How do we endure grief?
While no two people’s answers will be exactly the same, grief invariably involves expressing our emotions and, eventually, letting go.
That’s what Justin Bieber’s new song, “Ghost,” is all about. Bieber lost his own grandfather unexpectedly in early 2021. And the poignancy of his grief haunts to lyrics of this song: “I know you crossed a bridge that I can’t follow,” he sings, before adding later on, “I miss you more than life.”
Other lyrics hint at the loss of a romantic partner. But whether it’s a family member, a dear friend or one’s beloved who has departed, the result is a crater in our heart and grief we cannot evade or avoid. That’s the subject at hand here.
One of Bieber’s musings here has to do with time. When we’re young, we think we have all the time in the world (“Youngblood thinks there’s always tomorrow”). But as we get older, as losses begin to pile up, we realize time is a commodity that we can’t save or renew (“I need more time, but time can’t be borrowed”).
The chorus tells us, “I want you to know that if I can’t be close to you/I’ll settle for the ghost of you/I miss you more than life.” On one hand, those lines speak to a longing for connection that now, sadly, is but a memory—but a memory that can still bring joy and a smile.
That said …
… Those lines could also be interpreted as an unhealthy unwillingness to relinquish someone (though, admittedly, I don’t think that’s what Bieber intends here).
A couple other lyrics imply the loss not just of a loved one, but of a lover: “I miss your touch on nights when I’m hollow/ … Your memory is ecstasy.” Still, even those reflections would be appropriate expressions of grief for anyone who’s lost a spouse. At worst, they’re just a bit suggestive.
The video for the song stars Diane Keaton as Bieber’s fictional grandmother. In it, her husband has just passed, and Justin helps his grandmother work through her grief by taking her out, going dancing and drinking quite a bit. They also go strolling on the ocean. We see her emotion pour out in big ways and small as Bieber is attentive to this grief process over the course of years.
It’s a fitting cinematic portrait to a subtle, poignant song about the ache of losing someone—especially in the context of COVID-19, which has claimed so many lives and forever marked the hearts of surviving loved ones.
Bieber himself said he had the pandemic in mind when he wrote it: “It’s about losing someone you love. It even works in this quarantine situation we’re in, in that we’re not socializing, relating and connecting in the same way. The memory of [someone’s life] can be taken in different ways.”
How do we endure grief? Justin Bieber’s song “Ghost” explores just a few of the ways we might make this unwanted journey.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.