Everybody knows that music can resonate in the soul. Sad and beautiful songs can pull at our emotions while bouncy, happy tracks can make us want to get up and dance. At a surface level, music is easy to understand. We connect with the words and sounds, but did you know that music can actually help you to heal? Numerous studies have shown that music can play an integral part in helping suicide loss survivors cope, understand, and heal in the wake of tragedy. We put together a list of songs, ranging across every genre, that may help you find solace in your time of grief.
“See You Again” by Carrie Underwood
Carry Underwood knows how to write a pop song, but she also knows how to go deep in order to get introspective and heartfelt. Known for her work in the country genre, Underwood cuts straight to the core with her ballad about a lost loved one. Released in 2013, ‘See You Again’ details Underwood’s journey from grief to growing strong once again. What makes this song so revitalizing is that it acknowledges how we don’t heal all at once. Underwood also admits that even after being healed, moments of weakness break through — and that’s okay. Underwood sings, “Sometimes I feel my heart is breaking. But I stay strong and I hold on cause I know, I will see you again.”
“Ocean Breathes Salty” by Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse is one of the most renowned indie bands working in the industry today. Known for their strong melodies and deep, if complicated, lyrics, ‘Ocean Breathes Salty” is a standout track. Singer Isaac Brock works his way through a ballad that speaks of loss, grief and growing once again. Brock sings in the opening lines, “Your body may be gone, I’m gonna carry you in. In my head, in my heart, in my soul.” Brock goes on to give a glimmer of hope to his grieving mind by saying, “And maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both live again. Well, I don’t know. I don’t know.” Brock and the rest of Modest Mouse layer this strange, trippy song with bouncy melodies to subvert the depth of pain in the lyrics. This song is like life, complicated and beautiful and maybe sad all at once.
“Gone Too Soon” by Michael Jackson
While we don’t traditionally conflate the King of Pop with sad ballads, Michael Jackson put out a powerhouse of a track with ‘Gone Too Soon’. When we are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can help to remember the beauty of the one that we lost. Especially when dealing with suicide loss, it can help tremendously to remember what made your loved one so special. Jackson sings, “Shiny and sparkly, and splendidly bright. Here one day, gone one night.” The song captures the suddenness of loss that is so hard to deal with when suffering from grief due to suicide loss. ‘Gone Too Soon’ just reminds us that these feelings have been felt by people all over the world, and that there is a future if we stay strong and embrace it.
“Guernica” by Brand New
Brand New is a legendary alt-rock outfit that came up in the early ’00s as a popunk band before maturing into one of the most heralded groups of all time. ‘Guernica’, from their hit record Deja Entendu, is filled to the brim with detailed imagery that paints a picture of a loved one suffering. Jesse Lacey sings, “My lungs are fresh and yours to keep. Kept clean and they will let you breathe.” Lacey is, of course, offering himself to the loved one that he had lost by going as far as to say that he’d donate his very lungs to keeping them around. Later on, in the heavy rock track, Lacey sings, “So I’m asking you to shine it on and stick around. I’m not writing my goodbyes. I’m not letting you check out.” While the song is tragic at its core, it is also one of hope. Hope can help us hang on, even when we are struggling the most.
“Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day
Green Day has matured tremendously from their roots as a grungy punk mand. ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ was a hit single on their American Idiot record. While nominally known as a politically driven pop-punk group, ‘Wake Me Up…’ is touching, soft and introspective. Lead singer Billy Joe belts out, “Here comes the rain again, falling from the stars. Drenched in my pain again, becoming who we are.” The anthemic single is all about facing pain and tragedy directly and remembering why you hurt, to begin with. By looking at this tragedy in the face, which Billy Joe did in reference to his father, people can find solace in what they lost. Joel finishes the song, “as my memory rests, but never forgets what I lost (…) Like my father’s come to pass, twenty years has gone so fast.”
“Who You’d Be Today” by Kenny Chesney
Country music lends itself to confronting pain and belting out emotions. ‘Who You’d Be Today’ is as introspective and sorrowful as you could expect from an artist like Kenny Chesney. The song goes deep into the introspective nature of the human condition, admitting that even beautiful days can be tainted by our past pain. Chesney sings, “Sunny days seem to hurt the most. I wear the pain like a heavy coat. I feel you everywhere I go, I see your smile. I see your face.” An unfortunate aspect of dealing with suicide loss is the bottling up of emotions and a refusal to stare these feelings in the eye. Chesney opens up that bottle in order to let the pain come out, thus giving us relief in the process. A good crying session has value. Your feelings are valid, no matter how they make you feel.
“Fire and Rain” by James Taylor
Reaching back to the ’70s allows us to take a peek inside of the mind of James Taylor with his hit song, ‘Fire and Rain’. This soft acoustic song, driven by James’ emotive voice, is an ode to the loss of a childhood friend. Unfortunately for Taylor, the death of his friend was hidden from him by his loved ones because they thought that it would overwhelm him. Hiding from the pain is not how you cope. ‘Fire and Rain’ begin with Taylor singing, ‘Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone.’
The heart of the song, and the thrust of our feelings relating to loss, comes out of the chorus. Taylor sings, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you, baby, one more time again.’
‘Fire and Rain’ touches on the core hurdle that all suicide loss survivors have to deal with: the sudden absence of someone that they love. Confronting this pain is, in a way, the only path to finding solace.
“See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa
Dedicated to the late Paul Walker, ‘See You Again’ is an ode to a fallen friend who was taken too soon. Charlie Puth is featured on the chorus and that’s where the heart of the song comes to our attention. Puth belts out, “It’s been a long day without you my friend, and I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.” The entire track is pulsating with hope and potential for a reunion in the next life.
Khalifa handles the verses on the song and he leaves his emotions on his sleeve. Khalifa sings of a friendship growing and how this friend turned into a family member. While dealing with suicide loss is fundamentally sad and tragic, there is something refreshing about being able to yearn for better days, clearer skies and life after loss.
Sometimes when we are at our lowest point, we need to believe that there is something around the bend. Something bigger. A chance at redemption and reunion and while that may be a hard truth to swallow while in the depths of your grief, it’s an important notion all the same.
“Joanne” by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga went from being known for her pop ballads and crazy outfits to being known as one of the most iconic songwriters of our generation. ‘Joanne’ is a masterful track that touches so close to the aching feelings of loss that suicide loss survivors are dealing with. Gaga skips flowery prose in exchange for heart-rending deliberateness. Gaga sings, “Take my hand, stay Joanne. Heaven’s not ready for you. Every part of my aching heart needs you more than the angels do.”
Gaga attacks ‘Joanne’ with fire and grit and pure emotion. She’s raw, like those of us living int he wake of the suicide loss of a loved one. Belting out ‘Joanne’ may be a cathartic release from our deeper pain and we wouldn’t begrudge anyone who shed a tear while doing so. Gaga finishes the song, “And I still love you even if I can’t see you anymore. I can’t wait to see you soar.”
“Gardens” by Noah Gundersen
Noah Gundersen is a folk artist known for his deep and introspective lyrics. While Gundersen frequently dives deep into the struggles of man, tracks like ‘Gardens’ allow listeners to feel hope. Gundersen sings a song about a man who is losing or has lost everything. “Banks coming down, they’re taking all our hard earned pay. Lord giveth but he taketh away.” Gundersen keeps detailing the descent of a family struggling before the chorus breaks through, giving hope to everyone. Gundersen shouts, “Wait, oh wait. See how the morning breaks? It’s the simplest of love songs, but it’s all our hearts can take.” Gundersen continues, “Even in the smallest places, can a garden grow.”
Fundamentally, ‘Gardens’ is about dealing with grief by allowing yourself to hope. Gundersen implores listeners to remember that a blade of grass can grow through concrete, supposing it gets a little light and a little love. Gundersen subconsciously pushes listeners to foster their hope for the future even if it is buried beneath several layers of struggle, depression, and sadness.