Mothering Our Clients–Mothering Ourselves

Note: In true “new mom” fashion, I drafted this post in August. It has taken until now for me to complete it!

Sometime last year, Noah and I were chatting about parenthood, our work, birth stories and death stories…you know—the usual light-hearted conversation topics! He wondered how it was for me to be a mom while simultaneously working in pediatric palliative care. I have long since wanted to blog about this topic, but struggled with what exactly I wanted to say. What follows are some thoughts that came to me during a long stroll with my infant daughter. Continue reading “Mothering Our Clients–Mothering Ourselves”


Grateful: The AMTA Conference in Review

The holiday we just celebrated here in America reminds us that being grateful is a pretty important thing. Work in end of life care reminds us to be grateful on a daily basis. Life’s fleeting nature and unpredictability are impossible to ignore while interacting daily with people who are dying. Taking for granted anything that gives meaning to our lives becomes much less of a habit.

One thing my patients have taught me not to take for granted is time well spent. This year in particular, I’m grateful for having been able to attend the annual conference of the American Music Therapy Association. The conference was held in Louisville, Kentucky just a few weeks ago, and was definitely a time well spent.

Continue reading “Grateful: The AMTA Conference in Review”


Where is the darkness?

We, the music therapy community, have a certain way of talking about our work in end-of-life care, and a certain way that we generally do not talk about our work in end-of-life care.  End-of-life music therapy clinical work is often described as “so beautiful” and “so spiritual,” I think more so than music therapy in its other clinical iterations.  We like to talk about the lightness, the tears of much-needed release, the uplifting, transcendent beauty of music in the moments leading toward someone’s death.

But that’s only a portion of the work, isn’t it?   Continue reading “Where is the darkness?”


To musick or not to musick

I used to be a music snob. Hell, I’m still a music snob – I’m just in recovery. I’m not sure when I started praying at that altar of self-righteousness, but when I did it became an unhealthy preoccupation. I burdened myself with the hypercritical snootiness of an artistic crusader blessed and cursed with the holy call to cleanse the masses of narrow, commercial tastes so that they may embrace artistic music that did not have to sound good in order to be great…and so on and so forth. I’m only being moderately hyperbolic. Continue reading “To musick or not to musick”


The End is Near?


Sustaining Long Term Work with Persons Who Have Degenerative Conditions

I walk into Leah’s room for the second time this week.  She is positioned on her side with an oxygen mask askew over her face.  She is curled up in the fetal position, knees into her chest.  Her eyes are partially open, not really seeing.  She is covered with a weighted blanket, an attempt to slow/stop her almost constant jerking movements.  In summary, Leah appears to be exactly the same as I left her just two days earlier.  For the most part, this is how Leah has looked for the past three years.

I know this wasn’t always Leah’s existence.   Continue reading “The End is Near?”


Family From the Inside

In April, Meghan posted in about her experience being “inside” hospice, on the receiving end as a family member who was losing a loved one (click here for Meghan’s post).  The experience of a family member is a much different experience from that of a service provider who, being on the “outside,” is not thoroughly detached but certainly stands in a different place. The hospice worker approaches the situation from a different angle, having a different relationship to the patient and a different role in the patient’s life and care.

The difference is obvious, right? I thought so. Then, all of a sudden, just a few weeks ago I found myself on the inside. Continue reading “Family From the Inside”


What’s a “music preference” without relationship?

“Music preference” is a big buzz word in EOL and palliative care, dominating many recent discussions about assessment and treatment planning. There seems to be, in fact,  an overall push in the larger music therapy narrative for an increased focus on emphasizing preference in most areas of clinical work. The spirit behind this push makes a lot of sense: we want to engender in our clients feelings of empowerment and self-determination that can first manifest in the clinical setting and then in real-life scenarios. Increasingly, however, I’m questioning whether preference is the right approach. Continue reading “What’s a “music preference” without relationship?”


Hospice from the Inside

Every interdisciplinary team of which I have been a member has had a particular and consistent reaction to the case description of very sick patients under 60 years old. Sort of a collective “ooph,” like everyone in the room has just been sucker-punched. I’ve seen this over and over again. Even the most experienced nurses and physicians do it. And I’ve been a part of it too, emitting a soft groan along with everyone else (less and less soft the younger the patient might be) at the moment of recognition. So I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what happened at the hospice team meeting, my old team from before I moved away, when my mother’s case was announced. Continue reading “Hospice from the Inside”


On Boundaries

Boundaries can be difficult in any therapeutic context – some would argue they are troublesome in any context period – but there is a particular quality to boundaries in this work.  Where do the boundaries fall in music therapy end-of-life care, and what does it mean when we cross them?  I think of two main places where they feel tricky to me in end-of-life work.  One is in answering questions regarding my personal biographical information, and the other is in the context of stepping outside my “role” as the person who talks about feelings and plays music for and with patients. Continue reading “On Boundaries”


Music After Death

I recently won an award.  It was a complete surprise and I believe that I was nominated by several administrators and colleagues.  The award recognized me as an “Employee of Distinction” by an association for excellence long term care facilities.  I was obviously honored and completely surprised.  I was also, truthfully, feeling a bit perplexed.   Continue reading “Music After Death”