Years ago, I heard an author say all life experiences applied to a book when he was writing it. The same could be said of grief support. When you’re grieving, you may find help in unexpected places and from unexpected people — like a professional ukulele player.

Today, as I was surfing television channels, I came across a CNN program about Jake Saimabukuro. A Hawaiian musician of Japanese descent, Jake started playing the ukulele at an early age and his music is all over the Internet. He talked about the simplicity of the ukulele and described it as an “instrument of peace.”

Unlike the trumpet, which is always loud, Jake said the ukulele was soft and “I had to learn to play it softer.” He strummed a sample melody, the notes loud at first, decreasing in volume, and then barely audible. Apparently soft music makes people listen intently. “I can almost feel the audience learing in and I’m leaning in,” he explained. “We’re all trying to hear the music.”

According to Jake, concerts are all about letting go. Because he has practiced the pieces, he doesn’t feel nervous before a concert. Instead, he considers each concert as a time to share his emotions. This explanation made me think of the grief process.

Though it didn’t happen to me, many mourners get angry at life, so angry they want to scream loudly and rail at life’s unfairness. Unfortunately, anger doesn’t provide answers. Quiet does. Like Jake, maybe we need to play our lives more softly and hear the music of our emotions.

Jake Saimabukuro plays from the depths of his being and it shows. One concert-goer, a ukulele player himself, said he came to Jake’s concert because he plays music “that touches my soul.” Instead of going too fast, talking too much, and doing too much, I think we need to slow down, quiet ourselves, and embrace stillness.

In the stillness, we rediscover ourselves. Each of us has our own melody, a song that expresses our spirit. It may be hard to hear your song right now, but it is there, deep inside you, waiting to be sung. Like Jake, you may lean in and hear life’s music.

No music is like yours. Hear it. Share it. Play with all your being.


Harriet Hodgson 2012


Harriet Hodgson

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

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