"If we love, we grieve." Nick Cave's son would have turned 20 this week. This is what he's learnt about grief.

This week, Arthur Cave would have turned 20 years old.

The son of iconic Australian musician Nick Cave died after falling from a cliff near Brighton, England, on July 14, 2015.

He was only 15 years old. 

On Tuesday, Arthur's twin brother Earl celebrated the milestone birthday with his family.

"A birthday heart for our little Arthur," their mother Susie Cave shared on Instagram to mark the occasion.

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A Birthday heart for our little Arthur

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Cave has been open about his exploration of grief following his son's death.

A documentary to avoid questions.

In 2016, One More Time with Feeling documented the recording of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' 16th studio album, Skeleton Tree, after Arthur's death.

The documentary was Cave's idea, a way to avoid doing press for the album's release and having to answer questions about his son, director Andrew Dominik told The Guardian.

In the film, Cave said he doesn't want to escape from Arthur's death, but he doesn't want to commemorate him with platitudes and truisms, which people inevitably share following a tragedy.

"People say it all the time to me, 'he lives in my heart', and I go 'yeah, yeah I know' but he doesn't," he said.

"He's in my heart, but he doesn't live at all."

He said the grief had made it impossible for him to predict how he would feel and react to things.

"Now, I just don't have any handle on things any more... It's frightening because I don't know what I'm f*cking doing now, for example. What am I sitting in [front of] a camera, being filmed talking about this sort of thing? I wouldn't have dreamed of doing that before."

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We only part to meet again.

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Dominick said the film, particularly the last scene, had a positive impact on the Caves.

Cave initially objected to footage of the cliff where Arthur died being used in the documentary, but after visiting the site with Susie the day after Arthur's funeral, Dominick decided to include it.

"When you stood at the top of the cliff and looked out, it was this beautiful view of the sea and the sky, something that suggested eternity, or continuum, or perhaps the insignificance of us all. I wanted to use it as a beautiful thing, as opposed to a horrible thing," he said.


"[Cave] has to drive past it, sometimes four times a day, because his studio is on the other side of town. He said he gets a feeling, like a constriction in his gut, every time he does. 

"And Susie was unconsciously speeding up every time she drove by it; she didn't even know she was doing it, but she got caught on the speed cameras, she actually got fined. 

"But he said that, since the film came out, he drives past there, and he gets a kind of warm feeling. I think that’s kind of beautiful, that the movie could have changed his associations."

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Earl playing the piano and Arthur with Nick ❤️❤️❤️

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Cave's most recent album Ghosteen, released in October 2019, was written in the aftermath of Arthur's death.

The album deals with themes of loss and grief, but also faith and optimism. On the album's closing track Hollywood, Cave referenced the story of Kisa Gotami, a Buddhist arhat who sought help from the Buddha after the death of her child and discovers that "no one is untouched by loss". 

Cave said the Kisa story "had been of great significance and comfort to me for years and at some point I jotted it down in verse form, completely independent of anything else, and with no intention of it being a song". 

In 2018, he responded to a fan question about his songwriting on his website, saying that for a while after Arthur's death, he was struggling to write.

"Creative people in general have an acute propensity for wonder," he wrote.

"Great trauma can rob us of this, the ability to be awed by things. Everything loses its sheen and appears beyond our reach. We were surviving, but we were surviving in exile on the perimeter of our lives, way beyond anything that mattered."


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We miss you

A post shared by  Mrs Cave (@susiecaveofficial) on

He found a way forward through "work and community".

"I kind of realised that work was the key to get back to my life, but I also realised that I was not alone in my grief and that many of you were, in one way or another, suffering your own sorrows, your own griefs.

"I felt this in our live performances. I felt very acutely that a sense of suffering was the connective tissue that held us all together."


Cave seems to find comfort in the fact no one is untouched by loss.

"For we are not alone it seems, so many riders in the sky," he sings on Galleon Ship.

"If we love, we grieve."

In October 2018, Cave penned a letter about grief to a fan dealing with the death of her father, sister and first love. 


Responding to a question on his website, The Red Hand Files, Cave was asked by a fan whether he felt that his son, Arthur, was still communicating with him.

"[I] feel that I have some communication with them, mostly through dreams", the fan wrote regarding her experience with death before posing the question.

Cave thanked the fan for her "beautiful question", before sharing the feelings of grief he's felt in the years since Arthur suffered a fatal brain injury following his fall.

"I feel the presence of my son, all around, but he may not be there. I hear him talk to me, parent me, guide me, though he may not be there," he wrote.

"He visits Susie in her sleep regularly, speaks to her, comforts her, but he may not be there. Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake."

Image: The Red Hand Files. 


"It seems to be, that if we love, we grieve. That's the deal. That's the pact," he wrote, saying the two emotions were "forever intertwined".

"Grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable. There is a vastness to grief that overwhelms our minuscule selves."

He said the "communication" we feel from loved ones lost in dreams, through voices or visions, are "willed in to existence" to aid the healing process.

"These are precious gifts that are as valid and as real as we need them to be. They are the spirit guides that lead us out of the darkness."


In May 2020, Cave responded to two questions from fans who were also dealing with the loss of children, saying that over the past five years he and Susie had come to realise grief is not something you can ever "pass through" to the other side.

Image: The Red Hand Files. 


He wrote for his family, "grief became a way of life".

"We discovered that grief was much more than just despair. We found grief contained many things - happiness, empathy, commonality, sorrow, fury, joy, forgiveness, combativeness, gratitude, awe, and even a certain peace."

Grief is an entirety, he said.

It is doing the dishes or watching Netflix. It is reading a book, or sitting alone, or shifting around the furniture in your home.

"I can only say to you both," he responded to the fans. "That in time, there is a way, not out of grief, but deep within it."

Feature image: Getty.