VNA Hospice has just completed its first ever “Grief Choir” program. This 12-week session gathered community members grieving the loss of a loved one to join their voices together in song as a source of healing and comfort. The Grief Choir is a therapeutic space where those living through loss may share the experiences of their grief journeys with each other, and with the community, through music.
The Grief Choir was introduced to VNA by TWU Music Therapy Professor, Dr. Lauren DiMaio. Dr. DiMaio approached VNA Ann’s Haven Hospice in Denton with the idea to offer the opportunity for anyone who had suffered a loss to come together and sing to help soothe their bereavement. Dr. DiMaio had previously led Grief Choirs in North Carolina when she worked with a hospice program there. Dr. DiMaio had two practicum students, Bailey Smyers and Grace Ramsey, who were completing their final practicum before moving to the internship part of their training.
The students, VNA bereavement staff and community members on a grief journey joined the choir, which initially met via Zoom and completed their 11-week session with a live session. Participants offered suggestions for songs for the choir to sing and they voted on which ones they wished to use in their repertoire. Three songs were chosen. They were “Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon, “Hold On” by R.E. M and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. Each week the group gathered remotely to share their grief, engage in vocal exercises and sing their songs, first in bits and pieces and then in their full glory!
After 10 weeks of practice over Zoom (one week was missed due to the snowstorm) the group gathered in person adhering to CDC guidelines for social distancing and mask wearing to sing all together. The choir gathered outside the VNA Ann’s Haven Hospice office building in Denton, in the parking lot, to share, engage in vocal warmups and sing the three pieces together and in harmony. The sound was so wonderous and many of the participants were moved to tears at hearing everyone all together. After all the songs were sung, the students surprised the group by singing their original composition “Dear Grief Choir” that included tributes to all the members. It was a very special evening and shared grief was met with joyous sounds and healing!
Plans are underway to offer another session of the VNA Grief Choir in the future. If you or someone you know may be interested, please email our bereavement team at firstname.lastname@example.org