Songs of the Generations: Songs that Guide Us Through Coping

Heather Dean, MT-BC, Music Therapist

June 1, 2022

Every person is different and you have heard it before that there is no wrong way to grieve. Did you know, however, that the culture and generation that we grew up in has a strong influence on how we handle grief?

I recall a profound presentation that our Director of Ministry Engagement, Diane Smith, presented shortly before the pandemic. It was based on research that showed that each generation has a different perspective on the “right way” to handle grief.

I had an “aha” moment thinking of all the songs my grieving families and patients have requested over the years and how even lyrically the generations are represented in attitudes towards grief.

The Builders

This generation represents those who survived the Great Depression and World War 2. This generation worked for survival. The attitude toward loss is that there is “nothing we can do about it,” no pity parties accepted.

A song that reminds me of this attitude written during this era is “Accentuate the Positive” by Johnny Mercer.

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…
Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between!”

Baby Boomers

This generation is the products of the Builders. This is the generation that craves peace, and of course social justice and unity. This generation believes the youth are going to change the world. Therefore acceptance of getting older and dying is difficult. Hence the common subject of youth in rock n’ roll music. For instance “When I’m 64” by the Beatles.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m 64″

Generation X

This generation begins the age of information. Any questions can be looked up and answered! Therefore accepting loss can be challenging for this generation in the respect that there is a belief that a disease or any decline can be fixed.

A fix-it song of this generation: “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister.

“Take these broken wings
Learn to fly, learn to live, love so free”


According to Diane Smith: “This generation gets it.” These folks are not only resourceful for seeking answers, but also seeking community and not afraid to look for support.

Think “Flashlight” by Jessie J.

“I’m not afraid when the rain won’t stop
‘Cause you light the way
You’re my flashlight”

I think this is fascinating. I truly believe we can learn from one another no matter what age and what our experiences to help each other heal and grow. Blessings on your growth and healing no matter your age!


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