Music During Grief and Loss

Music touches your soul like nothing else. Music during times of sorrow can be especially helpful. Songs can speak to our emotions and give voice to how we feel. The late BB King said, “Even in your darkest moments, music is a rope to grab onto, something to pull your through”.

For the human heart and mind, music is a gift that brings hope and comfort through even the darkest times. In the midnight hour of the soul, when we feel most besieged by grief and alone in sorrow, music offers solace in the recognition that, although the rhythms of our lives fluctuate between joy and despair, the song remains.

When we struggle with grief and loss, music is one of the modalities that can lift us up, change our mood, and transport us to another time and place. When we cannot find the words to express our feelings, a song can give voice to the situation and how we feel. The lyrics in songs can help us to escape from the pain of grief and loss. Lyrics can also help us to relax or meditate during our time of sorrow. Music can help us to reflect on our loss and bring peace and harmony.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to experience the healing power of gospel music after a crisis in my family. Elder Jafus Jones, Sr. passed away from prostate cancer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 18, 2013 just as I was in the middle of completing my dissertation edits. Shortly after speaking with my family and learning of his death, I went for a walk. I needed some fresh air and walked around the neighborhood. I turned on my phone on and begin to listen to music from my playlist. Song after song, the music was soothing. Songs such as For Every Mountain, I Need You to Survive, and My Soul Is Anchored In the Lord played over and over again. They captured my attention. As I continued to walk, I noticed how they began to minister to my hurting soul. It felt as though someone had put ointment on an open wound. I could feel the comfort from each song to my heart of sorrow. Once I realized what was taking place, I begin to rejoice. I felt uplifted. I was amazed that God allowed me to experience what I had researched. I thought about the participants I had interviewed regarding gospel music allowing them to experience comfort during crisis.

Patti Catalano, Board Certified Music Therapist said, “Music is an important part of the healing process as we cope with natural disasters, terrorism, war assault, sexual assault, and accidents”.

Music played an important role in America’s healing after the 911 tragedy. The patriotic song, “God Bless America” a traditional and popular song was used following September 11. Members of Congress stood on the Capital steps and sang this song following 911. “God Bless America” was one of the most requested songs after 911 for several weeks.

Many songwriters, singers, and musicians create special music to express their grief or sometimes as a tribute to a loved one. Music is useful as an aid in emotional healing. Gospel Recording Artist Marvin Sapp stated about missing his late wife, Malinda Sapp, who lost her battle with colon cancer. "There are days when I get up and I cry, thinking of her. There are days thinking of her and I smile. There are days when I'm angry. Days that I'm not we miss her." Sapp found writing songs to be therapeutic for him. Sapp, father of three, says writing a song is therapy for him. It helps him to deal with the loss of his wife. I can relate to finding comfort in songs. Sapp’s music transcends the musical genres; his music has such wide appeal because of its heart-felt lyrics. His breakout hit, Never Would Have Made It was a song he wrote as an ode and eulogy for his father’s funeral. “It was birthed out of my pain,” he said.

I am grateful with the skills to designed musical programs with activities that help with grief and loss. Whenever, I grieve, I pull out my emergency musical tool kit and find a song that matches my mood. I have shared my musical tool kits with others during their grief and losses. I continue received great feedback.

Music ministers to the silence and solitude of nature; it is one of the most powerful, immediate, and intimate of sensuous experiences. I encourage you to allow music to help you through the grief and loss process. Truly, music is medicine for the soul!

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Sonara is a Recording Artist, author and motivational speaker. She is the President of SCB Consulting, a certified consulting company. She is the founder of the Men's Reading Program at William McGill School of Success in San Diego, CA. Dr. Sonara graduated from Cameron University with a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She completed her PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy (EAT) at the International University of Professional Studies.

Dr. Sonara has received countless awards for her contributions to the community including “Sonara Day in San Diego” proclaimed by the San Diego City Council, and Citizen of the month by Former Congressman Bob Filner, just to name a couple. Dr. Sonara created a National Healing Music Project which was sent to the Obama Administration. She is also working on a book entitled, Southern Lockup.

Dr. Sonara's specialty is teaching individuals and groups how to use Music as Medicine for healing and resilience. She empowers individuals personally and professionally through the arts for creative expressions. Her goal is to enhance one’s personal well-being while encouraging them to use music to tell their story. She conducted research on music used as a tool for healing.

Dr. Sonara is a member of the Association of Pan African Doctoral Scholars, American Talent and Development, Diamond Life Member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Manhattan Beach Holistic Chamber of Commerce and former Vice-President of membership for Carson Communicators Toastmasters International.

She enjoys empowers individuals and groups to explore music for wellness and creativity.

Dr. Sonara lives by the philosophy that, “the more we invest now into the lives of others, the less we’ll be required to pay later”.