Bereavement is a period of mourning and grief following a loss, especially the death of a loved one. This period of change and challenging transition can bring forth an overwhelm of emotion, and should be supported and recognized as a significant time in an individual’s journey through loss. In such times when there may be emotional and psychological suffering, music therapy can be an avenue of healing.
Through all stages of grief, music therapy can be an effective medium to meet individuals wherever they are at in their healing process. A music therapist will be sure to create an individualized care plan that will facilitate healthy coping strategies and ease suffering. Music therapy sessions may be centred around various goals, including:
Emotional Expression: Music and its emotive qualities may aid in identifying and expressing loss in a less invasive manner. When verbal communication surrounding personal subjects may be difficult, music in a supportive environment can help externalize inner emotions through projective methods. Music therapists may foster such expression through:
- music listening and lyrics analysis: when an individual may not have words of their own, they may find them in a song
- clinical improvisation: music-making with instruments or voice, can allow for cathartic release through emotive playing
- songwriting: a technique that may promote externalization of thoughts and memories. Fill-in-the-blank songwriting may provide cueing to allow for greater ease of expression
Coping Skills: Music therapy can provide alternative opportunities for developing coping strategies through the grieving process. Music therapists may use several techniques to encourage coping, including:
- passive music listening: a substantial technique that can be facilitated outside of session as well. Music listening may be a significant technique for those who are seeking validation through song lyrics and melody
Reminiscence: Music has the unique ability to evoke memories of specific time and place, as musical memories are some of our most deeply rooted. A music therapist may collaborate with the individual to choose songs that will allow for:
- active music listening and discussion: choosing and listening to meaningful songs for a client may serve as a catalyst for significant discussion and reminiscence
Mood: Research shows that engaging in active music making and singing releases endorphins, which consequently lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Being a part of a music therapy session may help to contribute to overall improved mood, through:
- instrument playing: music therapists may use a variety of instruments, including drums, maracas, etc. for structured playing or improvisation
- singing: the act of singing releases endorphins and may act as another medium of self-expression
At Wellington Music Therapy Services, our music therapists are highly skilled in techniques to best serve and support you during your healing associated with bereavement. Please do not hesitate to reach out to learn more about how we can serve you and your family!
Clements-Cortes, Amy. “The use of music in facilitating emotional expression in the terminally ill.” The American journal of hospice & palliative care vol 21 (2004): 255-260.
Clements-Cortes, Amy & Klinck, Sara. Voices of the dying and bereaved: Music therapy narratives. (2016).
Klinck, Sara. “Music therapy and bereavement”. Room 217 Care Through Music (2020).