There are a number of healthy and helpful ways to process loss and grief. Traditional avenues might look like support groups, counseling, or journaling.
There are also less expected ways to grieve, which are equally valid– like expressing yourself through creative projects, tuning into a heart-warming podcast, or using music as a tool for our mourning.
It’s pretty well known that music creates connection, can help with memory, and is generally a pretty pleasant thing for most people. But how can it intentionally be used when mourning?
There are several ways and you might find some of these suggestions suit you better than others. Maybe you make a mashup of several different options or find a way we haven’t even thought of!
Just as there’s no one right way to mourn, there’s no one right way to approach music in mourning. But here are some ideas to get you started.
Music To Remember Your Loved One
Music has a powerful effect on memory– it can bring to mind things long forgotten or connect you to some of your favorite memories. There are two different ways you can use music to bring your loved one to mind.
You could craft a playlist of songs that remind you of them, whether it’s because you listened to these songs together or they would have liked the style, or the lyrics bring them up for you perfectly.
If you have access to any of your loved one’s music or if you remember any of the artists or songs they liked, you have an opportunity to learn more about them and what they might have felt through listening to their favorite music.
Even if the music isn’t the kind you usually listen to, it can be a beautiful experience to sit in that space with your loved one in spirit.
Music To Remember Ourselves
Sometimes when experiencing loss, it’s possible to lose a part of yourself, too. This can be true whether you’ve lost a loved one, a job, or something else that was an important part of your life.
Rediscovering or reframing who you are after a loss can be a huge part of the healing process for some. Therefore, you might make a playlist of songs that are your all-time favorites, songs that describe or define you.
If you’re more interested in reframing who you are post-loss, you could also make a playlist that represents the kind of person you want to be moving forward, maybe leaving behind some of your old favorites and finding new ones.
Music For Connection
Sometimes, it can be helpful to hear that someone else understands and has gone through what you’re going through. And hearing someone else’s words can help to better articulate what you feel so that you can fully process it.
This is where songs specifically about grief and loss come into play. There are plenty of songs out there, and you may want to make your own playlist of songs that speak to you personally, but here are a few examples to get you started–
Gone Away – The Offspring
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
Fire and Rain – James Taylor
Love is Stronger than Death – The The
Slipped Away – Avril Lavigne
Go Rest High on that Mountain – Vince Gill
Music To Calm And Soothe
If you need to shift gears in your brain and find peace and calm, sometimes music can help redirect and be soothing. Think about the music you might hear at a spa, wellness center, or yoga studio.
There are plenty of playlists full of songs or soundscapes that are instrumental, meditative, and calming, but you can also make your own. If you find that instrumental isn’t what soothes you, branch out and try other genres.
Any music that can help you slow your breathing and feel grounded in your body can be used to calm and soothe.
Music To Lift Your Mood
Music’s ability to change one’s mood is not limited to calming and soothing; it can also be uplifting, encouraging, and inspiring when you’re ready for that. This is another category that’s going to be specific to you.
Consider making a playlist with songs that elevate your mood or inspire you, no matter the content. Still, some songs are generally considered universally uplifting (and even scientifically proven to be) because of their content, beats-per-minute, and key.
Here are some examples:
Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen
Living on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & the Waves
Music To Help You Cry
On the other hand, you might not be in the mood to be comforted or uplifted. If that’s the case, you might just need to let yourself cry. But that’s not something you can just turn on when you think you need it, even when you feel like crying would help.
There are many reasons why it can be hard to cry even when you really want—or need to. When you’re faced with this problem, you might turn to music to give yourself the space, inspiration, and permission to let it out.
It may be a good idea to take this category slow and listen to it one song at a time rather than making a large playlist to shuffle through. Try not to be discouraged if traditionally “sad” songs don’t seem to work for you.
Everyone is different, and we all get emotional about different things. Finding the song(s) that will give you the space to grieve may take a while. And that’s okay!
As you explore using music as a tool for your mourning, remember that you don’t have to only listen to the music. You can sing, write your own music, have a dance “party” by yourself or with friends, or play instruments to express your grief.
However, if you choose to use music in your mourning, remember to focus on what works for you and your unique grieving journey.
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