REal Experiences of Healing Through Music
Although it is an easy fact to ignore, inside we all know that this gift of life does come to a conclusion eventually. It is easy to put to the back of our minds because it is also the most difficult part of being human. To know that one day we will no longer be here and while we are, we will experience the loss of others we love and depend on. When these losses come unexpectedly or in a tragic way, finding constructive ways to deal with the emotions brought on can seem even harder.
In my life this has happened on several occasions to some of those closest to me. 2007 brought my first experience. My best friend of over 10 years had been battling with depression and the end of a relationship. In an effort to cope he began to drink and this resulted in an alcohol-related arrest. The day after his arrest I received a call telling me that after being released from custody he returned home and had taken his own life.
Having my own issues with substance abuse at the time, I fell deeper into that abyss and in 2011 I received a visit from my mother. She came to tell me that my father, who was a musician and medical transport pilot had gotten into an accident the night before. His aircraft experienced a fuel-system failure and wasn’t able to land safely. We lost my father to injuries sustained in the crash.
Most recently, we lost my son’s mother to a heroin overdose that was eventually judged to be a homicide because the people she was with panicked and left her alone rather than seek medical help.
There were occasions where I dealt with the feelings these losses caused in self-destructive ways and those feelings always returned. With a clear mind the realization came that music was going to be the thing to help me through the grief. Whether picking up my guitar to give my feelings a voice, or putting on a set of headphones and letting the music speak to me, it has always been there. It can take me back to moments shared and appreciate the time we did have together instead of trying to forget the hurt. The right music at the right moment makes the grief into something tangible to connect to instead of simply being thoughts and feelings. Music opens up a conversation that would otherwise be between my thoughts and I.
When we are grieving a loss, finding a way to express what we feel is rarely easy. Music is the one universal language we have and the only one we can interpret in our own way. It lets my anger run free without negative consequences, lets me love without fear and reminds me I’m never alone; that others have been there and found a way to go on living when the darkness seems endless. Some days it is all I had to cling to. And on those days it was enough. Music will always be there. Waiting to be anything and everything we need it to be. And it will get us through when nothing else seems able to.
Growing up as a kid I always tried to keep myself surrounded by art and music or something to keep me occupied. I wasn't the best at school because for a young kid with ADHD I would always be distracted by something or get restless after sitting around listening to subjects that honestly bored me (stay in school, trust me it's worth it). When I had to commit time to homework I used music as a way to help keep me bust while studying. As I got older I would just lock myself away or just drive around listening to music, I'd jump around in my room and jam out to my favorite songs that came on the radio. I probably listen to music more than I do anything else. When I started getting into high school and making friends, things in my life started happening that were out of my control, my best friend at the time's mother passed away and that was a shock to me because she was one of the kindest people I had ever met, I'd never experienced loss until then and it was a shock. Coping was made easier since I could just sit for hours and listen to music that spoke my mental language and that I could relate to; that was the biggest help I've ever found. Throughout high school I struggled with some depression or I would have the need to talk to someone about whatever I was feeling and I felt like talking to my best friend or my family wouldn't help fill that void. Telling my father that I would stay home when my grandfather was in the hospital dying from cancer was probably and still is my biggest regret ever, after driving 2 hours every day to visit him every week was enough to me, the one day my dad asked me to go visit I said no and stayed home, later that night he passed away and I realized I made a mistake, now I had to deal with a big loss for me and my family and the feeling of regret set in, I felt like I had let my father down and my grandfather and I was going in a million different directions emotionally and then I realized that it all comes back to it being simple: music. I could rely on it to be there, it was always there for me, a coping mechanism, an escape from everything else. Music has gotten me through everything, without music I know I wouldn't be here. Music saved me and I can never thank it enough. Being able to write music and put my own feelings into songs has been everything to me, it's my way to cope, to get by, it's my art and my passion. Music holds power and words hold weight, the world speaks many languages but music is universal.
"I've been battling depression for as long as I can remember at this point. After graduating high school, I took on the responsibility of taking care of my mom who was in the late stages of Alzheimer's. I had to feed, bathe, and even change her diapers. I couldn’t even communicate with her as English wasn’t her first language. She passed away in 2012 at just 59 years old.
I fell into a deep slump right after and didn't want to be around anything or anyone. I was bitter. I was angry, and I honestly didn't want to be alive anymore. Shortly after that, I got my first offer to guitar tech on tour. I quit my obligations at home and flew out with one thing on my mind: becoming the best person and musician I can be and the human my mom would -want- me to be.
Music is really the most powerful thing I've ever encountered. Relationships fail, friends come and go, and people die. But music will ALWAYS be there for you. It’s constant and it never has an expiration date. If you're having a bad day, pick up some headphones and put down whatever is troubling you."
The following is a post we received by a member of our community. If you have a story to share e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"When I was very young, I lost my dad. Shortly after that, I discovered his old guitar, and decided to learn how to play it. The guitar helped me to think of other things, and distracted me by giving me something new to learn and play. With this, I found new types of music besides the things that you can hear on the radio.
After that, I began to face my own health issues, having to stay at the hospital with a lot of time to kill. I used this time to search for new styles of music, learning songs that I liked on my guitar. As my health issues worsened, I began spending all of my time in the hospital on my guitar and my bass. I found that aggressive music helped me so much to think that I can beat this disease, 'I am stronger than this.'
Finally, when I was 18, I lost my grandfather. He was like a dad to me, teaching me many things, and although you know that everyone passes away someday, you always wonder 'why now?' when you lose someone close. Again, music helped me at this time by helping me to realize that I can overcome this pain. At this point, because music had such a big impact on what lead my life, I decided to attend Berklee College of Music to further learn what exactly about it helped me to stay sane all of this time.
I have so much to say, so many feelings that I want to express, and music has given me a way to."
The death of a loved one can be an extremely difficult situation to cope with. Among all the feelings that might emerge, is one that you can't possibly explain how you feel to someone else.
Sometimes words are not enough to communicate how we are feeling.
Music offers the unique ability to create emotion through the instruments that are being played as well as the lyrics themselves. This creates an expression of emotion that goes beyond what words can do on their own.
Songwriting can be an extremely helpful tool during the grieving process. Anecdotally, this is known throughout the world of musicians. Many musicians use personal struggle and difficulty as motivation for their songs.
The benefits of songwriting, however, have also been studied scientifically. One study found that "Songwriting-based music therapy groups facilitate positive growth in bereaved adolescents, showing improvements across all group domains. (Dalton & Krout, 2005)"
Songwriting offers a unique medium for expression of feelings and emotions while also providing a creative outlet at the same time.
"The grief songwriting process offers an engaging, containing, and creative model to address bereavement-related issues. (Dalton & Krout, 2006)"
If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one and enjoy music, songwriting may provide you with an empowering creative outlet that helps you express how you are feeling.
If you have a story about how Songwriting has helped you heal, please share it in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.
Dalton, T.A., & Krout, R.E. (2005). Development of the grief process scale through music therapy songwriting with bereaved adolescents. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 32(2), 131-143.
Dalton, T.A., & Krout, R.E. (2006). The grief song-writing process with bereaved adolescents: An integrative grief model and music therapy protocol. Music Therapy Perspectives, 24(2), 94-107
-Sam N, May 7, 2018
"When I was in seventh grade, I distinctively remember taking a survey about my favorite music, and I had no idea what to say! I really wasn't that into music at that time, so I just put down what my older brothers listened to.
In eighth grade, I met a kid named Shannon. He gave me a CD full of Led Zeppelin, ACDC, Guns N Roses, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and many more, and introduced me into real rock and roll. He also put a guitar in my hands and taught me how to play a few simple songs. For the next year and a half we obsessed over music and especially classic Rock N Roll.
One year later, Shannon died. The music that he gave to me before he left, was the exact gift that I relied on after his passing. The music helped get me out of my head for a little while when I was struggling. I found songs singing about loss that really connected with me and I would listen to them on repeat. The shared emotion I felt with the songs was cathartic, and it allowed me to really feel and embrace what I was going through.
Playing guitar was a huge emotional outlet for me. I could pluck away on the guitar for hours, playing the same things over and over again. It would keep my mind entertained and it would make me feel better.
I recently started writing songs, which became another major outlet.
Last year, one of my friends, Jesse Wild, started playing drums and we started playing some real rock and roll. A huge motivation for him as a drummer has been his friend, Dietsch, who passed away when they were younger. Dietsch was a pretty rad drummer as well and certainly influences Jesse as he plays.
When we get on stage and I pick up my guitar and Jesse gets behind his kit, our friends are right there with us. Music is our chance to share our story and share the energy of our friends who have died.
~Sam Noertker, The Stratmores, Vocals + Guitar
The following submission was recieved by a member of our community. If you have a story to share please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"In my experience music is a guardian angel; no matter what you're dealing with it shapes into helping you. It can provide the words you need to hear because you're not strong enough to say them out loud. Or maybe even to scared to. We all have certain songs that even hearing the first chord gives us chills. We have heard the song over and over yet it still hits the spot. Years ago I lost my grandmother who I held dear to me more than anything. Being a shy kid it was hard for me to speak up, but she always made sure my voice was heard. The day I lost her I wanted nothing more than to make her voice heard one last time. But it was just silence. For the first time in my life I had no outlet, and it felt as though everything had changed.
At that point, music began to have its healing effect on me. I remember a specific song I listened to on my way to her funeral, and hearing the words of someone else's loss made me feel less alone.
Not less sad, not less hopeful, just less alone.
For me, music soothes those silent moments when I don't know what to say, and puts out the fire in my heart when it feels like it's burning up. We use music at special occasions, from weddings to funerals, to instill an emotion and embellish the memory.
Music feels like my soul: It guides me, makes me feel certain things.
When I create music it strengthens my soul. Music is more than just sound, it is how we survive. People have certain songs for the bad days, the moments they want to cry, the times when they want to say goodbye and end it all.
Music is my support system. Without it I would be nothing. I used to think the phrase 'music saved my life' was cheesy, but now I look at that and say realize that it can and has. I may have lost a grandmother. I may have been hurt. But I have never gone a day without finding healing through music. The second I put in my headphones I know that I'll be safe. Music is here yet again to save the day."
The following is a submission from a member of our community about how music has helped them heal. If you have a story to share pleas email us at email@example.com
"When I was in 8th grade my best friend killed herself. My entire friend group was devastated, and no one really knew how to cope. I began to play music when we would hang out, and everyone would get so into it. We would all sing along and laugh and seemingly forget about our problems for a while.
We connected over music and felt the pain fade away.
More recently, I lost my girlfriend of over 2 and a half years. My first long term relationship. This occurred simultaneously with other serious life changes; I had just gotten a job and started college. My life was not in a good place, full of constant stress and anxiety. At this point I began to rely on heavy music, listening to records multiple times every day. Every time I felt very down or suicidal I would put on aggressive music, and it helped me relax and relieve stress.
Music is a major part of my life and I don't think I would be here if it wasn't for music."