Music for Grieving

By Harriet Hodgson —

After my daughter died in February of 2007 my husband and I looked for ways to remember her. We did the usual things — had a memorial service, told stories, and gave money to the church. But we wanted to do more. How could we keep our daughter’s spirit alive?

The choir was designated as the recipient of our church donation. I had been a choir member for more than 20 years and thought the money would be used for sheet music. The Co-Director of Music had a better idea — a commissioned song in her memory. I loved this idea. Music has always been part of my life and I thought a choral piece would comfort and uplift others.

I have belonged to several church choirs and one community choir. Singing taught me about the power of music. The Relaxation Emporium Website published an article about this power, “Music: A Powerful Relaxation Tool,” by Duane Shinn. While music therapy is not new, Shinn says the healing power of music is just starting to be understood. “How many times have you turned to music to uplift you even further in happy times, or sought the comfort of music when melancholy strikes?” he asks.

Some music provokes sad emotions, yet listening to it can still be a pleasure. Ben Koen makes this point in “The Problem of Negative Emotions,” published on the Ohio State University School of Music Website. His article cites some of the current research about sad music and responses to it. “How music can evoke a pleasant-sad emotional response and why people would seek a sad emotion in music is not totally resolved,” concludes Koen.

Who would compose the song in memory of our daughter? The Co-Director of Music contacted Elizabeth Alexander, a well-known Minnesota composer, and she emailed us several poems to consider for the lyrics. All of the poems were depressing. Alexander sent us several other poems, among them, “A Litany of Remembrance” by Roland B. Gittelsohn. The lyrics were perfect. Months passed, and we continued to do our grief work. Meantime, Alexander was doing her work, and finished the song sooner than expected.

Last night I heard it for the first time. The title, “We Remember Them,” is the poem’s refrain. Though the sight reading wasn’t perfect, the choir members heard the beauty and power of the song. Alexander has a dramatic key change at the end, a double forte place that sent chills down my spine. I thought to myself, “She nailed it.” Gittelsohn’s last line also nails it — “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now part of us . . .”

You may wish to honor your departed loved one with special music. A friend of mine had an organ concert at church in her husband’s memory, for example. If you decide to commission a song, relatives may willing to help with the cost. A family picnic and sing-along is another way to honor your loved one. Music lingers in our minds and helps us to remember loved ones. We can continue to sing their song.

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson

http://www.harriethodgson.comHarriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.

Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion resource, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.

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Harriet Hodgson

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Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling), and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website, and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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