Music as Healing

The phenomenon of music and grief has been studied by researchers to better understand how music therapists can utilize music to help patients. Many of us use music to feel better. As an outlet to express our emotions, it is interesting to learn how it can be an essential tool for therapists to help treat patients. Music therapy is when patients listen to music or even play and create music as a treatment to better process their feelings of grief. Ruth Bright, the author of “Music therapy in grief solution,” explains how when using music, she noticed that music allowed patients to cry and come to terms with the losses they have felt. I know, for myself, listening to songs about loss helped me to come to terms with the loss of my dog. Bright explains how she introduces music in her sessions. She begins by playing music that is familiar to her and the patient. Certain songs may invoke different feelings for each patient, but she tries her best to not lead the patient to feel a certain way. After listening to music, she allows the patient to improvise their own music with an instrument she has during the sessions or helps patients write lyrics and poems to help cope and understand their situation better. Music allows patients who may have trouble verbalizing their feelings to validate their emotions. When we think of therapy, I believe most of us imagine a Freudian setting. A therapist writes down notes on a clipboard while the patient lays on a sofa. Still, I think music therapy depicts a different story and can be rewarding for both patients and therapists.

Maria’s Take:
Although I have never had a therapist utilize music to help me, music has immensely helped me. This past December, I dealt with one of the most challenging things in my life. My dog, Lucky, passed away. It was abrupt and an accident. I felt as if my world had crumbled all around me. As time has passed, my family and I have tried to find our own ways of coping with his loss. I still have trouble expressing how unfair he is now gone. I try to not focus on his loss in a negative light. That is where artists like Lorde, Rocio Durcal, and Mitski come in.

Lorde’s song “Big Star” reminds me of Lucky. Lorde wrote “Big Star” before her dog, Pearl, passed away. This song describes just how special Lucky was to me and how he was my ‘big star.’ I struggle with his death because he was my friend, and I feel that they might find it silly if others heard my loss. Lorde’s music has helped me validate my feelings about Lucky and how I am so lucky to have had him be a part of my life. Her line, “I’ve got so much to tеll you and not enough time to do it,” reminds me how no one is guaranteed tomorrow and how I wish I could share one more moment with my dog.

Similarly, another song that reminds me of my dog is “Amor Eterno” or Eternal Love. This song was originally written and sung by Juan Gabriel. He wrote this song about his mother, and it is a song that is most often played at memorials and funerals. I think for myself, a line that hits home is “y aunque tengo tranquila mi conciencia, sé que pude haber yo hecho más por ti,” which translates to “although I have a clear conscience, I could have done much more for you.” I think that is the beauty of music and how it allows us to connect. Juan Gabriel wrote this song in 1984, and yet despite our circumstances being different, I understand what he feels. I know my love for my dog is eternal, and perhaps I cannot physically give him that love. However, I am glad that I could shower him with my love when he was here.

It has been about a month since Lucky has passed, and I am much better now. I still miss him, but life has to keep moving forward. However, every now and then, when I take a walk or look through my camera roll, and he pops up, I am overcome with emotion again. Mitski’s song “Francis Forever” reminds me of the aftermath of loss. A specific verse that reminds me how these emotions of loss can creep up “on sunny days, I go out walking/ I end up on a tree-lined street/ I look up at the gaps of sunlight/ I miss you more than anything.”

So, I will go about my day on a beautiful, sunny day, and it will suddenly hit me that Lucky is gone. I am really grateful that my family, boyfriend, and friends have been there for me. Still, turning to music has also helped me better understand my loss and that I am not as alone as I think. So, thank you, Lorde, Juan Gabriel, and Mitski, for reminding me that my emotions are not silly and I will be okay. However, I want to really thank Lucky for all the love he gave. And, I really hope that anyone who has or is currently experiencing the loss of someone they love can read this and resonate with anything I have written.

Emily’s Take:
I’m sure we’ve all experienced some type of pain or discomfort and have turned to an outlet to cope. Whether it’s eating your favorite comfort food, watching a movie, or taking a walk outside, for many, it’s often listening to music. Music has been scientifically proven to effectively treat physical pain … and heartbreak. Whether your emotional pain stems from being ghosted by your crush of the week or a friendship breakup, there has to be at least one song that speaks to your feelings. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that “people felt better when they listened to music that matched their moods.” Personally, dealing with a heartbreak often led me to listen to songs that expressed anger and self love. Basically, I listened to SZA’s “I Hate U” and Summer Walker’s newest album, Still Over It, nonstop. According to the study, we feel better when we listen to music that matches our mood because it helps us express those feelings and also comforts us in feeling less alone. It reinforces the idea that whatever pain we are experiencing is not an isolated and unique feeling, and that even our favorite artists can relate to that same pain. It has helped my own healing process to know that feelings of heartbreak are normal and felt by everyone at some point, which is sad, but also reassuring seeing its a collective experience. Even if my feelings are being validated by an artist I personally don’t know at all, it’s comforting to know that even SZA goes through it sometimes too.

A song I really resonated with was Summer Walker’s “Closure” where she says “Every time I need closure, mess around and get closer to you.” Whether she is referring to sharing physical closeness or the mental gymnastics one can cause when ‘messing around’ with your latest crush, it is fascinating that she has her own unique lived experience, but yet, it feels as if she read my diary and wrote that song for me. This isn’t to say that I am instantly cured from all my heartaches and troubles just because I threw on a good playlist, but it has allowed me to personally express and understand my emotions better. I never realized the huge impact music actually had on my life until I would come across songs that expressed my exact feelings perfectly in ways I thought I was unable to.

There’s nothing like reading along to lyrics of a breakup song that you can relate to. (Congrats! You just hit the jackpot for your new bank of Instagram captions!) There’s a beauty in being able to connect with artists that are complete strangers who are experiencing the same emotions we feel and can turn them into art that many can relate to and benefit from. Listening to music has been super therapeutic for me whenever I need to deal with my emotions, despite just being heartbroken. Whether I’m anxious, sad, happy, or angry, I can count on my speaker and my favorite songs to make me feel better. Do you turn to music when you are feeling certain emotions? How do you cope with a broken heart?

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