By Tony Falzano —

This is the 2nd in a series of four articles on music and how it acts as a healing agent for those grieving a loss. Last month we discussed the health benefits of listening to music. This month, we’ll look at another way that music helps us move through the grief process.

The first time I saw music work, other than as an entertainment vehicle, was my senior year of college. I took a psychology course one semester. The professor had each student commit to be of service to a specific population of the community. Being a songwriter, I offered to play piano and sing to the residents of a nursing home near the college. I performed songs, such as, “You’re Sixteen,” “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” and a bouquet of musical theater tunes that the residents would recognize from earlier in their life.

From my piano bench, I saw them smile, hum and tap their fingers on the handle of their wheelchairs. A few kept the beat by rocking their heads back and forth like a metronome. I also noticed how the music temporarily changed their mood and attitude. Towards the end of the semester, one nurse commented, “They like it when you play. It takes them out of their world for a while.” And it was true; the music made it easy for them to focus their attention away from their surroundings.

One of the major ways that music assists us during grief resolution is that it can be mesmerizing and absorbing and actually divert our attention away from physical and emotional pain. Music can be a distraction.

Every day, we see music act as a diversion, especially in places where people do not feel comfortable. This includes the nurse’s office in elementary schools where children go when they are sick and their mothers are not around. Elevators are another place you’ll hear music. It calms the nervous passenger who is leaving the ground at a rapid speed. Music also helps people to relax in recovery rooms of hospitals. In addition, have you ever been to the dentist office and not heard easy listening music? Why? As in all of these situations, music distracts people from their uncomfortable surroundings.

Now, there are two ways we can be in contact with music: we can hear it or we can listen to it. Hearing music means it plays while we do something else. It’s background while we clean the house, study or work on the computer.

Listening to music, on the other hand, means giving it our undivided attention. Though hearing music is advantageous at times, listening to music when healing can divert our attention away from what is troubling us. Listening to music can provide us health benefits.

As I mentioned last month, some people find slow, soothing, instrumental music works best in this situation because of its relaxing qualities. However, the choice of music you listen to is up to you. It just needs to bring you enjoyment.

So to begin your listening session, select music that will play long enough for the allowed time you have. Feel free to put on some loose fitting clothes to help you relax. Position yourself in a comfortable chair. Take a few slow, deep breaths and close your eyes. Focus on the music. Listen to the melody as it rises and falls.

I like to listen to the main theme as it develops, especially when other instruments are added and the musical intensity increases. You can hum along with the song. I’ve known individuals who identify the different instrument(s) featured. Others will pick one instrument and follow its part throughout the composition.

You can soak in the musical emotions of the piece; what is the story in the song? You can also become more involved by picturing yourself playing one of the instruments or conducting the orchestra. Still some people will use the music to transport to a pleasant, peaceful, quiet place, such as walking a path through a forest or sitting on a shore looking out to the ocean.

Music can also inspire you to overcome an obstacle or accomplish a goal. When the music reaches the chorus or motivating part in the song, recite your goal out loud. Repeat it several times. I have a friend, a hospice nurse, who encourages those grieving loss to say these words: “It’s normal for me to be abnormal for a while, but I won’t be like this forever.”

These words allow the individual the opportunity to accept themselves at the time while looking forward to the future. Re-enforcing your intention with music can be the first step as you move to wellness.

Another suggestion is to recall, in the presence of music, meaningful moments with your loved one. You can watch a movie in your mind. One person used music as the catalyst for his movie. When the music sounded sad, he saw the unhappy times with the individual who passed on. When the music was brighter, this person viewed the happier times. He allowed the musical meaning to help him work through grief.

Listening to music can alter our mood so we relax the body, unwind the mind, and experience joy. And similar to the residents of the nursing home where I played many years ago, listening to music can take us “out of our world for a while.” And there is still another element that music provides during these times. But I will explore this with you next month. I hope you will look for it.

In closing, I recall a song that was popular in the early 1970’s. It is an appropriate reminder of what we can do when we want music’s healing benefit while moving through the grief process. The song is by the Doobie Brothers. It’s entitled, “Listen to the Music!”

Tony Falzano is an author, college professor and a speaker on the enormous health benefits that music has to offer. This is especially helpful for those grieving a loss; whether it be loss of a loved one, pet, employment, health, marriage or relationship. He is also an award winning songwriter whose music CD, In Abba’s Arms, has reached the ears and souls of those grieving a loss. The album is an offering of 12 original instrumentals designed to be an  inspirational companion  that brings comfort to those searching for healing and hope. The CD is often used for meditation and to enhance relaxation and quiet contemplation.

In Abba’s Arms is available at and through the Centering Corporation, ( at 1.866.218.0101. This is a non-profit organization providing education and resources for the bereaved.

Tony can be reached at

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Tony Falzano

Tony Falzano is an author, college professor and songwriter who resides in Rochester, New York. He writes and speaks on the enormous health benefits that music has to offer. His articles on the power in music to heal can be found in all the major grief publications. In addition, his presentations such as, “Composing Grief” has been highly regarded in grief and hospice organizations throughout western New York. Furthermore, Tony is an award winning songwriter whose career expands 40 years. He composes music to assist people to feel calm, centered and relaxed. His music CD, “Just a Touch Away”, along with his first album, "In Abba’s Arms", have been listened to by many grieving a loss. Both CDs contain beautifully orchestrated, melodic, instrumental music designed to be a companion to those searching for healing and hope. You are invited to view, read and listen to both albums. Please visit

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