Exploring Music For Healing

"Celebrate the life."

— Cale Crowe

Cale Crowe

Songs of Solace

Curated with care, these music selections may resonate as you heal in grief.

Gymnopedie # 1

Eric Satie

French composer Eric Satie is best remembered for composing one of the most relaxing and meditative pieces of classical music ever written. Eric Satie composed a series of three Gymnopédies, which were completed in 1888. At around the same time the French Impressionist art movement was exhibiting their revolutionary works. Like those stunning paintings full of diffused light and soft focus still-life and portrait paintings, Satie captured the mood with his painterly piano musings.  

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Roberta Flack

One of the most beautiful love songs ever written was composed by British folk singer and activist Ewan McColl. MacColl is best known for a couple of classic songs: the much-covered Dirty Old Town and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, written in 1957 for his wife, Peggy Seeger, herself a singer of folk songs (and half-sister to Pete Seeger.) The song was not widely known until soul R&B singer Roberta Flack made it an international smash hit in 1972.

You’ve Got a Friend

James Taylor

Having a friend in time of need is a gift we all treasure. Just as important is giving of yourself when a friend or loved one is in need. Carole King wrote this simple yet enduring classic pop song for her 1971 album Tapestry. James Taylor’s version of the song is just as compelling.  

When you're down and troubled
And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I'll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I'll be there
You've got a friend

Requiem - Pie Jesu

By Gabriel Fauré

The Requiem owes its origins to the Christian faith, traditionally it is a prayer or lament for the deceased. Gabriel Faure’s requiem, composed in the late 1880’s is noted for its calm serene ambience, very different from most other works in this genre. The Pie Jesu can be translated as Pious Jesus. With such beauty, it’s as if this composition had been touched by the hand of the divine.

Kathleen Battle / Pie Jesu

Morning Has Broken

Cat Stevens

Morning Has Broken is closely associated with singer-songwriter Cat Stevens but it is in fact a Christian hymn first published in England in 1931. The words are by Eleanor Farjeon and it is set to a traditional Scottish tune Bunessan. It is often performed at children’s services and funerals. The hymn gives thanks to each and every day that we are alive.  

Don’t Give Up

In the Peter Gabriel song Don’t Give Up, guest singer Kate Bush sings: 

Don't give up
'Cause you have friends
Don't give up
You're not beaten yet
Don't give up
I know you can make it good

A song of hope that was inspired by an image of despair depicted in Dorothy Lang’s famous depression era photo that Peter Gabriel had seen. In the song Gabriel is also referring to the economic hardships millions of his fellow Brits were experiencing during the Thatcher era. 

 

Gone to soon

Michael Jackson

For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one will understand the saying “gone too soon”. They are also the words of a song popularized [but not composed by] Michael Jackson in 1993. Jackson dedicated the song to the memory of his young friend Ryan White who had been expelled from school for having HIV/AIDS. Sixteen years later Gone Too Soon was performed by Usher at Michael Jackson’s memorial service.

Cavatina

John Williams

British composer Stanley Myers joined forces with Australian born classical guitarist John Williams to create the soundtrack for the 1978 Vietnam war film The Deer Hunter. The most evocative and memorable piece from the soundtrack is the beautiful Cavatina. The music had originally been written for piano, but thankfully John Williams persuaded Stanley Myers to rearrange it for solo guitar. There might only be six strings on John Williams’ acoustic guitar, but they are enough to melt the heart.

 

Samuel Barber

Adagio for Strings and Orchestra

One of the most recognizable and best loved classical compositions of all time is undoubtedly American composer Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Orchestra. The solemn, ruminative mood of the music has spread beyond the confines of the concert hall – it was played at the funerals of Albert Einstein, Franklin D. Roosevelt funeral and after JFK's assassination. It has been used effectively in Hollywood movies, TV commercials and even an electronic music dance floor favourite.

 

Romeo and Juliet Love Theme

Henry Mancini

How do you write the theme tune for a movie that tells one of the greatest love stories ever told? If your name happens to be Henry Mancini, it might just be like another day at the office. Mancini has composed music for movie classics such as Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther theme tune, The Peter Gunn theme tune and many more. Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare and tells the story of two young members of feuding families and the forbidden love that flowers between them, and ends in tragedy.

 

Grief often involves powerful emotions. Listening to, composing, moving to, and performing music can offer opportunities to explore and express grief. You don’t need to be an experienced musician to include music as part of your healing journey.

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.

There may 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.

Music can touch us deeply, bringing up vivid memories and strong emotions.  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

Meet Our
Music Consultants

Adrienne Pringle

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

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.

Meaningful & Healing Music Experiences Playlist

View video playlists related to specific topics, including both participants and grief professionals.

Music-Related Videos

We’ve gathered information and insights from music therapists, music and songwriting educators, composers, performers, and audiences who know how music can serve as a vehicle for communicating deep thoughts and feelings.

There may be times when your response to music touches upon intense feelings and vivid memories.

Adrienne – Music and grief

Adrienne – Music and grief

Adrienne talks about the many ways music can help during a time of grief

Sara – Lyrics

Sara – Lyrics

Sara talks about how lyrics can have an impact on how we experience music

Valmy – My story of loss

Valmy – My story of loss

Valmy talks but the death of her uncle

Sara – Music and celebration of life

Sara – Music and celebration of life

Sara explains how music can play an importand and significant role in celebrations of life.

Cheryl B – How music can help anyone

Cheryl B – How music can help anyone

Cheryl talks about escaping into music

Madelyn – Grieving process as a 2nd generation Canadian

Madelyn – Grieving process as a 2nd generation Canadian

Madelyn talks about being a 2nd generation Canadian, some things she has learend working in palliative care as a music therapist

Murray – Be patient

Murray – Be patient

Murray explains the most important thing he has learned about grief

Valmy – Creating a song to open dialogue

Valmy – Creating a song to open dialogue

Valmy talks about how music helps her process feelings and also helps her express her feelings to others

Logan – My story

Logan – My story

Logan talks about the death of his father and bone cancer and how writing music helped

One Breath at a Time

One Breath at a Time

Music Video for people impacted by suicide loss

Maureen – Music at the end of life

Maureen – Music at the end of life

Maureen discusses how music can help during end of life

Murray – Giving space for grief in song writing class

Murray – Giving space for grief in song writing class

Murray talks about song writing, death and making space

Mary – What I would say to my younger self

Mary – What I would say to my younger self

Mary talks about what she has learned about grief

Logan – Songwriting and grief

Logan – Songwriting and grief

Logan explains how a song about his father helped

Sara – Music and grief

Sara – Music and grief

Sara discusses how music can connect and help by acknowledging grief and bringing comfort

Cheryl B – Lyrics, melody and story

Cheryl B – Lyrics, melody and story

Cheryl discusses story and the power of lyrics

Cale – Music is my net

Cale – Music is my net

Cale talks about his background, music and how music helps him express and process grief

Valmy – Music for me and for others

Valmy – Music for me and for others

Valmy talks about music she has created around her loss and how it helps her connect with others

Sara – My Story

Sara – My Story

Sara talks about why she became a music therapist, espression and connecting to feelings

Cale – Advice for writing music about grief

Cale – Advice for writing music about grief

Cale discussses the relationship between your art and how you feel

Cale – Give yourself time

Cale – Give yourself time

Cale discusses songwriting advice and grief

Holly – Gifts in moments at the end of life

Holly – Gifts in moments at the end of life

Lynda discusses how to deal with guilt.Holly talks about singing at the end of life

Madelyn – My story

Madelyn – My story

Madelyn tells her story and how she became a music therapist working in palliative care

Cale – Grief/music and his community

Cale – Grief/music and his community

Cale discusses musicallity, community and grief.

Adrienne – Gloria’s story

Adrienne – Gloria’s story

Adrienne tells the story of Gloria writing a song based on her husband's whistling

Matt – Music helped my grief

Matt – Music helped my grief

Matt discusses how creativity and music help his grief

Cale – Celebrate the life

Cale – Celebrate the life

Cale talks about sacred fire, grief and celebrating the life

Cheryl B – My story

Cheryl B – My story

Cheryl discusses her husbands mental illness and then death from a heart attack

Justin – The power of lyrics

Justin – The power of lyrics

Justin talks about lyrics and hope

Justin – Expression and grief

Justin – Expression and grief

Justin talks about what his grief is like and hope

Valmy – The power of lyrics

Valmy – The power of lyrics

Valmy explains how lyrics can take the pressure off if you don't know how to communicate. how you are feeling

Valmy – It’s ok to feel how you are feeling

Valmy – It’s ok to feel how you are feeling

Valmy discusses feelings and how she copes

Madelyn – The power of music

Madelyn – The power of music

Madelyn - discusses the potency of music and processing good and bad memories

Cheryl B – My dream of creating a choir

Cheryl B – My dream of creating a choir

Cheryl talks about she created a number of choirs including children, female physicians and seniors... Voices Rock Canada

Maureen – Music as a tribute

Maureen – Music as a tribute

Maureen talks about how music can connect and comfort

Mary – Taking songwriting classes

Mary – Taking songwriting classes

Mary explains two reasons why people take songwriting classes

Mary – Music as a tool

Mary – Music as a tool

Mary talks about her involvement in songwriting and in hospice

Justin – Song writing and lyrics

Justin – Song writing and lyrics

Justin explains how lyrics can help convey feelings and how loss has impacted you

Cale – Music and processing

Cale – Music and processing

Cale talks about death in the family and writing about the experience

Cheryl B – Music and how it affects me

Cheryl B – Music and how it affects me

Cheryl explains how songwriting and singing has helped her with grief and with the pandemic

Valmy – Checking in on someone is good

Valmy – Checking in on someone is good

Valmy explains how helpful it is to check in on someone who is grieving

Sara – Listening to music

Sara – Listening to music

Sara discusses how listening to music can help navigate loss

Maureen – Funeral music

Maureen – Funeral music

Maureen talks explains how music can bring back positive memories

Sara – Music at the end of life

Sara – Music at the end of life

Sara talks about the values of music at the end of life

Cheryl B – Singing

Cheryl B – Singing

Cheryl expresses how singing gives her such joy and release

Holly – Singing in the last days

Holly – Singing in the last days

Holly talks about her partner's pancreatic cancer diagnosis, the pandemic, their decisions, faith and how singing

Adrienne – Music Therapists Can Help

Adrienne – Music Therapists Can Help

Adrienne explains different ways that music can help grievers

Justin – My story with music and grief

Justin – My story with music and grief

Justin how he came to find music as grief therapy and how it helps him express his grief

Sara – Creating music

Sara – Creating music

Sara explains how creating music can be a part of the grieving process

Murray – The power of music

Murray – The power of music

Murray discusses the power of music and how it accesses your heart

Maureen – Writing a song for a friend who is dying

Maureen – Writing a song for a friend who is dying

Maureen talks about writing as song for a dying friend

Logan – Advice

Logan – Advice

Logan discusses how its good tp let out your emotions

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