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  • Carolyn Meyer, MT-BC

What it means to be grieving the loss of human connection


The first time we met, he (mid-nap) burst into rich, bass singing as I strummed and sang "Down In the Valley". I almost leapt out of my chair at his impromptu musical entrance to, what I thought was, music to prompt meaningful sleep. As we got to know each other, I associated him with some of my coldest sessions (mid-winter absolutely jamming on his porch), richest stories of World War II and deepest laughs. I walked with him as his once-detailed memories became foggy and shared with frustration and despair. I watched as he lost freedom within his physical functioning. What never changed was his ability to share his story through the lenses of his favorite music.

One session we had, he mentioned that he had written multiple books (he was always surprising me with life experiences like this) and sent me on an extreme scavenger hunt to find one in his house. Luckily, I was able to find it. With a bright smile, he said "I have enough copies, this one is yours!" Before handing it over, he wrote this message to me in the front page:

“For Carolyn. For the contact with humanity.”

I told myself I would wait to read it until after he passed.

Well, I have found myself in the midst of a global pandemic, searching for ways to fill my time, acknowledge the losses I'm experiencing and remember the "why" behind my work as a music therapist. I knew it was time to dive into this client's story.

I most definitely found what I was looking for! His wit and intelligence came to life within the pages of his writing. I closed my eyes and remembered the way I would walk up to his home and hear him yelling in agitation. Leave him on his porch humming one of his favorite German folk songs.

Although it left me feeling a beautiful connection to this late client of mine, it also left me with a gaping hole in my heart.

“For the contact with humanity.”

Not only am I deeply missing life as I once knew it, I am missing the stories and the people. Each individual or family I have had the privilege of working with has something to share and has made an imprint on me in some way.

I am sure so many of us are struggling with the “contact with humanity” we took for granted before this all began. Yes, we are grateful for Zoom, FaceTime and texting, but nothing can replace sitting on someone’s porch, witnessing the joy in their face as they sing the songs of their ancestors, emotions and life.

I think of the teachers who are missing their students. The doctors who can’t return home to their families. The friends who just want a hug! The list goes on.

I hope we never take these precious moments for granted.

I hope we learn to honor and listen to our grief.

I hope we always remember to slow down and listen to each other's stories.

#MusicTherapy #grief #dementia #Alzheimers #musicandmemory

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