In traditional societies, music has almost always been tied to rites and rituals surrounding death. It often harnesses raw emotion and channels it into the ritual outcome, bringing communities together in shared sentiment around collectively held beliefs in death and the afterlife. Many of these musical ceremonies have a real psychological effect in helping people cope with loss and grief.
We all have an inkling of how music has helped us with our losses, but there is very little academic knowledge, especially when it comes to what is happening on the emotional and psychological levels. Non-academically, there also seems to be little music-related information or guidance for those in times of loss except for a handful of articles and a few playlists. Society has also determined that music is an important part of celebrations and transitions in life.
Let me share my personal music experience with you to help you in your grief
I grew up in the 1980s when it seemed that music was having another heyday with superstars like Madonna, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, and other girl groups galore. I was immersed in the popular music of the mid-’80s, especially for my sweet sixteen birthday party where my folks rented a jukebox and I was able to fill it with any music I wanted. I would listen to the billboard weekly countdown and add more music choices to my list. My party was a great success in part due to the music that played all night long. It was a wonderful celebration, one I shall always remember. Flash forward many years later, I had the opportunity to create another playlist, this one was very important to me as it was the music to be played at my wedding. We had an untraditional style ceremony, I was dressed in a royal blue gown, she in a pinstripe suit, walking to the altar to Judy Garland’s, “Me and My Gal”.
Then several years later my world began to fall apart. My marriage crumbled, my father was diagnosed with cancer and became very sick, and a friend of mine died by suicide. It was then that I began to listen and hear music completely differently. Whether or not I searched for melancholic, somber, and reflective songs, or if I heard music either in the car or as part of my extensive CD collection, I could not escape songs that elicited feelings of grief. At times, listening to sad songs in my car was liberating because it allowed me to cry crocodile tears in a safe space. Music simply allowed me to feel a connection with someone I’d lost and remember them. Music became one of my most powerful tools for months because it gave me a legitimate space for grief. It helped me communicate my emotions by allowing me to share the grief experience by showing me that I was not alone, others had suffered the way I felt.
What is the power and benefit of music in life?
I then began to ponder that our final transition from this life is also a time when the power of music can be important to provide peace and comfort. Not only to the dying but also family members as well. Research into the use of music in hospice and palliative care has consistently found that patients, family, and staff all benefit from the music. Music has been found to help decrease anxiety, agitation, and pain. Today, there has been a growing movement to include alternative therapies in hospice and palliative care. As a result, the use of music in these settings has become more accepted and utilized. It appears that music playing on the deathbed has positive effects on all who hear it. When words are not enough, there is always music. We all benefit from having music in our lives; it only follows that music can benefit us as we die.
Join our community to share your grief with similar people
The Moonlit Memory Virtual Walk takes place on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Now is the time to register, tell our community about who you want to remember and honor, raise money and receive great gifts. Visit https://www.homehospiceassociation.com/moonlit-memory-walk and join us today.
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As we continue looking at memories, grief, and healthy grieving, next week blog contributor Marco Gobatto will share what he has learned about how our food choices affect our grief journey.
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