5 Songs for the 5 Stages of Grief (pt. 1): Denial


Grief is a harsh, awful, painful, yet ultimately normal part of life. We all experience it, we all feel it, but not everyone is able to process it and move through it. Fortunately for us, there are other people out there who feel what we feel and express it through music, which in turn helps the rest of us get through whatever we’re struggling with. So, today we’re going to look at five songs that I personally find helpful when processing denial.

Ayreon – “Day 4: Mystery”

When experiencing grief, nothing quite does the trick like listening to a concept album that revolves around a full emotional journey through a tough redemption arc, and no concept album does this quite in the same way AYREON‘s The Human Equation does it. The concept is long and complicated but the fourth track specifically speaks of two characters who clearly know that they were involved in the main character’s car accident, but are still denying their involvement to themselves. This is a pretty textbook depiction of denial and certainly worth checking out if you’re in the healing process.

Machinae Supremacy – “Remember Me”

Interestingly, the emotional ballad “Remember Me” by MACHINAE SUPREMACY could very well fit into several of these categories… even the Acceptance phase. For those who don’t know the track, it relates more to the story from Phantom Shadow,” and is an echo of the memory of Agnes after her death, speaking to Jovi. Coming from the one of the two who has already passed on, the song does feel like it has come from a place of acceptance, though it brings to mind a certain type of sorrow when mentioning that “our time we had together | we thought would last forever…,” suggesting that Agnes might know that it will be hard for Jovi to reconcile her loss, which is why this song is so comforting when you’re struggling through the Denial phase of grief.

[Of note, I could have included songs from the actual concept album here, but for this list, I chose to opt for songs that are comforting in some way during episodes of intense grief, as opposed to songs that strictly portray the phase in question.]

Bring Me the Horizon – “Avalanche”

Of all five stages of grief, denial is perhaps personally the hardest to find songs for outside of concept albums, as I personally tend to move past this phase fairly quickly and so, it seems, do most artists. That said, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t songs that represent the vibe. The denial phase is the part where we tend to shut down and start to procrastinate and neglect things, because we’re so frozen from the shock of what’s going on. Though “Avalanche” by BRING ME THE HORIZON is supposedly about ADHD, the same feeling applies as those with ADHD also struggle with procrastination and other such issues with focus, such as the struggle to stay afloat when you’re “going under,” so songs like this can help you feel like you’re not so alone.

Helloween – “The Departed”

This song always had an incredible mystery and fantasy to it, with the lyrics being particularly interesting. The song sounds like it has something to do with betrayal by a close friend, and that general lack of comprehension of how such a thing could have happened. “Caught in a fight, I was drawn again | I never thought I’d be betrayed by my best friend | He lost his life as he went for mine | If this is the end, I want to die with you…” I’m not sure about you, but to me, that sounds like someone who hasn’t quite reconciled with something that has happened, and perhaps that has always been part of the reason that this song struck such a chord.

Ghost – Spillways

This is an interesting track for a few reasons, because it has fairly enigmatic lyrics that could very much be about someone growing to accept something that has happened and their own part in it, burying things emotionally and getting stuck there. Nevertheless, despite the lack of clear story in the lyrics, there’s something a bit zen in the chorus, which states, “all your faith, all your rage | all your pain, it ain’t over now | and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout forgiveness…” which is oh so very true of grief and denial. All of the feelings take time to process and there’s simply no speeding that up. Time heals all wounds and time is necessary.

Written by Bear Wiseman