the 5 Stages of Grief (2015)

instrumentation | mezzo-soprano + piano

duration | 12:00 - 13:00

premiere | by Mudibu Rita Nsumbu & Abigail Sanders @ ACU’s Williams Performing Arts Center | Nov. 22, 2015

program notes:

The 5 Stages of Grief is a song cycle is for anyone who has ever loved and lost; and to the ones who left us broken hearted, life goes on. The lyrics were written by one of my best friends Rita Nsumbu who also premiered the work. I can’t thank her enough for the time and energy she put into this work.

Contact me for score and parts.


The 5 Stages of Grief (Lyrics by Mudibu Rita Nsumbu)

I. Denial

He said he needed some time, needed some space, 

but when he comes back things will change.

When he comes back we’ll be okay.

He said he loved me, looked me in my eyes and

swore he loved me. I couldn’t say the words,

couldn’t say them then,

but when he comes back things will change.

When he comes back I’ll love him over and over again. 

He said he lost his job, that he wasn’t in a good place,

wasn’t in the right frame of mind,

but I’ll keep praying for him, and he’ll get better,

so when he comes back things will change.

When he comes back he’ll be happy again.

When he comes back we’ll be happy again.

II. Anger

If I could take back every kiss,

touch and embrace I would.

If I could I would package them up,

send them far, far way.

Maybe it would be better to burn them up,

every memory of you and me in flames,

flush the ashes down the toilet,

send them to the sewer from whence you came.

If only I could forget every word that ever came

out of your mouth, the lies, the shit, the promises,

sweet nothings turned sour like milk.

Damn you and every moment we spent together,

you ugly, lying, gutless bastard.

I won’t miss any of it. I won’t miss you.

I never loved you, in fact I hate you.

I hate you!

Who do you think you are

walking out on me?

How dare you leave after you said

you loved me.

How could you look me in the eyes and lie? 

III. Bargaining

You were right to leave, 

right to call it quits, I wasn’t

good enough; wasn’t good for us,

but I could change.

If you come back things would be


I could lose the weight.

No more love handles,

no more chubby girl.

I could do it for you,

be the woman you want me to be.

I could grow my hair long.

You loved to run your fingers

through my hair, but there was

never enough,

I was never enough.

I could leave my job,

make more time for you,

more time for us.

Give you all of me for as

long as you want.

If you would just come back,

I could be the lover you want.

I’d learn to please you,

make you yearn for me, salivate

at the very thought of me.

I would do that for you

I would do anything for you,


IV. Depression

Tossed away, 



consumed like last night’s dinner,

gobbled up quick.

Chunks of heart, spirit, and soul swallowed up,

down your gullet, washed down by Guinness and Shiner,

broken down in the intestines of the monster I gave it all to,

only to be excreted in nearest men’s room.

Waste is what I am to you,

leftovers in the sink diminished, demolished,

destroyed by the garbage disposal.

The roar of the machine as it shreds the very

last of me. Deafening. Fatal. Finished.

I am not even a thought,

There is nothing left.

I am nothing to you. 

V. Acceptance

He had eyes like whisky,

I dared to swim in them,

to drink from his gaze.

I may have loved him without knowing.

He had skin like the earth,

skin like mine, but not like mine,

the Indian guy and the black girl,

the Asian and the African.

I may have loved him without knowing.

I was blinded by kisses and caresses,

hands that uncovered every inch,

fingers, arms, and legs entwined.

I may have loved him without knowing.

I refused to say the words,

to speak without thinking,

refused to give him my heart.

Still, I may have loved him without knowing.

Even when he stopped calling,

stopped coming around,

I remembered the warmth of his body,

his breath on my face.

Now he’s gone and I knew he would be.

I may have loved him without knowing.

(all text sole property of Mudibu Rita Nsumbu)