When Grace was born 27 weeks into her mom’s pregnancy, a harpist was conducting research in her Boston neonate intensive care unit. Her mom, Mary Liz Van Dyck, says that the delicate sounds of the harp were a soothing melody amid the clinical noise of constant beeping, alarms, and the bustle of hospital staff.
When she was 15, Grace was in intense pain after undergoing an operation for a rare form of spinal cancer. Nothing seemed to be working. Then a music therapist put her fingers on a harp, and Grace felt, for the first time in three years, the pain leave her body. “Music allows patients the chance to express themselves,” she says, “we’re usually very tense and music allows us to let our guard down. Patients are being told by doctors and nurses what to do at all times.” And as she wrote in a song: “All these voices talking to me, And my own voice not coming through.”
The music not only allowed a physical release from pain, but also gave the gift of emotional validation. Trauma survivors and those with traumatic brain injuries appear to have a similar response — music gives another way of voicing that which individuals may otherwise find difficult articulating.