A Pilot Music Therapy-Centered Grief Intervention for Nurses and Ancillary Staff Working in Cancer Settings

Karen Popkin, Tomer Levin, Wendy G. Lichtenthal, Nina Redl, Harry D. Rothstein, Donna Siegel, Nessa Coyle


A unique problem faced by clinical staff who work in cancer centers is finding a way to adequately and appropriately grieve the death of patients. Engagement in rituals such as funerals and family ceremonies are usually not considered within the scope of work responsibilities. Providing appropriate and effective ways to support the needs of staff to express their grief is challenging within the fast-paced hospital environment. This article describes the development of a music therapy-multidisciplinary intervention known as the ‘‘Remembrance Ceremony,’’ based on Running’s 4 elements of ritual. The intervention was developed by an interdis- ciplinary inpatient team at a comprehensive cancer center with the aims of facilitating the processing of grief in a group setting. The intervention consisted of live reflective music, readings, a platform for expressing loss and emotion, and a ceremony to bless the healers’ hands. Programmatic evaluation provides preliminary evidence supporting the face validity and acceptability of the grief intervention. This suggests that a music therapy-multidisciplinary intervention based on ritual may show promise as a grief intervention for cancer nurses and other staff.


grief, music therapy, interdisciplinary team, cancer, nurses, medical music psychotherapy, palliative care, compassion fatigue, bereavement

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by The International Association for Music & Medicine