First, let me say that I have been MIA for the past couple weeks so no, you haven’t missed any posts. Secondly, I am not American and this isn’t going to be a RAH, RAH, GO RED-WHITE-AND-BLUE post. It is, however, going to touch on something that has affected us all and will affect us all at various times, in many ways throughout our lifetime.
Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2011. It is both shocking and strangely comforting that there is still an amazing amount of angst about the events surrounding that day. The news media has been filled with stories with titles such as “10 years later” and “Looking back to the day that changed the world”. One of the most touching documentaries (audio) that I heard on the subject involved the story of a then 9 year old girl who was attending school in very close proximity to the Twin Towers. In fact, she was able to vividly recall hearing the sounds of, and seeing, people who either jumped or fell to their deaths, as she was fleeing with her classmates for their literal lives. Please, let us all never forget and better still, keep a copy of a song like “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” by Alan Jackson on our regular playlist. It is amazing that a song can capture so much of the varied emotions of that event so clearly and vividly, and leave you with questions about your own mortality and responses.
Clinically, death and dying is an important aspect of the work that we, as music therapists, perform. Clients aren’t just clients, they become a part of us and we grieve their deaths/moving to another institution/declining health in many ways. This is true regardless of the population(s) that you work with, perhaps a little less so if you are working in an educational setting with children (There is still, however, the loss and addition of clients due to natural attrition and graduation/movement from grade to grade). One of the ways that I have found helpful in dealing with the eventual deaths/decline of my clients is to participate in the quarterly memorial services. This allows me to have closure and treasure the time that I spent with each of those clients.
It is also important to ensure that you prepare for, and plan for the discharge of your client. True, you don’t always have the luxury of knowing exactly when that may occur but preparation is helpful. I personally like to say “Have a great day, as best you can!” It may be trite, or insignificant, but for me it means that I have let me client know that, “I’ve enjoyed the time that I’ve spent with you, you are a worthwhile person who is worth my time, and I want the best for you, whatever that may be in this moment!”
How do you deal with death and dying in your own clinical practice? Feel free to leave a comment below.