Grief in the Hospital and Music’s Role

Music and griefGrief can be a common emotion in the hospital setting. What role does music play? Read on …

Before I entered the patient’s room with my harp, I was told the mother (patient) and daughter (caregiver in the room) were grieving. One of the first things they said to me was they lost a son/brother four months ago. I’m not sure what the mother’s physical illness was (the reason she was hospitalized) but I had the sense that whatever it was was completely predicated by grief and sadness. There was a heaviness, a deep sorrow prevalent in their room.

I used the musical principle of Inclusive Attention. (Inclusive Attention is the art of being attentive to the patient and modifying the music to accommodate for the mental, emotional, physical, and/or spiritual state. It is asking, “What is meeting me here? What am I observing? How do I need to respond?” The heaviness of grief, mourning, and intense sadness is appropriately met with music that is sad, melancholic, and minor. This is contrary to what many people think, but by meeting grief with sad, melancholic music, you acknowledge and honor the patient’s condition or situation and give him or her permission to feel and release the feelings.)

I played music that was quite somber for this mother and daughter. As tears flowed and the feelings of grief and mourning began to lift slightly, it was appropriate to transition the music very slowly from minor keys into major keys. The mood and the music shifted, ebbing and flowing between minor and major. (This is a sub-conscious way of demonstrating that it is vital to feel/express sorrow and dark feelings, as well as OK to feel hope and lightness, sometimes within seconds/minutes of each other … all a natural part of the grieving process.)

I ended our harp therapy session with Amazing Grace which felt like an important connection for them, as well as connecting with their transitioned loved one. While I was playing, I also had the feeling that this mother’s son was hovering above her shoulders and crown chakra. I mentioned this to the mother as I left and she hugged me saying, “This gives me so much comfort. Thank you…”

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