Music For Healing
Meaningful & Healing Music Experiences
View video playlists related to specific topics, including both participants and grief professionals. Use the controls at the top-left to navigate videos within each playlist or use the larger arrows to view additional playlists.
Grief Stories features short videos, podcast interviews, and blog posts offering ideas for incorporating music as a healing part of your grieving. You’ll also find some songs created by or for grieving people for inspiration.
The tools and activities on this website are intended to be used as a resource for people who are grieving, those who are supporting grievers and healthcare professionals. The information provided is NOT meant to be a substitute for professional therapy.
All content, including our videos, is vetted by health care experts.
Grief Involves Powerful Emotions.
You don’t need to be an experienced musician to include music as part of your healing journey. Grief often involves powerful emotions. Listening, composing, moving and / or performing music can offer opportunities to ease, explore and express your grief.
Music can feel like a companion during times of loss. It can help you to express the pain of grief, adapt to loss, manage thoughts and emotions, experience feelings of connection with the deceased, and feel a sense of ‘normality’ or relief.
There may also be times when your response to music touches upon intense feelings and vivid memories. If you feel raw, vulnerable, and overwhelmed right now, it may not be the right time in your journey to use music for healing.
Alternately, it might be just the time you would benefit from the support of a certified music therapist, who can consider your unique personal and cultural needs to help you create or receive meaningful and healing musical experiences.
Your responses to music can change, shifting over time as your experience of grief changes. Consider using music, based on your personal needs as they evolve, or perhaps working with a music therapist, might be helpful for you as you grieve.
The Power of Music
During times of grief your experiences of listening to music or making music may be surprising or not what you expect. In grief, you might find:
- Music feels overwhelming, and powerful
- Memories that come up are distressing
- Feelings come up in waves
- You feel numb or you may not connect to the music at all
- Some music experiences previously shared with a lost loved one feel empty or painful
Adrienne Pringle MMT, RP, MTA
Registered Psychotherapist (CRPO), Certified Music Therapist (MTA, CAMT)
Adrienne brings 20 years of clinical experience in end of life care and bereavement care in sharing her perspectives with grief stories. She believes strongly in the power of music and creative expression to heal, and has experienced this first hand in her work with clients she supports.
She is a past President of the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) and Music Therapist at Carpenter Hospice and CHM Therapy. Adrienne is co-founder and Director of Beyond the Studio and Sing it Girls!®.
Adrienne created the Singing Well bereavement program, her research conducted in collaboration with Dr. Laurel Young and Concordia University is published in Bereavement Care. Adrienne is a proud east coaster, growing up in Halifax, these days she lives in Burlington, Ontario, she and husband Travis stay active keeping up with their teenagers, Bailey & Alec.
Laurel Young PhD
Certified Music Therapist (MTA), Psychotherapist (Québec), Fellow of the Association for Music & Imagery (FAMI)
Laurel is also an Associate Professor of Music Therapy at Concordia University (Montréal). Prior to joining Concordia in 2011, she was the Professional Leader of Creative Arts Therapies at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Toronto). Dr. Young has received awards from Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo) and Temple University (Philadelphia) for outstanding contributions to her field.
In 2014, she received the Canadian Association of Music Therapists’ (CAMT) Research & Publications award. She has over 25 years of diverse clinical experience, authored several publications, presented internationally, and served on the CAMT and Canadian Music Therapy Fund Boards. She is a research member of Concordia’s PERFORM Centre, Concordia’s Arts in Health Research Collective (AHRC), and the Centre for Research and Expertise in Social Gerontology (CREGÉS).
She currently serves as the Associate Director of engAGE: Concordia’s Centre for Research on Aging. In her spare time, Laurel pursues her own musical interests and hangs out in the country with her partner James (artist and art therapist) and their two cats Gladys and Monty.
Wellness, Wellplayed: The Power of a Playlist!
Jennifer Buchanan MBA, MTA
In Wellness, Wellplayed, acclaimed music therapist Jennifer Buchanan shows us how to use music playlists with purpose, as a bridge to something deeper within ourselves—and a way to address our human need to feel, create, and connect.
In theory, putting together a playlist is incredibly simple — but that does not make it easy. This guide will help you dive deep into all the ways playlists can have an impact on your memory, mood, and motivation — the Wellness, Wellplayed way.
In grief, music may help you to process your loss, or it may provide you with a temporary distraction from the stress of your grief. Take time to listen to listen to some of your favourite music or other music that has come to mind since the death of your loved one.
Notice how the music makes you feel — physically and emotionally. Music can evoke a wide range of complex emotions, some that may be more or less helpful at this time. This is a way that you can explore new music in addition to familiar favourites. We have offered some suggestions below to get you started. Creating a personalized playlist involves having your unique list of music ‘at the ready’ and choosing the ‘right’ music to meet your particular needs as they arise. There are many different ways to create a playlist that works for you.
Here are some sample playlists from Spotify to give you some ideas of what a playlist built around a specific theme might look like.
Search for pieces that resonate with your experiences of grief or selections that simply appeal to you. Any music that represents what you’re feeling or that you find helpful in some way is valid to include in your personal playlist, even if including it only makes sense to you.
If you’d like support to create a personalized playlist, consider working with a certified music therapist. Search for a certified music therapist (MTA) here:
Playlist Making Examples
Knowing that music is a powerful vehicle to express feelings, people often create playlists to match their mood when they experience a loss. This is also true for people in the process of dying. Alex knew this and as he prepared for his death he wanted to create a personally selected list of pieces to be played at his funeral.
Working with a music therapist, he listened to a number of selections and talked about their message and meaning. The songs Alex chose to be played at his funeral were personal, meaningful to him, and directed toward people he expected would attend the ceremony to celebrate his life.
As he worked with the music therapist to select music that would create messages for important people in his life, the process allowed him to grieve his inability to live in a way that was true to himself and to release his feelings toward those who had not accepted him in life. He was able to express a full range of his emotions, including periods of weeping as well as laughter, supported by the music therapist.
Gemma was also aware of the power of music to help people express emotions. When her best friend died suddenly, Gemma found herself drawn to the music they had listened to as children, through their teen years and into adulthood.
Sometimes, though, she couldn’t bear to listen to that music without her friend. Gemma began to search for songs that matched her mood and helped her express her deepest feelings. Ultimately she created a playlist that reflected her experience. The playlist began with angry songs, and Gemma would sing along in an animated way.
Next, were a series of sad songs, and Gemma would allow herself to cry as she listened to these pieces. Finally, she included a few selections that brought her a sense of calm. When Gemma’s feelings were swirling, this playlist gave her a way to express the difficult feelings and find her way to some peace.