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Helpful and Unhelpful Messages About Grief Within Music

Music is a part of our everyday lives. We hear music on our drive to work, when we exercise, while sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, and even in our favorite stores while shopping. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult time in our lives, we can rely on music for healing and inspiration. Catherine Ulbricht is a pharmacist and shares that music is linked to our moods and also has therapeutic effects. Additionally she explains that music can have an impact on a person’s mood and well-being. Music can play an instrumental role as we can relate to the lyrics, form a connection, and feel like we are not alone through our difficult times. When it comes to songs, there are some lyrics that have misinformation and myths pertaining to grief and then there are some others that send a good healing message. This blog dissects current songs that provide misinformation and alternative songs that deliver helpful information. 

Songs with Myths and Misinformation

Be Alright by Dean Lewis

“It’ll be okay
It’s gonna hurt for a bit of time
So bottoms up, let’s forget tonight
You’ll find another and you’ll be just fine
Let her go”

Currently, this is a popular song on the radio and has many myths and misinformation about how to heal after a break-up. One of the myths of grief is time heals all wounds, which implies if we just wait for time to heal, then our pain and grief may diminish. Further, when we grieve we use short term energy relieving behaviors (STERBs) which portray the idea that we are attending to our feelings but we are actually suppressing them. The second and third line suggests to give it time and use alcohol, which is a STERB, to forget about the pain. Another myth of grief is to replace the loss which the final two lines imply that there are plenty of people to choose from who can replace the partner. 

Numb by Jaira Burns

“Oh, I’ve been drinking for reasons other than fun
And I’m feeling numb-numb-numb-numb, numb-numb-numb-numb
I’ve been smoking this sadness into my lungs
And I’m feeling numb-numb-numb-numb, numb-numb-numb-numb”

Numb by Jaira Burns addresses the use of STERBs and the actual effects it has when we use them. When we participate in these behaviors we only experience a temporary sense of relief. The problem with STERBS is when we use these behaviors it gives us an illusion that we are healing but we are actually burying and numbing the pain. In this song she uses drinking and smoking as a way to numb her pain and sadness. It is important that when we are grieving we are attuned to our feelings and move through the pain rather than avoid it or replace it with substances. 

The Show must go on by Queen

“The show must go on
The show must go on (yeah yeah)
Ooh, inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on”

This song was one of the last songs written by Queen and was to show Freddie Mercury’s drive to want to continue singing through his battle with AIDS. Although there is inspirational meaning behind this song it is a good example about how we may put our emotions on hold instead of feeling and acknowledging them. John James and Russell Friedman of The Grief Recovery Institute created a term called “Academy Award Recovery” which is when we put on an act or façade that we are doing okay, but instead we are experiencing heartache and sadness. Within these lyrics we can see that Freddie Mercury is suffering and full of heartache but he still tries to keep a smile on his face. The misinformation in this song is we do not have to put on a fake smile when we are grieving. If we are open, honest, and intentional with our feelings we can work through our grief and start our journey toward moving beyond the pain. 

Songs with Helpful Information and Inspiration

Must have never met you by Luke Combs

“I guess whoever said the grass is greener 
Must have never seen the other side
What don’t kill you makes you stronger 
Sure sounds like a lie
And whoever said that time heals everything 
And everything will be alright?
Whoever said it ain’t the end of the world
You can find somebody new
Must’ve never met you”

Luke Combs challenges and addresses three myths in his song including, Be Strong, Time Heals Everything and Replace the Loss. He questions the societal norm and what he has heard from others and realizes these beliefs do not match his grieving process.  Additionally, he acknowledges an intellectual comment that is commonly heard after a break up which is “the grass is greener on the other side.” We know that intellectual comments are not helpful because they do not focus on the emotion or what the person is going through. When we suggest that the grass is greener on the other side, we are implying that what you had is replaceable and to move on because there is something better or more out there. He responds in his second line by saying the other side is not what he wants as he is grieving his current relationship and not ready to move forward.  

Cry Pretty by Carrie Underwood

“And falling apart is as human as it gets
You can’t hide it, you can’t fight what the truth is

You can pretty lie and say it’s okay
You can pretty smile and just walk away
Pretty much fake your way through anything
But you can’t cry pretty”

Carrie Underwood’s song Cry Pretty implies that you cannot hide from your emotions and eventually will have to embrace and feel your emotional pain. The line “falling apart is as human as it gets” is a powerful and inspiring message that holds truth. In our lives we are given the gift to feel love and give love. When we can feel love this also means we will experience loss and sadness when we lose people who are close to us. It is in our human nature to “fall apart” and feel sadness and despair just like we feel happiness and love. True strength comes out when we allow ourselves to grieve and feel instead of trying to hide behind a smile or a lie. 

This Ain’t my Momma’s Broken Heart by Miranda Lambert

“Go and fix your make up girl it’s, just a break up run an’
Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady ’cause I
Raised you better, gotta keep it together even when you fall apart,
But this ain’t my mama’s broken heart”

In this song by Miranda Lambert shares messages that are learned through our lives that do not help with the grieving process. In these short lyrics, the myth of being strong is used by suggesting that you have to be strong and pull yourself together to act like a lady. She further sings about how we have been taught to keep it together even when we feel like falling apart. The concluding lyric in this verse sends a message that everyone will grieve differently and grieve in their own unique way. What may have “worked” for the mom is not helping the broken heart in this story. This song teaches us that even though we may have been told myths and misinformation we still have the opportunity to grieve in our own way. It also teaches us that we will all grieve individually and will have unique experiences with our losses. 

If you are seeking support to move through the pain of loss in your life, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. We can be reached at 780-288-8011 or info@healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: www.udiscovermusic.com/news/carrie-underwood-cry-pretty-tracklisting

Reference: Ulbricht, C. (2013). Music Therapy for Health and Wellness. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/natural-standard/201306/music-therapy-health-and-wellness

The Fire is Out, but the Grieving Continues

Alberta Strong is what Albertans seem to be hearing these days, especially after the tragic and devastating fire that happened in Fort McMurray. It has been so moving and heart warming to see not only our province coming together, but also Canadians and other countries uniting to help the community. People have been opening their homes, donating, and volunteering as they show their support to the evacuees.  The evacuees are undergoing a huge loss and tragedy in their lives due to the traumatic event that they experienced. But what happens when the town opens up again for the residents to go back? Does this mean the sadness and grieving lessens or ends? The answer is no.

Each grieving experience is unique and personal to the individual; therefore we cannot put a time on when a person will feel complete and move forward with their loss. Additionally, there are no clear guidelines or stages of grief that one can expect to move through. Some of us have been taught that we have to “be strong” or we have to “try and forget about what happened.” People may also hear “It is just stuff, you can build a brand new house.”  Unfortunately these statements can be very hurtful to those who lost, minimizing and trivializing what has happened.

Many of us have been exposed to a lot of misinformation when it comes to grieving and experiencing loss. The Grief Recovery Method® outlines 6 Myths of Grief that many people have associated within their lives:

1.Don’t Feel Bad: People that are grieving a loss may hear, “don’t cry” or “don’t feel bad.” It is hard for people to see the ones they love crying, and since we don’t know what else to say, we think this is a helpful statement. It is okay to feel bad or sad or any other emotional reaction at a time of loss. There is no reaction that is universal. This display of emotion shows that you are a human who has feelings, loves, and cares. As a friend or loved one, we need to listen with our hearts. We have all felt sad and there is no guideline for how you should feel or a specific time limit on when we should stop grieving the loss. Although the fire has moved on and the residents will be permitted back into the community, doesn’t mean the sadness, pain and hurt ends or is complete.

2.Replace the Loss: Many of the residents have lost their homes through fire and toxicity. For those whose homes are still standing they have still lost pieces of their home, their community, and neighbourhood. People may hear “You can build a new home,” “You can make new friends,” or “You can choose to live anywhere you want now.” When we hear these comments or think these thoughts of replacing what we already have, it does not help or change what we have lost. Some things can never be replaced. It is often not the bricks, but rather the memories and irreplaceable items that we have lost that creates the most heartache.

3.Time Heals all Wounds: This is the one myth we all wish was true, but unfortunately time does not heal our broken hearts. It does not heal our hearts just as time does not heal a broken arm or anything that requires attention. It is important to be gentle with ourselves and understand that we do not have to put a time limit on when we should feel complete and ready to move forward. We will need to take action when we are ready.

4.Be Strong for Others: In a tragedy such as the Fort McMurray fire, people may have the perception that they want to be strong for their loved ones. But, maybe their loves ones don’t want them to be strong, but rather feel sadness with them and talk about their grief. At a time of loss we may not want people to be strong for us but rather be sad with us. It is okay to show sad feelings around your friends and family because most likely they are feeling sadness and grief as well. It is these experiences that bring families and communities together.

5.Keep Busy: Our lives are so busy and filled with so many appointments, and just our everyday routines. After a loss we may feel like we have to fill our day with more things to do because maybe enough time will pass and soon we will feel better about the loss. Often when we do this, we find ourselves coming home at the end of the day and not feeling any better. This is because keeping busy does not actually help us with moving forward. Although we have busy lives, we must make sure we take time to feel our feelings.

6.Grieve Alone: Sometimes we may feel like no one wants to hear and listen to how we are feeling and believe that it is better to grieve alone. For some, grieving on their own may be beneficial, but not because they believe that they might burden others with their feelings. Some people could say, “They do not want to seem needy.” In a community tragedy there are many close loved ones who have experienced the loss. It is normal to talk about the positive memories as well as the sad memories. It is also important to hear other people’s stories and to talk about their own journey through loss.

After experiencing a traumatic event and significant loss, it is important be gentle with yourself and your family. There is no rush or time limit on when to move forward with the loss in your life. When the residents go back home they may experience conflicting feelings, and some may say it is “bittersweet.” It is important to know that it is normal and natural to feel any sort of emotional loss that you are feeling or continue to experience while grieving the traumatic loss and devastation of the Fort McMurray fire.

If you are having a difficult time coping with a loss, please know that we are here to help.  Our Registered Psychologists and Certified Grief Recovery Specialists® will equip you with the action tools to help heal your heart.

This article was written Gina Baretta, Psychology Intern and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: Provost FCSS (http://fcss.provost.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Alberta-Strong.jpg)