Grief has never been an easy thing to talk about. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t always feel like just one emotion; it’s often entangled with anger, fear, sorrow, guilt, and occasionally inspiration. We don’t always know what to do with it, much less how to process it or comfort others who are grieving. In these moments, many people rely on songs to help with grief.
How does music help with grief?
We often aren’t prepared to handle grief and everything that comes with it. That’s why it's helpful to turn to music. Something about the melody and the emotion poured into phrases can shake something loose and allow certain feelings to surface. As Leonard Bernstein reportedly said, “Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” Music allows us to process our emotions and work through grief.
If you’ve turned to music to help you grieve, know that you are not alone. Countless others before you have found comfort and solace in music after losing someone. By turning off our minds and simply listening to music, we can embrace our grief and all that comes with it.
10 songs to help you come to terms with a loved one's death
We took it upon ourselves to find some of the best songs to help with grief. While you’ll find some famous tunes you’ve heard countless times on the radio, we also found touching songs from artists and genres you might not find in the mainstream.
All of these songs have one thing in common: they speak to the complex emotions of grief.
Songs to help us say goodbye
We may try to block grief down because grieving is an undeniable acknowledgment that someone has passed. We are left wondering what to do next. These songs can help us understand that even though our loved one is gone, we must find a way to go on.
“How Can I Help You Say Goodbye” by Patty Loveless
In this classic country tune, a mother tries to show her daughter how to understand and push through the grief and heartache that accompany her own passing.
“Time will ease your pain/Life's about changing/Nothing ever stays the same.”
“Fallen Heroes” by Bloodbound
This melodic metal tune is definitely fantasy-inspired; on the surface, it’s about the passing of a warrior king. But it captures the sense of loss that accompanies the death of a loved one.
“A fallen star has left its mark/Gone to find another purpose/In a land, far away, to infinity.”
“Please Remember Me” by Tim McGraw
This song was written as an ode to a relationship that has come to an end, but it touches on the same feelings of loss that one experiences when a loved one passes.
“When all our tears have reached the sea/Part of you will live in me/Way down deep inside my heart.”
Songs about missing someone
One of the hardest things about grieving is acknowledging that a person is gone. It’s okay to miss a person and to long for their presence. The following songs are all about those moments where we are missing someone the most.
“You Would Have Loved This” by Tarja Turunen
After someone passes away, the smallest things can remind us of them, and grief can well up anew.
“I know you loved this time of year/And though I understand/One day again I'll see you/I long to touch your hand.”
“The Car” by Jeff Carson
You can always trust a country song to go straight to the heart. Carson’s mellow ballad follows a father and son and their mutual affection for a Ford Mustang, which continues after the father’s passing.
“It's not the car you're needin'/But it's my chance to be with you/I hope you understand I always did/The best that I could do.”
“Hurt” by Johnny Cash
The Cash version of this Nine Inch Nails song makes almost every list of songs about grief, perhaps because it speaks so clearly to the void a death can leave.
“What have I become?/My sweetest friend/Everyone I know goes away/In the end.”
“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
You’ve likely already heard this lovely song. Written after the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son, it poses the question: will we know each other when we meet again?
“Would you hold my hand?/If I saw you in heaven/Would you help me stand?/If I saw you in heaven.”
Songs to live life fully
Grief is a natural reaction when someone you care for passes away. But something less spoken of is the inspiration that departure can trigger; a reminder that we only have a certain amount of time, and we should do all we can to use it wisely.
“The Bosphorus Freezes Over” by Turisas
Part spoken word, part ballad, this song is about a man surprised by his own death — and wishing he’d done more with the time he had.
“We watch the sand trickle/Anxious about its steady flow/But what we really fail to see is/At any minute the glass might just burst into pieces.”
“Dante’s Prayer” by Loreena McKinnett
Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, this song encourages remembering a life well-lived and facing what’s to come without fear.
“Cast your eyes on the ocean/Cast your soul to the sea/When the dark night seems endless/Please remember me.”
“Let It Be” by The Beatles
Paul McCartney wrote this song after his mother visited him in a dream, reassuring him that things would be all right.
“And when the night is cloudy/There is still a light that shines on me/Shinin' until tomorrow, let it be.”
Music can help us heal
Music can give voice to those feelings we are not quite ready to articulate, and make us feel heard even when we haven’t said anything. It encourages us to meet our emotions head-on and help us understand them, rather than squash them down and ignore them.
In the end, we’re all human, and we all struggle with grief. We hope if you’ve lost someone, songs like the ones above may be able to help you understand what you’re feeling. By allowing yourself to grieve, you’re acknowledging their impact on your life.
The artist creating a song about death may not have experienced grief in the same way you have, but they have experienced it in some shape. By making their music and sharing it with the world, they’re reminding all of us that we are not alone in our sorrow.