Musician and social worker Brett Riches runs a music class for adolescent boys dealing with the loss of a parent. Brett believes music can help young people express their grief without diminishing it with words. By learning how to create music, they can use it to distract or boost them when they’re feeling sad.
On the wall in the classroom is a chart that states why each boy is there. Some of it reads: ‘Dad, Peter. Heart disease, nobody knew about it. He had a heart attack. 2012 … Mum, Carrie. Died 2011. Breast cancer. She died at home.’
The boys are encouraged to say a few words about how they feel and they do so with moving honesty, likening their grief to ‘a train on a winding track’, and ‘as if you’re taken to the edge’. Brett then turns the words into lyrics, while the boys play percussion and together they work out a melody.
Psychotherapist Philippa Perry believes children need to be put in a place where they can be open with their grief so as not to feel paralysed and alone.
Similarly, counsellor Gaby Eirew believes everyone needs an outlet for grief and, as public mourning has gradually faded from community life, that outlet is becoming increasingly difficult to find. Bereavement is complex today, he says, because of “the erosion of public mourning rituals since the first world war”. He adds: “Mourning was initially defined as a public duty, but it’s become an individual work of grief, where you have to do the work yourself.”
To find out how counselling can help with loss, please visit our Bereavement Counselling page.
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