Since the beginning of human civilisation, every culture has used music in some way during times of loss. This includes folk songs or classical requiems right through to modern songs about bereavement and grief.
There are many reasons for the use of music as a way to process grief. Perhaps the most significant is that it’s a tool for emotional expression, one that sits somewhere between words and feelings, with an unmatched ability to transport us to a moment of time or memory.
If you’re wondering how to cope with your pet loss grief right now, here are just a few reasons to turn to music for solace and expression:
- Music can help us feel and express big emotions
Whether you write your own music or listen to your favourite songs, music has a way of cutting straight to the core of our emotions. There is something freeing about this. You don’t need to explain your pet loss grief to anyone – the feelings are there in the arrangement of notes.
Equally, music can influence our emotional state. If you are feeling the raw emotions of grief right now, you might want to explore how you can use music to channel it. Grief can feel like an emotional experience that’s too big for words but, for some people, using music can be a way to contain it, explain it or set the big emotions free.
- Music gives you a safe space to grieve
For many people, listening to music provides short three- to four-minute windows of time where there is permission to feel whatever emotions a particular song evokes. Just knowing that a song will end can be enough to feel every beat deeply.
- Music helps us to honour and connect with memories of our pet
Are there particular songs that remind you of your pet? Perhaps there’s a song that was popular when they joined your family or one you listened to a lot while you spent time with them? Maybe there are certain songs that sum up your pet’s personality or tell an aspect of their life story?
Music often has a magical quality that enables us to travel through time, so it can be comforting to create a playlist that’s all about connecting with your precious memories of happy times with your pet.
- Music is good for our bodies and minds
Perhaps it’s because music sits in a space somewhere between words and feelings that it’s able to speak to us both physically and mentally.
A study from John Hopkins University found that listening to music can reduce anxiety, lower your blood pressure, relieve pain and improve your sleep quality, mood, mental alertness and memory.
Singing along to a favourite song, writing a song to express your creativity or just having a dance in the kitchen or walking/running to music can give your body and mind a much-needed boost when you’re grieving.
- Music helps you reconnect with yourself
When a much-loved pet dies, you experience more than one loss because it often signals a loss of routine, changes to your social and home lives, and a loss of companionship too. In the face of your bereavement, it’s understandable if you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself.
Grief undoubtedly shifts our sense of identity and, as pet carers, our identity is often closely tied to our role as their guardian.
Listening to music can help you reconnect to your true self, a gentle reminder of who you are and what matters to you. This ability to find and ground you, even in the chaos of grief, highlights how special music can be.
- Music can give you a break from grieving
As much as music can help you to connect with and process your feelings of grief, sometimes it serves the opposite purpose and provides a moment of escapism. Think about a song that has always made your heart soar – put it on, turn it up and give yourself full permission to think of nothing as you lose yourself in the music.
- Music can help you to say goodbye
Humans have always used music during life’s big rites of passage. There’s a reason why songs are sung at funerals, for example, even if the funeral doesn’t have a religious focus.
When someone dies, music can help us honour them, celebrate them, say goodbye, lift ourselves up and even take a step towards healing. Maybe it’s because music speaks to the things we share in life, rather than the things that set us apart.
- Music can help you transform your grief
We humans often use creativity to express our big emotions and experiences. Music is perhaps one of the oldest, purest and most enduring ways that we know to turn the pain of loss into something beautiful.
You might want to write a song about your pet, create a playlist dedicated to them, or dance in celebration of their life – it’s your choice.
Songs to help with pet loss grief
We did think about listing some songs that can help soothe you at a time of pet loss (and maybe that’s a topic for another blog!) but we recognise that music tastes are deeply personal.
You will have songs that you love, songs that remind you of your pet, and songs that never fail to speak to your deepest emotions. Equally, you might feel like you’ll never enjoy listening to music again.
As with all aspects of pet loss grief, there’s no right or wrong – only what works for you. Just know that you’re not alone.
(And if you do have a song that has helped you with pet loss grief in the past – or is helping you right now – we’d love it if you could share it in the comments below so that it inspires other bereaved pet carers in our community).
Very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support