It offers a creative and playful space for the full family or individual family members to explore and process their feelings of grief and loss. In the music therapy session there may be improvised music-making using instruments or voice, song writing or use of recorded music that is meaningful to the family or child.
Many times I have been both moved and impressed by a young child’s ability to creatively express their grief and communicate to their parents what they need in the midst of the parent’s grieving process. I remember a bereaved sibling, during a music therapy session, looking straight at his Dad and singing ‘look at me now, I want you, I want you, I want you!’ This stream of consciousness improvised song communicated clearly that this child needed Dad’s full attention and called Dad, from his grief, to come back to him.
Other striking moments come when children use songs to process their grief and loss. Again a memory of a teenage boy who, through Music Therapy, put voice to his journey of grief. The songs he shared offered lyrics such as ‘I miss you’ and ‘Where are you now?’ to ‘It’s a wall of tears I got to get over […] and I’m gonna be fine, but until then, the rain’s gonna fall just like a wall of tears*’. The safety and containment of the recorded song can feel more manageable than trying to find your own words for such an experience.
Songs and music can emotionally hold what can be difficult for us. In hearing them we can once more feel connected to the person who has died in ways that can bring sadness or joyfulness. Each in itself enables us to further process our grief or find nourishment and some relief.
Helen Arthur, Music Therapist LauraLynn Children’s Hospice
*excerpt from Frances Black ‘Wall of Tears’.