Drink Deep: A Musical Journey through Grief Posted February 16, 2017 by ElliesWay

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Introducing Steve Siler

I’m not even sure how we met, but it’s been a few years now. I’m so glad to call him a friend. I admire Steve’s heart of compassion and endless drive to help those who are hurting. His faith and hard work bring so much healing to many people who are going through difficult times. I hope you enjoy getting to know Steve as much I have!

Todd Nigro
Founder of Ellie’s Way


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Drink Deep: A Musical Journey through Grief
by Steve Siler, Director: Music for the Soul

“When someone is in pain, reading is difficult. Their eyes move across the page but they can’t really process what they are reading. That’s why music is so great. A person can just lie back and let the music wash over them.”

As soon as Dr. Doris Sanford, a therapist and author of several books on emotional pain, told me that, I began to think about a doing a musical project for grief.

Not long after, in 1997, my wife’s father passed quite unexpectedly. It was then that a friend of mine and I created a recording of songs called Dancing with Angels. The idea for the title song had come from my wife telling me that on the plane flight heading to her father’s funeral she had looked out the window and imagined him free and dancing on the clouds.

When I founded the ministry Music for the Soul four years later it was my intention to revisit the topic of grief as one of our first projects. While I had been pleased with some of the previous recording I felt like there were some important pieces missing.

Well, as happens in ministry, God had other plans and we wound doing ten other projects before finally getting the opportunity to do something for grief. It was prompted when a woman who had lost her daughter to breast cancer put a copy of her book in my hands. The book was called “God is Good, Cancer Stinks, God is with Us!” The themes in the book tugged at my heart. Many of the phrases in the text seemed to leap off the page.

Before long lyric ideas were starting to come. But I didn’t want to race through the project. I wanted to really sit with it and make sure that we covered grief from a variety of perspectives. I wanted there to be something on the project for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, no matter the circumstances.

With that in mind I called Scott Krippayne and Tony Wood. The three of us had written five full albums together and I felt like the special relationship we’d developed over the years would allow us to go to the deep, vulnerable places we would need to go to do the project justice. I proposed that we do a retreat, away from all that might distract us, so that we could focus in on the work.

Though all of us had experiences with grief, Scott’s was by far the most recent, his mother-in-law having just lost her battle with cancer.

In preparation for the retreat I reached out to several of my professional therapist contacts for suggestions on the themes we should be sure to include. The retreat itself was full of healing tears as we delved deeply into the topic. The result of our time away was a fourteen song project called Drink Deep.

Since grief is such a personal and private thing I felt like a very intimate approach to recording the songs was necessary. I decided, rather than having a different singer for every song to have just two – one woman and one man. I wanted listeners to feel like two caring friends were guiding them in the process.

My dear friend Nita Whitaker had just lost her husband. Already an incredibly emotive singer, I thought she would be able to infuse the songs with her own wounded heart in a way that would truly connect with listeners. Scott Krippayne is a marvelous singer himself and he was the obvious choice for the male vocals.

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Nita Whitaker, female vocalist, Drink Deep

To maintain that intimate feeling I wanted the music to feel like it could have been played in the listener’s living room, so I chose a small combo approach – a piano, an upright bass, and a brush drum kit to perform the music, occasionally adding a gut string guitar or a string quartet.

The result is something that comes a cross as up close and personal.

As I said earlier, I had intended to do this project years earlier. Little did I know that God would use the timing of Drink Deep to minister to me. My own mother passed away while we were finishing the recording.

The response to the project has been a blessing. A small sampling from five listeners:

I felt like every song was written just for me. I loved the way that each song took me through different stages of grief.

The songs are like a conversation between friends—just a simple description of feelings and emotions. They aren’t even like typical lyrics—just such “raw” emotional statements—language we can understand from our “guts”.

I lead a Grief Share group. When I listened to all the songs. I thought, “This is what I hear the people say! Everything!!”

When I found this CD I was four and half years into my journey with grief and it helped me so much. I feel at times we all reach those grief blocks where you need something to help you feel. Drink Deep has done that.

The songs identify with my innermost feelings and make me feel like I must not be the only one with those feelings.

These were the kinds of responses we had hoped we would receive. We want people to know they are not alone. We want people to know someone understands.

In a sense now I understand that at some level all of the Music for the Soul projects are about grief. Perhaps the loss we are grieving is our good health. More Beautiful (breast cancer), Dignity (caregiving), and Whole in the Sight of God (special needs) all touch on this kind of loss.

Perhaps it’s loss from the change in a relationship (Fifty Years from Now) or the loss that comes with a catastrophic event in one’s life. (After the Storm).

And then there are the losses that can come from addiction or struggles with behavior resulting from trauma. (Somebody’s Daughter: A Journey to Freedom from Pornography and Tell Me What You See: Hope for Those with Eating Disorders).

Our newest project Mercy Great Enough dealing with healing from the pain of an abortion in one’s past, is a particularly complicated kind of grief. As is dealing with the suicide of a loved one. (Chaos of the Heart).

In every case, something that was previously in balance has become out of balance. And that represents loss.

When we’re in pain we build walls to shield ourselves from deep pain, guilt, and shame. Music seeps through the cracks in those walls and opens the heart so that the listener can receive a message of hope and healing.

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Writers and Producer
Tony Wood, Scott Krippayne, Steve Siler, and Kent Hooper

The reason music can be so helpful in this is because of the way are brains are wired. Language is processed primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain and melody is processed in the right. A song connects the two, engaging the whole brain! We more commonly think of this as “mind and heart.”

As it turns out, trauma is also stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. That’s what makes a song extraordinarily powerful in addressing emotional pain. Additionally, melody and rhythm are powerful memory devices. Singing a message of hope and healing increases the likelihood it will be remembered.

If you are experiencing grief in the aftermath of a loss I invite you to visit Music for the Soul: Drink Deep.

I hope that our songs will help lift the dark clouds of sorrow and pain to bring you comfort, hope, and healing.

Drink Deep and all of the resources mentioned above are available at www.musicforthesoul.org

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