Using Music to Manage Feelings Regarding Death in the Early Years

Death is a tricky subject to manage in the early years. Often adults avoid it, not knowing how to approach children’s forthright and seemingly irreverent questions. Recognising that this discomfort comes from a place of personal fear and/or uncertainty can help us to withhold judgement of “right” and “wrong” ways to feel, and accept childrens’ questions as honest curiosity, instead of morbid fascination.

Young children, especially, often manage feelings of death quite pragmatically. Things (and people and pets) get old and then they go away. For many, this will be their experience of the Queen’s passing: a distant experience that does not change their lifestyle. It may be curious to them to know why so many adults were upset, perhaps wanted to see her coffin, and they will not understand the impact that the Queen had on so many people. Personal stories can help to explain, like the reassurance that her radio broadcasts gave during the war, as she wished “goodnight to children everywhere”.

Other children of course, will have experienced sadder, more personal deaths. Most recently this may have been through covid or other terminal illnesses, or more traumatically, violence. Helping young children to find a way to manage such big feelings is not easy. Creating a safe space for them to express feelings should be done thoughtfully, mindful of others that may be affected by their words or actions. Alternatively, imaginative play can give voice where to children less confident in their vocal expression, again, being mindful of the effects on others.

Creative activities are a great gift to us all when feelings are greater than words can say. Drawing, building, painting, dancing and singing can create a time and space to fully feel the emotions in a healthy way, knowing that the next part of the activity will lead to a little more closure, making things a little easier to manage. The “work” of creating allows for something constructive to take place. It gives the experience of sharing and releasing the pain, confusion and despair that can accompany loss. And a burden shared is, as we know, a burden halved.

Using creativity to manage big feelings can also avoid unpleasantness, arguments and violence. In fact, it can be used to address these negative behaviours, too. Creativity is so effective because it brings the most essential emotion to the fore: hope. Hope that we will be okay afterwards. That we will be happy again.

Here is a selection of early years songs that can be used in times of distress. Being aware that we are all so different, even in childhood, we know that some people respond more to words, others to actions, others to the sound of the music. Being given the freedom to feel is the most valuable gift we can give, especially in the early years.

Twinkle Twinkle

This is another song talking about a glimmer of hope, where sadness can seem like a never-ending night, but there are always stars to show us the way.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are !
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.

Then the trav’ller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often thro’ my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.

‘Tis your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the trav’ller in the dark,
Tho’ I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

London Bridge Is Falling Down

This traditional song gives hope that things can work out, even if it takes time.

London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady. 

Build it up with wood and clay,
Wood and clay, wood and clay,
Build it up with wood and clay,
My fair lady.

Wood and clay will wash away,
Wash away, wash away,
Wood and clay will wash away,
My fair lady.

Build it up with silver and gold,
Silver and gold, silver and gold,
Build it up with silver and gold,
My fair lady.

Silver and gold will be stolen away,
Stolen away, stolen away,
Silver and gold will be stolen away,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with iron bars,
Iron bars, iron bars,
Build it up with iron bars,
My fair lady.

Iron bars will bend and break,
Bend and break, bend and break,
Iron bars will bend and break,
My fair Lady.

Build it up with stone so strong,
Stone so strong, stone so strong,
Build it up with stone so strong,
My fair lady.

It will stand forevermore,
Ever more, ever more,
It will stand forevermore,
My fair lady.

You Are My Sunshine

This traditional song can be used as a lullaby, that even when things are at their darkest, there is always hope.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take
My sunshine away.

Many songs can be used when chosen thoughtfully and appropriately. Different ways to experience the healing benefits of music range from gently singing as group, to calmly lying down and quietly listening, or even inviting a local singer in to sing songs familiar to the specific group of children. These ideas can only help to build strong children, resilient and capable of managing the multitude of challenges that life will bring them. And sharing these skills now helps to remind us of how far we’ve come as adults, giving us hope, too.

Music for Children Dealing with Loss

Our Added Value

Research has shown that music-based activities can be highly effective in helping children cope with loss and bereavement. Whether it’s through singing, dancing or playing musical instruments, music can provide a powerful outlet for emotions and help kids express themselves in ways they might not have been able to otherwise. Not only can it help them process their feelings, but it can also provide a sense of comfort and support during a difficult time. At Musicaliti, we offer a range of music-based activities that will support children dealing with death and bereavement. Our program is designed to create a safe and nurturing environment where children can explore their emotions, learn new skills and have fun. Have a look at our resources today to learn more about how music can help your child through this difficult time.

Our music-based activities are designed to support children in their development and feelings, including those of loss and bereavement. Our program creates a safe and nurturing environment where children can explore their emotions, learn new skills and have fun. 

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