Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once observed, “music is the universal language of mankind.” Be it a form of communication, release, expression, and/or therapy; music has played a fundamental role across the ages and across cultures. Those who study how music impacts humanity have approached it culturally, from an economic perspective (the industry is conservatively estimated to be a $160billion industry), as a means of communication, and scientifically – especially in how music impacts health.
And the studies of music and health are very telling. According to the article Music and Health, published in the July 2011 Harvard Men’s Health Watch, “Today’s doctors tell us that music can enhance the function of neural networks, slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce levels of stress hormones and inflammatory cytokines, and provide some relief to patients undergoing surgery, as well as heart attack and stroke victims.” Music provides physiological and psychological support. Hans Zimmer explains that “Music lets you rediscover your humanity, and your connection to humanity.” Music is inclusive and serves to reduce isolation. Tolstoy offers another perspective in that “music is the shorthand of emotions.” Music allows us to express feelings that we might otherwise have kept inside. And therapists now have music therapy as another tool to provide therapeutic support to those in need.
As music has been shown to reduce pain and depression and thus reduce emotional suffering, music has the potential to help those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. Whether one chooses to sing hymns, hire an orchestra, or belt out classic rock and roll, it is important to recognize music as a powerful tool in working through grief.