Grieving & Mourning III: Adjusting

In previous blog posts (Grieving & Mourning I and II), I discussed the first two of four “tasks” or “steps” that occur as part of the grieving process:

  1. accept the reality of the loss,
  2. work through the pain of grief,
  3. adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing, and
  4. emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life.

In this blog post, I discuss the third task.

The bereaved must gradually adjust to a world without the deceased. The post-disaster world seems – and is – chaotic. The bereaved may feel that they have lost control of their lives. They must redefine themselves, perhaps from “wife” to “widow” or from “parent” to “childless.” If they have lost the family bread-winner, then they must grapple with their financial futures. A major disaster may mean the loss of a community’s major industry, as in the case of a mine’s permanent closure, which can have financial implications even for those who survived a disaster. Indeed, if a major industry collapses, a community’s other businesses and organizations (such as schools, grocery stores, coffee shops, etc.) may struggle because community members have less income to spend, and because community members move elsewhere for work.

Songs can help to create or restore a sense of order in several ways. First, the predictable and formulaic song structures and themes create a sense of order. Through the 1950s, disaster songs quite consistently included details about a disaster (such as date, time of day, community name, cause of the disaster, etc.). In another blog post, I talked about these kinds of disaster songs as “template” songs. In typical ballad style, they are composed in quatrains with a refrain. These predictable characteristics help to create a sense of order and familiarity in a song even before one becomes familiar with the actual words and melody. Second, hearing a song repeatedly creates a sense of order. Third, the song’s description of a disaster helps to give the event order by concretizing it in language. Fourth, songs could also be seen to give order to disordered emotions by acting as a socially acceptable emotional trigger, but also by limiting emotional expression to the duration and immediate aftermath of the song. In other words, by acting as an appropriate outlet for venting emotions, songs may well assist in preventing what may be socially viewed as “uncontrolled” and “inappropriate” emotional expressions at other times.

Are there other ways in which songs help to bring a sense of order after a disaster, or help the bereaved to adjust to a world in which a beloved person is absent?


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