The time following the loss of a loved one sends us all through waves of unexpected emotions.
Our windshield of life is clouded with despair.
Everyone’s grief is different, no two days will be the same, and you have every right to feel exactly how you feel after a loved one passes.
During these times, it’s easy to feel isolated and lonely, but we will always have something that can help us bring clarity to our emotions and what lays ahead…and that’s music.
Music is our friend in the dark when no one else is there to comfort us.
It’s sound that helps us dig to the bottom of our deep wounds and begin healing.
What music do people listen to during grief?
We asked 146 people about their experience listening to music while they grieve the loss of a loved one.
The wide variety of responses shows that there is no one right song for grieving. Emotions come and go, and preferences on music, or lack thereof, will likely change as someone moves through the grieving process.
While suggestions of music varied from reggae to smooth jazz and everything in between, there were also those who couldn’t bear to listen to music at all in the fear that it will trigger a breakdown they weren’t emotionally strong enough to handle.
We’ve learned that there are different types of music that can help to:
>> Express emotions
>> Distract from overwhelming grief
>> Find connection
>> Celebrate life
>> Uncover motivation to carry on
>> Invite peace into life
Now, let’s dive into how music can help and a few songs to listen to for each of these intentions.
How can music help you express emotion?
When you lose a loved one, you have the choice to sit with your emotions or avoid them completely.
While sobbing may not always sound appealing, it’s what helps release tension in the body and begin the process of letting go.
According to Dr. Orloff, after crying, our breathing and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state. Emotional tears shed hormones and other toxins which accumulate during stress.
Studies also suggest that crying stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural painkiller and “feel-good” hormones.
Yes, you heard that right. Crying can make you feel better.
Knowing this, you may be more inclined to find the sad song or the song that triggers memories so that you can cry it out.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” ~ Victor Hugo
If you want to express emotion, try listening to:
>> Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth: “See You Again”
>> James Taylor: “Fire & Rain”
>> Tracy Chapman: “Fast Car”
>> Maggie Rogers: “Dog Years”
The goal is to find music that matches the emotions you’re feeling.
If you’re angry, play “Break Stuff” by Limp Bizkit as you scream out the lyrics, or, if you’re sad, try letting out some tears to “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John.
Whatever you’re feeling, there will be a song to help you process the emotions.
How can music help distract you?
In the time following the death of a loved one, there may be moments when you decide you want things to be back to normal, or at least pretend to be back to normal for a few minutes. To feel real again.
In these moments, when you’re craving a distraction from the deep emotions, music can be a great way to bring you back to yourself, the present moment, and help you feel whole again.
After all, you know your loved one would want you to be happy and carry on.
If you want to use music as a distraction, try listening to:
>> Bob Marley: “Three Little Birds”
>> Poolside: “Esperar Pra Ver”
>> Jack Johnson: “Upside Down”
>> Boombox: “Showboat”
Put on a new upbeat song that doesn’t particularly remind you of the one you lost. Close your eyes and get lost in the sound. Dance like nobody’s watching, bringing your body into the groove.
Allow the music to travel through you as you live in the moment, focus on every beat, and let the past live in the rearview mirror for a few minutes.
How can music help you find connection and celebrate the life of a loved one?
After a loved one passes, you will feel abandoned at times. If there’s no one else around to comfort you in the midst of the waves of emotions, music can also be a beautiful way to connect with your lost loved one.
When you’re alone in the car, cooking dinner at home, or tossing and turning in bed, music can be a refuge from the feeling of isolation.
Many people make playlists of all of their loved one’s favorite songs to commemorate their life.
One woman said, “I made a playlist with songs that reminded me of him and I absolutely love it! It doesn’t make me sad, it makes me remember how great of a love story we had. I listen daily now!”
If you want to use music as a way to find connection or celebrate life, try listening to:
>> Your loved one’s favorite songs
>> Songs from any concerts you attended together
>> Songs from your loved one’s favorite movies
>> Songs with lyrics that help describe your loved one
>> Songs from any other memories you have
While you’re creating a playlist to include the music that helps you connect with your loved one, know that it’s completely normal to feel during this. If you need to cry, let it out. As we discussed earlier, letting it out is part of the healing process.
How can music help you get motivated?
Finding the motivation to move on with life, and live the life your loved ones would want you to, can be extremely daunting when going through grief.
That’s where music can lend a helping hand. An upbeat song and putting a smile on your face can help you act the way you want to feel.
Try listening to songs that lift your spirits and have inspiring lyrics to help you reach your full potential, even in this tough time.
If you want to use music to get motivated, try listening to:
>> Matisyahu: “Sunshine”
>> Can’t Hang: “Bird River Grove”
>> Kat Wright: “The River”
>> New Radicals: “You Get What You Give”
Be patient with yourself. If you’re having a hard time finding motivation with music, give yourself some time and listen to what feels right for you.
In time, you’ll find what works to get you moving.
How can music help you find peace?
The regret of the past and worry of the future without them can become too much to deal with. Racing thoughts and anxiety are common for anyone who loses a loved one.
If you’re having a hard time sleeping and quieting your mind during your grieving process, or if music triggers too much pain for you to deal with on your own, playing peaceful sounds can help your mind and body return to a calm state.
Try playing music without vocals, nature sounds, or guided meditations to help put your mind at peace.
If you want to use music to find peace, try listening to:
>> M83: “Midnight Souls Still Remain”
>> Ludovico Einaudi: “Nuvole Bianche”
>> Ceilidh: “Suaimhneas”
>> Zen Music Garden: “Ascension”
When you’re listening to the peaceful sounds, it can help to return to focusing on your breath. When your mind wanders, simply bring it back to your breath and let the peaceful sounds wash over you.
What if music doesn’t help?
If music is too painful for you to handle at this moment in your grieving process, know that is okay. Everyone handles grief differently.
Silence is always an alternative to music.
If this is the case for you, practicing mindfulness can help you bring your attention to the present moment and help you experience life in front of you.
To practice mindfulness, inquire what each sense is experiencing in the moment.
>> What do you smell?
>> Are you holding tension anywhere in your body?
>> Can you feel the air moving in and out of your body?
>> What do you see around you?
>> What do you hear?
>> What is the furthest sound you can hear?
>> Take the time to taste your tea as you sip it.
As time goes on and you feel ready, you can try introducing music back into your life.
Grieving is never easy.
A piece of us is ripped away, never to be fully returned. So as we begin to heal our broken heart, remember that there are others out there going through similar journeys, attempting to make sense of the insensible.
We have our words and music to help bond us in these tough times.
If you’re looking for more songs to help you through the grief process, here are some of the most recommended sad songs for grief across the internet:
>> Eric Clapton: “Tears in Heaven”
>> Sarah Mclachlan: “In The Arms of an Angel”
>> The Beatles: “Let It Be”
>> Paul McCartney: “Here Today”
>> Celine Dion: “My Heart Will Go On”
>> Faith Hill: “You’re Still Here”
>> Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men: “One Sweet Day”
>> Puff Daddy ftr. Faith Evans: “I’ll Be Missing You”
>> Diamond Rio: “One More Day”
>> Rascal Flatts: “Why”
>> Kenny Chesney: “Who You’d Be Today”
>> Justin Moore: “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”
>> Green Day: “Wake Me Up When September Ends”
Here is the full Spotify playlist of everything we covered, so you can take this music with you on the go.