How singing the right song can help express feelings following a loss

I have always loved singing, no matter what mood I’m in.  I especially love it when I’m on my own, in the house alone, in the car or as per the stereotype, in the shower where the acoustics make me feel like a popstar!
 
When I lost my Granma years ago, I was spending a lot of time in the car and I stumbled across a song by G4, 'To Where You Are'.  It was almost as if the words had been written from me to her.  
 
Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memories so clear
 
And moreover the lyrics that say I’d do anything just to see her, which was exactly how I was feeling. 
 
Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for a while
To know you're there
A breath away's not far to where you are.
 
Most journeys driving on my own, I’d belt out this song over and over, from me to her.  Heartfelt emotion, words I couldn’t find normally, feelings I didn’t know were there but that I recognised as my own and felt better for expressing them. 
 
Fifteen years on that wonderful woman is still so badly missed.  I long for her often, and, I still sing this song (I now know all the word so don’t need to listen to it!)  I sing what she meant to me, sing loud how I miss her and sing often how I cherish all she gave me.  It’s therapy, it’s uplifting and is certainly helpful.  When my cup overfills with the stresses of running a business and juggling a young family, I’ll often find I sing to myself without realising and there are a handful of favourite songs that I always automatically hear myself belting out, that boost my mood everytime.  They aren’t party songs but they help when I’m thinking about people I’ve lost and expressing that loss makes me feel brighter.
 
One Sweet Day - Mariah Carey
Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton 
To Where You Are - G4
Visiting Hours - Ed Sheehan 
I’ll Be Missing You - Puff Daddy & Faith Evans
 
There's a wealth of research that proves the benefits of singing on health and wellbeing across the lifespan.  According to the Sing Up Foundation, in relation to overall health and wellbeing which can be categorised into four main areas - psychological, social, physiological and behavioural.
Here’s just some highlights of an article on their website www.singupfoundation.org
 
Singing lowers cortisol and relieves stress and tension. Studies have shown that when people sing, endorphins and oxytocin are released by the brain which in turn lowers stress and anxiety levels. Oxytocin (a natural hormone produced in the hypothalamus) also enhances feelings of trust and bonding which also explains the reports that singing also improves depression and feelings of loneliness
 
Singing improves social bonding and social cohesion. Singing is an intimate activity and when you share it with others, it helps strengthen bonds. Research has shown that group singing (no matter the quality of the results) is an excellent icebreaker and has even been shown to synchronise the heartbeats of those people singing together. When people have mental illness, creating and sustaining social bonds is critical in combatting loneliness and depression. 
 
Singing provides an unthreatening way to express emotions. Studies have shown that singing can also be a powerful tool in emotion-focused coping. Instead of eliminating stressful situations from your life (which isn't always possible), emotion-focused coping is a way of managing stress with techniques that help you to become less emotionally reactive to stress. 
 
Singing strengthens the immune system. Immediately after singing, studies have shown that singers had higher levels of the protein Immunoglobulin A, an antibody known to benefit the immune function of mucous membranes. High levels of stress and depression (often found in those with mental illness) have been found to impact negatively upon your immune system by activating your body’s fight of flight mechanism, raising your heart rate, interfering with your sleep and diminishing your physical health.
 
If you’re struggling to express how you feel, you might not feel comfortable singing, but you will certainly find solace in some songs and if you find one where the lyrics resonate, try humming along, eventually talking the words and, you never know, you might find yourself expressing yourself by singing those words next time you’re driving along too!