How do I start practicing after the death of a loved one?

May 25, 2015 at 06:17 PM · My question is simple: How do I start practicing again after losing a loved one?

On March 13, 2015 I lost my closest friend - closer to me than even my family. I haven't managed to practice one time since then, but my musical "demands" continue. I am full-time violin teacher, I play in several symphonies, am part of a regular performing quartet and gig on a regular basis. For my own pursuits I also still take lessons from a renowned teacher in our area, but I stopped lessons on what was supposed to be a temporary basis after it happened.

In public I am able to appear like everything is fine, and so far my sight-reading skills are compensating for my lack of practicing but I am struggling. I know how my skills suffer after not practicing for just a week and I'm really worried about how much damage I've done to myself. I was practicing 3-5 hours a day before and right now I'm sitting at home looking at my violin case and I can't make myself open it.

Any suggestions would be welcome.

Replies (21)

May 25, 2015 at 07:36 PM · Hello Bev,

not mourning for a love one is damaging. Not practicing is just part of what we do at times.

“Time is ungovernable, but grief presents us with a choice: what do we do with the savage energies of bereavement? What do we do with the memory - or in the memory - of the beloved? Some commemorate love with statuary, but behavior, too, is a memorial, as is a well-lived life. In death, there is always the promise of hope. The key is opening, rather than numbing, ourselves to pain. Above all, we must show our children how to celebrate existence in all its beauty, and how to get up after life has knocked us down, time and again. Half-dead, we stand. And together, we salute love. Because in the end, that's all that matters. How hard we loved, and how hard we tried.”

I`ve read this quote to myself a few times over the years. Sometimes one can just pick up the violin and play for a moment for a loved one. It`s a private ceremony of gratitude for the gift of all the moments spent together.

Warmest Regards,


May 25, 2015 at 08:29 PM · That is indeed a wonderful quote. I’m not an example of how to grieve. I am of an age when more is taken away than given and I don’t cope with it very well. For a time we just tie a knot and hang on. My loved one would, I imagine, be quite disappointed by my actions. We all hope you will feel better soon. I’ve been told that family, community and ritual are very important for healing.

May 25, 2015 at 08:34 PM · Bev, my condolences for your loss.

Grieving is a process and some of us get stuck and are unable to move on.

Although no book or advice can replace a lost person, this book helped me tremendously when I lost my father:

"The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith Paperback – March 3, 2009 by John W. James (Author), Russell Friedman (Author)"

This is not one of many self-help books; it is written after years of experience in grief counseling.

It can be found online (Amazon), major book stores, such as Chapter Indigo or used-books stores.

Let me know if you are unable to find it and I will send you one by mail.


May 25, 2015 at 09:24 PM · I'm afraid that there's no one tried and true method of overcoming grief. When my mother was killed in an accident a year and a half ago, I simply didn't practice for several weeks. To begin again, I had to schedule the time and make myself do it. It sucked, and I wasn't into it, but persistence in following the schedule eventually helped practice feel normal again.

May 25, 2015 at 09:59 PM · My condolences. As others have stated, there is no one formula for dealing with the loss of someone who was close to you. One thing I found helpful when my mother died was to play pieces she liked or pieces I thought she would like to hear. When I go every summer to our summer place where her ashes are scattered, I play the slow movement from the Tchaik concerto and the Meditation from Thais near where the ashes are. I also practice every day in that area. It has helped me over the decade and a half since her death.

Good luck in finding something that works for you. Also, remember that your friend would not want you to grieve for her by neglecting your music.

May 25, 2015 at 09:59 PM · My condolences. As others have stated, there is no one formula for dealing with the loss of someone who was close to you. One thing I found helpful when my mother died was to play pieces she liked or pieces I thought she would like to hear. When I go every summer to our summer place where her ashes are scattered, I play the slow movement from the Tchaik concerto and the Meditation from Thais near where the ashes are. I also practice every day in that area. It has helped me over the decade and a half since her death.

Good luck in finding something that works for you. Also, remember that your friend would not want you to grieve for her by neglecting your music.

May 26, 2015 at 12:25 AM · When I have to grieve, I don't practice....but I do play. It's both a way in and a way out.

Buri's quote is wonderful.

May 26, 2015 at 12:30 PM · Are any of the things you're committed to negotiable? You are stressing over not being able to prepare adequately according to your own standards, and that seems to be adding to your stress and sorrow. If you can cut yourself some slack you may also find you can begin to grieve in a way that will help you come out on the other side.

May 26, 2015 at 02:13 PM · Our progress with violin may be quite reflecting our progress in our social, personal life. This shows a problem for not just your skills of an instrument but a personal struggle. I really advice you to go talk to the church leader, pastor or anyone who is good on bible teaching. Take shelter in the word of God and you should find hope, solace for the broken heart. Start searching for some references given in - by your choice then study those passages. This should work deeper than any therapists. Read some articles, sermons for further help.

May God give you hope and peace for which you are looking for, to restart your passion for violin and life itself.

(Ecclesiastes 9:7-10)

7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

May 26, 2015 at 04:24 PM · I couldn't presume to reflect on the depth of your loss nor the elegance, helpfulness, and support of all who have commented.

But this is a violin website. And we - all of us - share a love of one of the most profound and challenging of all human endeavors.

So, if the choice is to go on, then go on.

But don't do it all at once. Do it one tiny step at a time. If you can't even open up the violin case, then make the decision to open the latch. That may be enough for one day. Then tomorrow, open the latch and open the case. That may be enough for two days. Then open the latch, open the case, and look at the fiddle for a day or two. And the day after that, put your hand on it. And so on, and so on.

Each one of those acts is not tiny and meaningless - each is monumental and meaningful.

In the end, it must be a choice, and it must be your choice as to how you will go on.

All the best,


May 26, 2015 at 04:57 PM · Thank you for the many caring and thoughtful responses posted here.

I'm not feeling up to responding to each post yet but you all have reminded me of a few things: I have to grieve; I can't "man up" and deny that my loss has made me feel extremely vulnerable and weak. I don't have to jump back into my full-practice routine right away. This will be the hardest for me as I've never been good a taking little steps...I'm a "kill, and eat, the moose in one sitting" type. And several posts strongly reminded me that I've shut out almost all my support network. I have a wonderful, supportive church and family; maybe it's time I stop working quite so much and let them back in...

Thank you so much for your support and wise words.

May 27, 2015 at 01:02 PM · Bev, this is going to jar a lot, but often there is some idolization mixed in with a close affection, which idolatry never did the relationship any good at all. Idols can't be grieved over, idols have to be smashed if we're to make progress. However, I've no doubt that, even with that done, if necessary, there will still be much legitimate grief over a good friend for you to address.

May 28, 2015 at 10:47 AM · Bev, I suppose the world in which you played has changed:perhaps it has lost its most meaningful element.

But your playing will still mean a lot to others, and may be nourished by memories, (idolised or "simply" loved...)

May 28, 2015 at 11:06 AM · Do you think your grief has led you into a mild or stronger form of depression, if so there are a lot of options, For a mild depression you may be able to skip the doctor, read up on depression a bit, and possibly try an over the counter anti depressant like Saint John's Wart, it is not very utilized in the USA but in Europe they use it a lot for depression, definitely not usually adequate for major depression, but available and not very expensive for milder depression.

Depression is one of the more treatable "mental" illnesses, the hard part is finding the right therapy and or medicine to work for your condition, If you don't feel depressed, ignore this message, it just sounded like you weren't feeling that chipper.

May 29, 2015 at 01:00 AM · Sometimes going to the doctor is a big step for folks but I don't see how it can hurt. You can get a referral for behavioral health and count that as a step forward. Another good resource that folks don't often consider is your local funeral director.

May 29, 2015 at 12:25 PM · I certainly can't tell you what will work for you. But, I can tell you of my own experience. After my mom passed away, I noticed that all the color seemed to go out of the world. I had no enthusiasm for the things I loved to do. Music was at the top of that list. I had decided that this was not the way I wanted things to be, so I sought out grief counseling, which involved a weekly talk with a counselor and a weekly group session with fellow grievers. It really helped me a huge amount. It took about three or four months before I was able to see the color in my life again. I found that being able to talk out the feelings, and listening to others' feelings, in a safe and professional environment took me down the road to working it through. One of the things I discovered I needed to learn, was that experiencing enjoyment is not being disloyal to the deceased loved one. I'm not saying one ever really gets over it. I still think about her all the time, and it's been 20 years now. But, it did help me to learn to be at peace with it and not have it negatively impact my life.

You have my heartfelt condolences, and I truly hope you find your healing.

May 29, 2015 at 01:33 PM · It's hard enough to deal with an idol, but calling something idolatry when it's not can lead to all sorts of problems.

May 30, 2015 at 08:00 AM · Hmm. I have changed "idolatry" to "idolised". Not actually worshipping a memory, but appreciatiing when someone has inspired us to better things.

May 30, 2015 at 02:30 PM · OK to speak English as she is spoke now.

June 26, 2015 at 07:54 PM · This sounds like depression. Find a therapist, medication can help too. Depression really has physical, medical manifestations. I encourage you to find a therapist who is easy to talk to, and discuss the possibility of a ourse of antidepressants with your doctor. Also, exercise and sunshine help too.

June 26, 2015 at 10:11 PM · First of all I’m really sorry to hear about your loss. I’m certainly not a professional or expert in this field in any way, and I certainly don’t have enough facts and knowledge about you or your situation. So what I have to say I will say with absolute humbleness. I believe the matter may be that you haven’t let yourself grieve properly and deeply enough. Grief as well as happiness is a very basic human emotion, and I believe both are equally important to live out to their full extent to stay healthy. Unfortunately however, I believe that in our modern society we have come to look at grief as something unnatural, almost like a disease that we shy away from and feel embarrassed about when in fact it would be both better and more natural to embrace it.

My wife is from Asia and we’ve been living together for almost twenty years. Last year my wife’s dearest friend suddenly and unexpectedly died, and never before in my life have I seen anyone mourn the way she did. When she got the message she collapsed on the floor and she was literally screaming out loud with anguish and pain. My wife was intensely mourning her best friend day and night and she seemed inconsolable to a point where I got worried. However, after about four or five days she stopped mourning as suddenly as she had started. She was somehow done with it and picked herself up and went on with me, our kids and her life. I had definitely witnessed a process which I believe my wife felt to be as natural and obvious to express and live out as the joy she felt the day our first child was born.

Personally I haven’t yet lost anyone truly dear to me, but of course it is very likely bound to happen, and when it happens I will let the grief and pain sink into me as deeply as I possibly can and when I hopefully reach the bottom (although it will probably seem bottomless) I somehow hope and believe I will start to ascend back to life.

I do hope you’ll find your way back to your life, music and violin! My best wishes!

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