Grief & Music: How Does It Help You Cope?

Updated

Music can be a powerful antidote to your grief that creates a space to express your pain and sorrow following a significant loss. Music also has many healing properties with specific benefits for those who are mourning.

The right music can boost the immune system, reduce stress, and ease depression. These are only some of the health benefits of music when it comes to healing after loss. 

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Music can also accompany you through your grief as you face the many challenges following the death of a loved one. The healing benefits of music go beyond the time and place of death and having to say goodbye at a funeral, for example.

It accompanies you throughout the upcoming stages of grief and keeps you company as you process your loss. Music can act as an escape when life's challenges become unbearable.

Connections Between Grief and Music

Music research throughout history touches on different connections between music and grief, from music's specific role in death and healing rituals to the traditions associated as a means of expression for musicians over time. 

For example, Osvaldo Golijov's musical meditation on grieving and loss shows how an artist's music helped heal and transform them from loss, pain, and sorrow. According to NPR, Golijov's work started in the middle of the pandemic after witnessing much pain and grief among his friends and family suffering through loss. He composed a beautiful piece as an expression of grief that gave his life creative meaning amid the isolation of the pandemic and following his son's death. 

Golijov embarked on composing music to help connect his and his loved one's pain to the melodies in his music. The result was a creative piece that helped heal the wounds of suffering for many more people within and outside of his immediate family. His own experiences with the loss of his son contributed to his masterful piece of music that brought comfort and solace to him and his wife, among others.  

The following are other ways that grief and music intertwine to help heal the brokenhearted:

  • Music creates a safe space to process emotions
  • Music allows a way for emotional expression
  • Music changes our mood and calms the mind
  • Music reconnects us to our past and who we were
  • Music plays a role in remembering and honoring our loved ones
» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Why Does Music Help with Grief?

Grief tends to unleash emotions that can leave you feeling outside yourself, unable to control your emotions. Grief responses are often scary, uncontrollable, and foreign to those experiencing grief for the first time. Songs about tragedy can help access some of the most profound emotions hidden beneath layers of pain and helps uncover some of these hidden feelings. 

Music helps you move through your pain and helps channel and influence your emotional journey through grief. A particularly resonant melody can guide your emotions and allow you to define your relationship to your pain and suffering. It’s a physical and mental healing force that helps shoulder the pain that we feel, and translated into the right music. It gives a new emotional context to your suffering. 

Music can help with your specific grief in the following ways.  

Music lets us remember

Music helps the bereaved remember their loved one who's passed. Listening and playing meaningful music enables you to connect to the part of you that your loved one has left their mark on, the part that will live on through your memories and music.

The sounds, melodies, and lyrics all come together to create a beautiful work of art you can associate with your life together forever. It also connects your memories to special times, places, and conversations you shared. Music becomes the soundtrack to your life together and helps you define your grief to turn it into something memorable and beautiful.

Music feeds the soul

The soul has a language of its own. Our subconscious translates the powerful messages of music through our whole body. It touches on everything from our emotions to our physical experiences with grief and grieving. We can explore the other side of our sorrow through music that we do not allow others to see.

Music helps us navigate past our suffering to help us discover who we are as we become stronger and more capable of surviving through one of life's harshest challenges. This one tool can touch the most profound depths of our souls in times of heartbreak and loss. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Music is uplifting 

Broadway songs about grief can be uplifting and bring smiles of joy to anyone who suffered a significant loss in life. Some mourners would instead remember a loved one for the laughter and happiness they brought to their lives rather than feel overly sad and blue over their demise.

Musical pieces can set the stage for bringing both smiles and tears to someone who's mourning the death of a loved one, especially one who was fond of Broadway shows or musical theater. Songs like You'll Never Walk Alone by Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel can make you smile while evoking special memories of your loved one. 

How Can You Use Music to Help You Grieve?

Music permits you to go back to and visit a specific time and place where you shared love and space with your loved one who died. A grieving person who connects music to those special moments in time can work through their grief by piecing together many of these connected moments.

Music allows a full spectrum of emotions to come forth, which is crucial in healing from the pain and sorrow suffered after a significant loss.  Nonetheless, there's still much work to do that requires time, effort, and active participation from the bereaved. The right music can help you grieve in the following ways:

Forces suppressed emotions to surface

The art of music thanatology brings forth spiritual peace to end suffering through prescriptive harp music. Using music as a form of healing is used primarily in end-of-life palliative care. In a grief-healing context, it can also be incorporated to help heal from the pain of suffering after the death of a loved one.

Connecting music to individual grief allows for the unveiling of suppressed emotions in individuals suffering profoundly after experiencing loss. Music is a very healing force that plays a crucial role in moving a bereaved person along the healing path. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Helps you to say goodbye

Music helps mark rites of passage in many cultures throughout the world. It's incorporated into funeral processions, services, and burials throughout history and helps those mourning to accept their loss and say goodbye to their loved ones.

Bagpipe funeral music is one example of how we use music to weave a deceased's heritage together with their legacy. Bagpipes play an essential role in saying goodbye to those who've served in the military, in esteemed positions of public service, or who are of Irish descent. Many religious groups and ethnicities embrace bagpipe music as it links to some of our deepest feelings and emotions.

Transforms your grief 

Transforming grief from something painful to beautiful is the foundation of music for healing. Some people who are in deep mourning connect to music to help make their suffering more bearable. Turning sadness into a respite from pain can bring a sense of peace and balance back into your life.

Certain music can profoundly heal you both emotionally and physically. Grief music calms you and reduces stress when you're struggling with coping with your loss. Music can lift your mood and transport you to a different time and place to heal your sorrow. 

How Does Music Therapy for Grief Work?

Music therapy for grief work allows for the open expression of grief in a safe environment. It can be a part of the overall grief work a bereaved person participates in to help find closure and healing after the death of a loved one. Music forces us to connect to our past, to our loved ones, and the emotions brought forth by their death.

It can also be healing when used in combination with other methods of grief work such as writing, journaling, or talk therapy. Through grief work, you can process your feelings to help you experience and accept them. Music creates a safe healing environment to help you discover your actual pain and connect with others who share your pain. 

Classical funeral music creates not only a beautiful sendoff at a funeral but also sets the tone for a poignant reminder of love and loss. Classical music is a genre that evokes many different emotions in humans. This genre can help touch the soul and guide a person who's mourning into releasing the depths of their sorrow.

Classical music is often a strictly instrumental experience that helps you move through your pain and grief. It has the propensity to turn raw grief emotions from pain and sadness to feelings of acceptance and gratitude. 

One of the most famous classical funeral songs is Ave Maria by Franz Schubert. This song is hauntingly moving and most appropriate for a funeral and grieving with or without the lyrics. This song derives from Roman Catholic prayer, scripture, and church traditions. When used as therapy in grief work, this and other grief songs can help push through the pain and sorrow. 

The Healing Power of Grief Music

Many grief journeys start with songs of loss and healing that create a legitimate space to grieve. Many song lyrics describe poignant moments of sadness that you may experience with the changes of seasons when going through your grief.

Music can be both a source of comfort and a reminder of the possibilities of hope and healing. It can help you grieve, express your feelings, connect you to others, and ultimately heal your soul.


Sources:
  1. Tsioulcas, Anastasia. “What Is The Sound Of Grief? Osvaldo Golijov Puts It To Music.” Editors’ Picks, NPR, 18 January 2021, npr.org
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