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Music to cry on: compelling, comforting songs to play on a funeral or when grieving

By Susanne Duijvestein, sustainable funeral director of Bijafscheid

When I ask people about their last wishes, ideas they have about their funeral or ceremony, nine times out of ten times we are speaking about music. "This is really going to be played on my funeral." Therefore I decided to create serval lists in different genres on Spotify. With compelling music to cry on, but also songs of comfort, and music that can be played on the ceremony itself. You can find those lists here.

Music to cry on

I keep a list myself already since I was a teenager. The hardest part I find choosing, because there is so much music with which you feel a connection, that says something about you, or about your feelings. Those lists can therefore be refreshed regularly. Sometimes with new discoveries, but sometimes with nostalgic songs from certain periods in your life. But why actually choose? Since a year I have only added songs, and now there is a long list to play for hours.

Twice I experienced a farewell ceremony of DJ's. To be honest, especially from them I expected a list of music to be played at their funeral. But no. Coincidence or not, did not leave any wishes for music. So some songs from their most recent playlists were chosen. If techno was their thing or N.E.R.D., why not.

Different tastes in music

In my profession I experience the most diverse tastes in music. Mainly determined by age, but sometimes also timeless. Reserved and outspoken. Lots of piano music, especially Satie, but also the Smashing Pumpkins and Placebo.

Because of the different funerals that I accompany, from the most different people, I sometimes also receive music discoveries as a gift. Although it gives me a kind of weird voyeuristic feeling. I simply can be so grateful for getting to know someone's music. Once, in short succession, I accompanied a funeral of a 40-year-old deceased and an 80-year-old. For the 40-year-old deceased, a song was chosen from Nick Cave and Else Torp: Distant Sky. A beautiful angelic song. I did not know who Else Torp was, until I was surprised to see her as well on the list at the funeral of the eighty-year-old, again with a beautiful sacred piece by composer Arvo Pärt, accompanied by an organ. An incredibly versatile soprano, I thought it was such a discovery!

Music a universal code

If you would believe neuropsychologists around the world, there seems to be some kind of universal code for moving music. My mother once heard professor Erik Scherder tell about Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, that this music has some sort of universal compelling power. I'm not a neuropsychologist, but I think In My Heart by Moby also fits the profile perfectly: those strings after 51 seconds…

But, universal or not, there is of course also taste

I decided to create a playlist for multiple genres in Spotify. With compelling music to cry on. But also songs of comfort that can be called more constructive in terms of emotion. Below some of my favorites.

Indie Music at Goodbyes

Good vibes at Goodbyes

Strings at Goodbyes

Film muziek at Goodbyes

Mantra's at Goodbyes

Populair at Goodbyes

Dutch at Goodbyes

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