Songs for Grief
Courtney and I got a crash course on grief last couple of years. Our little dog got hit by a fire truck; I just lost my fourth grade teacher and long time friend; Another friend from high school who married my cousin is battling brain cancer. There are many things to feel not so excited about right now. Joy is a fight.
But we've also been well equipped. Courtney worked for several months with a top notch grief counseling center—in fact they (long before my wife worked there) were called in to work with the survivors of the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting.
And what was the biggest thing we learned? You have to feel it until it is done. Grief is a reservoir that needs to be emptied or the pain will not go away. In fact when you experience a new traumatic situation you not only have to deal with that reservoir of pain, but you also have to dredge up the old pain and feel all of that again. Bottled grief doesn't go away. In fact, when people grieve the death of a celebrity with intense emotion it is often because they have grief from their past that they haven't processed.
So how do you empty the reservoir? You have to access the pain and then feel it until it's done. Then a few months later when it resurfaced, you have to feel it again until it's done. And how do you access the pain? Well one way is through art, the bridge between emotion and ideas.
There are a lot of songs for grief, including 4 that my friend and mentor Jonathan Reuel put together on the album Past, Future, Present. They are available to stream or download for free.
You might think that sad songs for sad people is a bad idea—but according to neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levinton, when you listen to a sad song when you are sad, your brain releases the same hormone that a mother breastfeeding her child puts into the milk. It's called prolactin—it comforts you.
We've all lost people, places, and things that need to be mourned. Don't shy from the pain—face into it so you can be ready when someone else in trauma needs a friend.