Navigating Grief through Music

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.

For Ambre McLean, music is everything – and everything is music. Born to a household of traveling troubadours, Ambre‘s musical education began early as all the most important life lessons do – the very beginning.

This Grief and Bereavement Day, Ambre shares how she uses her musical talents to process grief.

When I grieve, I feel like I’m in an impossible maze of emotions. The walls are too high for me to see over, the floor is rocky and uncertain, the sky is too dark to navigate by, and the exits keep changing. The eye of grief is not all-seeing. It is blind and numb and empty and lonely. The last thing I want to do is sing or play or even look at an instrument. So, for me, the creative process comes much later. It is the aftermath, almost the victory of making it out alive. I create as a way to gather up all the fractals and pieces of my broken self, and much like a puzzle, the creativity part is putting it all back together in a new way, to make up for the missing parts, and to make room for the new versions of self that grow gnarly from the wound. 

Grief – The art of living after your heart is ripped out of your body ~ unknown 

I think there is a notion floating around that artists are in direct touch with their emotional bodies. Like because they can express emotions in various beautiful ways, that somehow magically, they are the ticket holders to understanding them, processing them, and making sense of them. Every so often, I will have a conversation with someone who does not identify as an artist, and they will say things like, “I wish I knew how to express myself that way.” “Aren’t you lucky that you have that outlet for your emotions?” The truth is just because I can sing about it, write about it, express it in a 3-minute song does not make it any less complicated or identifiable or conclusive. Deep feelers don’t know any shortcuts through grief. There is no hidden side wing off any of the stages. If anything, it feels like being in front of a big audience and forgetting the words, forgetting what part you play, or showing up to the wrong theatre entirely. 

As children, we often got a free ticket to ride. There is something so beautiful about the way children express themselves. It is raw and unapologetic and potent, and uninhibited. I wish we all felt we had the permission to grieve as a child would, to be able to express ourselves without the worry of looking like we are weak, or somehow lesser if we are overcome and laid out flat and unable to function. I wish it were acceptable to stomp and kick and shake our fists at the sky and scream about it… maybe sometimes it is. 

SHINE ~ words and music by Ambre McLean  

My mind is a maze 

My heart is ablaze 

I’ve seen better days 

But it’s been quite a while 

I’m not so much sad 

And I’m not feeling bad 

But this day that I’ve had 

Has stretched out for miles 

I know this cloud will eventually catch the wind 

And it will Shine, Shine, Shine, Shine, 

When the moon pulls the sun up to the sky 

It will Shine 

It surprised me today 

Crept up behind in a way 

“I am fine” I will say 

I don’t want to explain 

‘Cuz you can’t understand 

Unless you’ve been where I am 

I don’t want to pretend 

But I’ll say it again 

I know the dawn will look upon another day 

And it will Shine, Shine, Shine Shine, 

When the moon pulls the sun up to the sky 

It will Shine Shine Shine… 

For more ways to find Ambre McLean, visit the links below:  

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