How Music Can Help with the Grief That Comes with Death

Music can be therapeutic in so many ways, including at those moments when nothing seems to make sense and everything hurts so much. The Guardian looks at music, death and grief.

When my dad died suddenly six months ago, the crushing, unrelenting emotional weight meant my sense of reality fell away. The only way I could find to get through it was to tune my thoughts in to white noise and static. To not focus on anything. I went whole hours without thinking a single thought. I think Elisabeth Kübler-Ross would have called this the denial stage.

The loss of my dad caused a seismic shock that reverberated through our small, tightly knit family; a feeling of unravelling because the man who held the threads together was no longer there. Waves of grief pounded over us. In the days that followed the silence was engulfing and the air thick. Every room sounded different, emptier. I drank more cups of tea in the three days that followed than I had in the three years previously. I cried more in those first three days than I have in my entire life.

In each room sat his life, his childhood, memories, all slowly dissolving. As I sat cross-legged in the attic, going through his possessions, I found every Father’s Day and birthday card from the last 20 years; browned old newspaper cuttings carefully folded from the time he played golf for Wales in his youth; photo albums arranged meticulously into years that became a jolting, jarring form of time travel. I even found my first article printed in the Guardian (a These New Puritans review that he had listened to and, laughing, dismissed as “weird medieval music”).

At the funeral, the only way I could get through it was to pretend I was an actor in a story; that the scene would end soon, that normality would return. As the Kinks’s Days played at the packed crematorium, it seemed a perfectly fitting end to the scene; the closing credits as a tribute to a life lived to the full with those who loved him watching on. I remember people talking to me in the days that followed, but words didn’t make much sense.

The story continues here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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