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Suicide Loss Survivor Story: Grief and Music

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Let’s talk about grief and music. But let me talk about my history with music and Nicole.

Nicole and I met online while I was away at school for a couple of months. We talked constantly and shared music with each other to the point where we had built a playlist of over 200 songs. This was a staple in our relationship: we were very connected by music. She loved music as did I, but we also had separate tastes in music. But music that we had in common was on our playlist which we liked listening to together.

Now, music in general I have always loved. Anything with a good beat that gets me dancing has always been my favorite, but I also enjoy different genres like rock, alternative, folk, etc. I have always enjoyed music since I was little. I remember listening to The Wilson Phillips and the Lion King soundtrack on tape with my Walkman. Music carried me though middle and high school; listening to Linkin Park, Disturbed, Meredith Brooks, Alanis Morisette, Sarah McLachlan and more. There is so much emotion attached to music, personally speaking, though I’m sure many of you feel the same. But I can’t really listen to any of that anymore.

The last 10 months before my wife took her life, her music taste changed drastically to darker themes. Something I could listen to sometimes with her, but I found it to be mentally draining if listened to 24/7. But my wife couldn’t stop listening to this darker style music which was concerning a few months leading up to her death. We no longer listened to our playlist together. I knew that my wife was struggling, but I still never would have guessed she’d take her life.

I do attribute music partly to her passing as she sunk into darker music but couldn’t pull herself out. To be clear, I don’t BLAME music. I just believe that she was not in a place mentally for healthy emotional regulation while listening to lyrics that were draining her deeper into her depression.

In the notes that she left behind, she had a list of items for the morning she took her life. One of the items was “music for motivation”. I’ll never understand where she was in that moment leading up to her killing herself, but I know that she needed music to help her complete. She had also Googled lyrics to a song that morning.

I love music. But according to my therapist, my bucket is full. I can no longer listen to anything slightly emotional because I WILL feel it, it will soak into my bones, I will have a breakdown, it will take me to a place that I don’t want to be. On the upside, if I need a good cry, I can just put a song on and let it go. That’s when I allow myself the space to do so. Music is also very triggering for me. Hearing certain songs brings up memories that I don’t want to relive. So, what do I do about music?

I still listen to music but only if it’s upbeat like EDM, pop music, or dance music. Even though I love them, I absolutely can not listen to stuff like Linkin Park anymore. I do not like the place that it takes me mentally.

One thing I can say is that I’m putting the work in and hopefully one day I will not be as impacted or triggered by music. Going to therapy on a weekly basis and executing some self-care is the path I’m on in hopes that I can enjoy music as much as I used to. I miss listening to anything and everything but know that one day I’ll be in a better place to appreciate the art of the song and not delve deeper into the message, if that makes sense.

If you are looking for ways to use music to cope with grief, please check out this article I stumbled upon. I would also like to hear your thoughts and experiences with music and your grief.

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