Are You in Grief?

Musicians' Assistance Program

Volume CIX, No. 5May, 2009

Cindy Green, LCSW

The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program (MAP) is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling — both one-on-one and in groups — as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at (212) 397-4802 or e-mail

Quite a few musicians have visited the MAP office in recent weeks facing losses and asking for help in coping with their feelings so it seemed appropriate to address this always challenging issue.

It’s important to note that when we speak of grief, we tend to think of losing a loved one. The fact is that feelings of loss can be the result of any number of situations and can take on a variety of forms. Perhaps a show has closed or budget cuts have forced you out of your survival work. All too common for many are recent financial losses.

Sadness, anger and guilt are all examples of grief reactions. Physical reactions like changes in eating and sleeping patterns or feeling aches and pains are not uncommon. You might find it more difficult to concentrate and accomplish goals and you may find that you’re not finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.

One way to think of the grief process is as a roller coaster. In the beginning the ride is full of deep drops and constant fear. Soon it levels out to some degree but before you know it, there’s another fall. Grief is a process; it takes time and there are ups and downs. It’s ongoing and it can be unpredictable. Like a rollercoaster, you do finally come through the tunnel and into the light again. 

The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time. 

The first step is to acknowledge that you’ve lost something important and that you are having feelings about that loss. It’s important to allow yourself to experience the painful emotions that will inevitably come. And when they do, think about ways you’ve handled these feelings in the past. Ask yourself what has been helpful when you’ve gone through hard times before. Talk to people you trust and use them for support. Keeping things to yourself may mean that the tension builds up inside you. Finding a way to express how you are feeling may help you to feel better.

When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Choose not to use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially. If you find yourself acting out of character, please don’t hesitate to seek help. 

Grief and loss are natural parts of our lives. Everyone suffers losses. When you feel that you would like some guidance or support through this process, contact us. At the MAP office, we can evaluate your personal loss experience, help you understand what is going on, and support you in finding the best ways to manage it. We are here to help and all contacts with the MAP office are strictly confidential.

Contact us at (212) 397-4802 or e-mail

Some of the information in this article came from, and