There may be no greater pain known to man than that of losing someone you love to suicide. Suicide in and of itself is an act that can be impossible to comprehend for most people. With that being said, suicide is a plague that has wreaked havoc on families of every class and demographics. While we need to focus on helping those suffering from suicidal thoughts, we need to also take time in order to consider those that are left behind to deal with the tragic fallout. Today, we are going to be focused on guiding suicide loss survivors toward a healthy way to grieve by turning to music.
How Music Can Help You to Grieve
There are a wide variety of ways to deal with grief in the aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide. Counseling is, of course, a priority. Reaching out to loved ones while engaging in your support system is also vital to the process of coping and healing. However, there are going to be times when you are left alone with your thoughts. When you are alone, grieving, it can be easy to succumb to the heaviness of the situation. With that being said, just because you are alone it does not mean that you have no option. In these instances, music can be there to help guide you through the process.
Extensive research has been done in order to identify how our brains react to various stimulants. We know that food is directly linked to the pleasure center of our brain. We know that faking a smile or forcing a laugh, can lead to real smiles and real laughter. We also know that music can directly influence our mood and emotional balance. Extensive studies have been done by researchers at Harvard, Stanford, and the Mayo Clinic in order to show just how effective music can be as a treatment for depression. Listed below, you’ll find a handful of ways that music can directly benefit you as you seek to cope with the loss of your loved one.
1) Music Creates an Outlet for Anxiety and Pain.
As we noted above, extensive research has gone into examining how the brain reacts to music. Studies have shown that listening to happy music can lead to a happier outlook on life. Additionally, listening to sad songs can lead us to appreciate the depth and complexity of the music itself. In either case, music can provide a foundation by which to build yourself back up.
2) Music Can Give Structure to Our Suffering.
It doesn’t need to be said but the truth is, the vast majority of us simply aren’t poets or master songwriters. That doesn’t mean that our feelings are invalid or ‘less than’ these musical geniuses. Still, listening to a well-crafted song that mirrors your pain can help you to relieve some of the pressure and some of the hurt. When words fail us, it can be comforting to turn to someone who has articulated our pain in a lucid and beautiful way. Music can be an outlet, provided that we embrace it.
3) Music Can Cut Down Your Stress Levels.
The vast majority of reactions that we have to the world around us are based in some small way on the value that they provided to our evolution. Procreation is important because it drives us as a species. Fatty foods taste delicious because they were important to our early survival. Music has been verified to actually alter our mood and temperament and that could be because we are living in a much more emotional and ‘tuned in’ world. Jane Collingwood discovered that relaxing music can help to immediately reduce our cortisol levels, thus reducing our stress in the blink of an eye. For someone suffering as a suicide loss survivor, this can be incredibly important.
4) Music Can Increase Our Dopamine Production.
Dopamine is one of the most important chemicals in our body. This neurotransmitter helps to send signals throughout your body. When your dopamine levels are up, the pleasure centers of your brain are operating more efficiently. If you are grieving for the loss of a loved one, being able to feel heightened pleasure can be immensely valuable.
We have only begun to scratch the surface of the impact that music can have on our brains. Everyone deals with grief in their own special way but what researchers have found is universal: music can provide a healthy outlet for people that are dealing with pain. Music directly triggers the part of our brain that is responsible for happiness. Music allows us to feel things that would otherwise be inaccessible. While no song can ever encapsulate the grief you are feeling for your loved one, they can at least help to hold you in an emotional embrace for a couple of minutes at a time.
Suggested Songs for Suicide Loss Survivors
Everyone has their own unique taste in music and there is certainly no shortage of quality songs available to listen to. With that being said, we decided to compile a small list of songs that are powerful and potentially beneficial to those struggling with grief in the wake of the loss of a loved one to suicide. These songs aren’t meant to erase your pain but they might give you relief, comfort, and understanding.
‘Hallelujah’ by Jeff Buckley
Originally penned by Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley took this incredibly popular track and made it his own. Set against a simple acoustic guitar, this layered folk song is equal parts heartbreaking and powerful. Buckley’s powerful voice reaches across the sonic landscape in order to tug directly at your heart. If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one and struggling to let those emotions out, this song might bring you some welcome relief.
‘How to Save a Life’ by The Fray
Perhaps a little ‘on the nose’, it is hard to ignore the powerful melancholy emanating from this hit song. Set against a simple piano and a melodic rock chorus, ‘How to Save a Life’ puts into words what so many suicide loss survivors are dealing with or had to deal with. This song can be a cathartic experience as well as a powerful one. Don’t be afraid to let your guard down and deal with the emotions that come to you. Your sadness is valid, but you should find solace in the fact that your pain has a voice.
‘One More Light’ by Linkin Park
This song is incredibly powerful, especially in the wake of Chester Bennington’s own suicide. With beautiful lyrics that are focused on loss, hope, and regret, Linkin Park managed to create a song that makes us all feel for the ones we’ve lost. Bennington writes, ‘Should’ve stayed, were there signs that I ignored? Can I help you not to hurt anymore?’ Chester’s lyrics cut right to the quick, leading us to analyze our own feelings of failure in the wake of a lost loved one. Confronting these feelings and realizing that we cannot truly be blamed for the loss of a loved one is incredibly powerful.
‘Speeding Cars’ by Imogen Heap
Imogen Heap is one of the most beautiful music acts in the industry. ‘Speeding Cars’ takes their layered vocal approach and uses it to powerful effect with a series of vivid lyrics. The chorus of the song pushes us to think twice and to remember our own humanity: ‘Now, now darling. Oh, don’t lose your head. Cause none of us were angels. And you know I love you, yeah’. Being reminded that we are imperfect beings in a beautiful way can lead to understanding and acceptance.
‘I Always Want To Die (Sometimes)’ by The 1975
English pop-group The 1975 might be responsible for one of the more enlightened analyses of suicide, loss, and grief. Songwriter and singer Matt Healy lead the way with powerful lyrics that try to shift the conversation surrounding suicide. Healy writes, “You build it to a high to say goodbye because you’re not the same as them. But your death won’t happen to you, it happens to your family and your friends.” Healy pushes listeners to realize that suicide does not just impact you, it impacts everyone in your life. The domino effect of loss to suicide is longlasting and it echoes throughout the years.
Dealing with the loss of a loved one due to suicide can be an incredibly complicated and difficult task. Music cannot be counted on to singlehandedly cure you of your woes and your feelings of loss. However, like all eventual solutions, you must work towards processing this grief in an incremental way. It won’t all get better at once, but a little bit of effort every single day can lead you a long way. The songs we listed above can help to give a voice to your pain, your feelings, and your struggle. Build on the playlist and find comfort in the wors of these musicians.