What role has music played in my grief journey?

Tolu in a green jumper sitting at a table with his laptop | Using Music to cope with grief | Balanced Wheel

Music has always been an integral part of humanity and has developed over the years.

To many, it's indispensable. We listen to it when we wake up, when we're in transit, at work, and with our families.

While in our everyday lives, we are continually exposed to music, we rarely stop to think about what it really is.

What is music, after all?

Music is basically a sound combination, and the vibration is sound.

Remarkable, to believe that a simple vibration that the human eye doesn't see can contribute to a rich emotional experience, alter perception, and trigger emotional experiences of being.

Music speaks simultaneously to both the mind and the body. It somehow lies at the boundary between what we can say and what we can only feel.

Music may bring us back to ourselves, be our mirror, and show us a side of ourselves that we might have overlooked or never known to have existed.

How does music affect someone grieving?

Often a song or melody can serve as a key to unlocking a memory or a moment in a grieving individual, allowing the life of a deceased loved one to flow back into consciousness uniquely.

This flow of consciousness creates one of two reactions. The bereaved person wants to listen further to the melody because of the warm sensations that the music brings or intensely desires to avoid that melody altogether.

None of the reactions are wrong. They are primarily based on individuals, and the same melody that the grieving individual intensely rejected could be passionately loved the next minute.

I guess that's what they call the emotional rollercoaster of grief.

image of people on rollercoaster | Using Music to cope with grief | Balanced Wheel

Grief can often unleash frightening, unknown and uncontrollable emotions, making you feel out of control or lost at sea.

I have found music helps me reach my most profound emotions. It has helped me thoroughly explore, feel and embrace this range of emotions.

What I think music does is that it provides a valid space to grieve, mainly when words may be difficult, and it also allowed me to connect with others in grief.

I find that giving such space helps one process these feelings and tame what's initially overwhelming.

One of my perfect grief companions is music, especially when I either want to be alone or when I have to be alone.

Are you wondering, when do I have to be alone? An example is when everyone goes to bed.

Music provides a company the moment I hear it, similar to when a friend visit. It will stick with you as long as you want it to remain.

Emotions will rise when listening to music, and you can do what you want while it's playing. You can choose to either talk or not talk to it, sob, even scream if it makes you feel better.

Music was part of our family lifestyle. Chidinma and I enjoyed Gospel, Afrobeat, Classical, Jazz and local folk music.

Picture of Shaker 13.0 Choir

Chidinma and I had spent the last two months of 2019 and the first month of 2020 on a prayer circuit and had used Shekere 13.0 as our worship baseline during these periods.

Let me take you on a personal tour of one of my various music companion times in my grief journey.

Sleep was still on an extended vacation, and about 3 am, I thought of playing music in the background.

I played this music that was familiar not only because it is a piece of profoundly spiritual music, but because I felt it brought me closer to Chidinma.

This melody was the music we had on repeat in the first quarter of the year as well. Shekere 13.0 did their bits overnight, helping me to sleep.

Less than 3 hours later, I was awake. What came to mind was Tope Alabi and Ty Bello's playlist, which was one of Chidinma's favourites.

I changed the music to another Nigerian Christian playlist.

Chidinma's from the Eastern part of Nigeria and a beginner in the Yoruba language.

She had 'overplayed' this playlist to the extent that she knew most of the songs sung in Yoruba word for word.

I found myself warmly drawn to the playlist as I reminisced on how Chidinma would sing and dance along to the tracks passionately.

When you're happy, you enjoy the music. But when you're sad, you understand the lyrics. ~ Frank Ocean

I couldn't pray but was reflecting on the lyrics of the songs that were being sung.

Without any prompt, the chorus from Asa's song 'Baby gone' interrupts my thought.

The line that kept looping in my heart was

Oh, my baby's gone, Is gone from me, Is gone from me

My baby's gone from me. Have you seen my baby?

Oh, my baby's gone gone gone. My baby's gone from me.

Have you seen my baby? My baby's gone gone gone

My baby's gone for me. Have you seen my baby for me?

So what did I do? I put minister Asa on repeat, looping that chorus line.

What happened next? You guessed right!

The flood of tears opened, drenching my pillows with soundless sobs.

After an hour of looping that song, I invited other ministers of songs to join this morning's devotion.

So I invited minister Timi Dakolo to upstage as he joined the repeat list by ministering our favourite track, "Iyawo mi." it's from the song that I stole her pet name "; Alayoooooo mi."

Before we knew it, other ministers began to join.

Next was Brother Wizkid ministering "my baby", followed by Sister Tiwa Savage, who renditioned three songs "My Darling," "Ifewa Gbona," and "Eminado."

I had to escort her off the stage because Brother Phyno, Flavour and Adekunle Gold were becoming impatient to offer their ministrations.

I brought the tempo down as André Rieu & Mirusia sang "Ave Maria" and grand uncle Luciano Pavarotti sang "Nessun Dorma", and I brought the morning devotion to an end as Minister Luther Vandross sang "Dance With my Father."

Chidinma loved dancing, and she could dance herself out of anything. I wish I could have an endless dance with her. Now I see what Luther Vandross meant by the song “dance with my father”.

Music can raise us up when we struggle with grief, take us out of our current mood, and bring us into a different time and place.

Man listening to music with headphones and eyes closed | Balanced Wheel

When we can't find the words, a particular song could be even better than we can express our thoughts and feelings.

I also found two melodies that spoke comfort directly to my heart in the early months of my grief journey.

Holy Spirit Carry Me by Nathaniel Bassey and Wonu mi o ko wa ba mi soro by Esther Obaleye.

These songs were playing on repeat in the background for months.

Music can be used, whether in lyrics or without, as an escape, a relief from our pain, as a means of relaxation or meditation when confronting our grief.

Music is one of the many coping mechanisms that you also can use to help you get through your grieving process.

I have found it an excellent way to deal with my grief.

If you are yet to, may I recommend you connect with the music that may comfort you and bring you to a place of healing and remembrance, whatever the genre may be even if the sense of balance, peace and harmony is for a moment.

Please share in the comment section how you have or have not found music as a coping mechanism on your grief journey, as well as songs that you found to have been beneficial.

Please remember that you are still welcome to register for the bereavement support group, starting on the 25th of March, if you haven't already done so.

To Be Continued Next Wednesday...

I would like to hear from you. Would you please share your thoughts, comments and reflections below. Thank you.