself, especially when your choices leave you standing alone.

My intention with these songs is that they will present the listener with a message of hope … Loss and death are a natural part of life. Society does not teach us how to deal with these things, so we often fear them. My songs are about facing the emotions and moving through them and learning to enjoy the things that don’t last … The one thing we never lose is love − it always remains with us long after the person has gone from our lives. There is a song on the CD about new life growing from the darkness of pain.

What do you see as being your future life direction?

Now that I’ve come to terms with my past, my future life direction is to help as many people as I can who are struggling with some of the issues I have made peace with. I do this in several ways. I have my own private practice as a Gestalt psychotherapist in Port. I continue to work as a voluntary supervisor for Lifeline. I sing my original songs to live audiences when I can. I run occasional workshops in voice therapy. Music is still the most healing force in my life; I hope to share that music with many people.

Where can people buy a copy of your CD, watch you perform, or get in touch with you if they’re interested in your music?

If anyone is interested in buying my CD, they can email me at Keltz53@gmail.com or phone me on mob: 0405 026 847.

I don’t have a regular singing spot at the moment: my songs need to be listened to, rather than be used as background music. I sing during the year at lunchtime concerts at The Glasshouse. I have been booked to sing at a festival in Sydney later in the year. If anyone would like to book me, please contact me.

Thanks Eleanor.

Interview by Jo Atkins.

This article can be found in issue 88 of Greater Port Macquarie Focus

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