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Hope in Harmony: Finding Healing Through Music

Hi Sam’s Fans!  This is Jennifer Yurkovich, music therapist from Columbus, Ohio, and owner of JAZY music therapy.  I know many of you followed Sam’s Fans posts this past winter about the ‘Hope in Harmony’ project and I wanted to take a moment to let you all know how that project turned out and to talk about our future plans for partnering with Cornerstone of Hope.

To refresh your memory, Hope in Harmony was a collaboration between myself, Sam’s Fans, and The Cornerstone of Hope, which is a grief counseling center with locations both here in Columbus and in Cleveland.  Through Hope in Harmony, we sought to combine traditional grief counseling interventions with music therapy interventions targeted for parents who have lost a child, as well as children who have lost a brother or sister.  While music therapists often work with individuals experiencing grief, to our knowledge, this was the first group like this in Columbus for this population!

The Group Started…

As with any new group, recruitment was a challenge but we ended up running both a parent group and child group for four weeks.  We found that some of the parents were especially interested in participating because their child had benefited from music therapy in their journey through palliative care.  Having that similar experience provided a new way for them to connect with the child they had lost.

Hope in Harmony brought together families who had walked similar paths of loss and grief, but who otherwise may have never met.  Common musical experiences often create feelings of closeness and trust more quickly than conversation alone. That is exactly what happened between these parents.  By the second week, they shared that they were already contacting each other outside of the group for support when triggering moments would arise in their week.

What Did We Do in the Groups?

Music therapy interventions helped spark conversation and emotional exploration in the parent group. One intervention included creating mandalas while listening to the tune ‘Supermarket Flowers’ by Ed Sheeran, discussing changing forms of grief through the holidays sparked by the song ‘December’ by Sara Bareilles, and unwinding through progressive muscle relaxation to music.  These targeted interventions created a framework for the parents to explore their grief and emotions from a different angle each week.  We also ended each session with the group’s own theme song, ‘Stand By You’ by Rachel Platten.

None of this would have been possible without the wonderful collaboration with the Cornerstone of Hope.  I was very fortunate to co-treat each week with a counselor from Cornerstone of Hope. And I was also able to build from the time-tested curriculum that they use for traditional grief support groups.  We maintained the educational and thematic components provided by Cornerstone of Hope, while pairing them with music therapy interventions.

The Kids Got To Experience It Too!

As you might imagine, the kid’s group in Hope in Harmony was more fast-paced and energetic!  The kids in Hope in Harmony were in early elementary. We focused our interventions on being able to recognize and name varying emotions that arise from grief.  Many of our interventions were games. For example, one person played an instrument to express an emotion, and the rest of the group guessed the emotion.  Other interventions included mad-lib style songwriting and identifying songs that remind them of special memories with the sibling they had lost.  Children who experience grief continue to re-experience grief in different ways as they enter new stages of development. Therefore, having specific songs provides them space and a framework to process grief throughout their life.

Thank you JAZY Music Therapy for sponsoring this blog post! Music therapist Jennifer Yurkovich runs JAZY. If you or a loved one could benefit from music therapy, you can contact her through her website!

What’s Next?

We hope to run Hope in Harmony again in the fall, using a similar format.  This summer, we are finding ways to incorporate music therapy into Cornerstone of Hope’s existing programming.  The Cornerstone of Hope runs a camp each summer called Camp Memory for children experiencing varying types of loss.  Each of the three age groups at Camp Memory will experience music therapy during the three-day camp.  In the late summer and fall, we will incorporate music therapy into 1 of 8 weeks of the grief support groups at CoH.  We are excited about this opportunity to continue to implement music therapy interventions along-side counseling and peer support.

All of these music therapy projects are being funded through the generosity of Sam’s Fans – so thank you for all of the wonderful Sam’s Fans events that you participate in and support! If you know of anyone who might benefit from Camp Memory or a grief support group, please look for additional information at www.cornerstoneofhope.com .

I’d like to leave you with a few lines from our ‘theme’ song for Hope in Harmony:

‘Stand By You’ – Rachel Platten

“Even if we’re breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can’t find heaven, I’ll walk through hell with you
Love, you’re not alone, ’cause I’m gonna stand by you”

Here’s hoping that you go and find the support you need, just as these families did in Hope in Harmony.

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