The Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) features Joy Berger talking about the impact music and composition has made in her life. The founder of Composing Life, Berger is an advocate of using music to heal. She wrote Music of the Soul: Composing Life Out of Loss to help others use music in their own healing journey. Music has always been central to her life, whether it was dancing ballet, performing in an orchestra, or learning Bach on the piano. She pursued a doctorate in music, but a sudden injury to her hand put a brief halt to her life.

Berger was passionate about finding a new way to play. It helped her move through mourning in her life, and also showed her many other avenues. Memorialize your loss, she urges. Create playlists and collect music that helps you commemorate the life of a loved one who’s passed. Berger created CD and DVD sets when her father died, and sharing it with others was part of her grief journey.

A Musical Journey

Identify what music taps into your comfort, joy, hope, or sadness needs. Always keep it close by so you can rely on it easily. Understand what music makes you feel. What emotions does it bring up? If the music brings up too much emotion, you can turn it off. If it’s helping, you can turn it up. You’re in control of the music in your life, and that’s a great thing for the bereaved.

You don’t need to be a professional musician like Berger to benefit from music—you don’t even need to sing or play an instrument! Listening to music can be an active form of participation. There’s no limit to what music can do to help you heal.


Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is a licensed psychologist, social worker, and bereaved sibling. She co-hosts the award-winning weekly cable television show and podcast, Open to Hope. Dr. Heidi is an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and an award-winning author, who has co-authored eight books, and serves on the United Nations Global Mental Health Task Force. She also serves on the Advisory Boards for the Tragedy Assistance Program, the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and Peace of Mind Afghanistan. She served on the National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, and for 10 yrs. worked on a Columbia University research study looking at traumatic loss over time in families who lost a firefighter in the World Trade Center.

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