The first sound a foetus and infant hears is their mother’s heartbeat while in utero. As the wiring of the brain makes connections for the ears to hear a song is created. It is a unique song and beat that harmonises the love between mother and her child. This sound is imprinted in the child’s mind. This particular song can be felt and heard again once the child is born. The mother holds them close to the left side of her body near to the heart and rocks them to the unique beat written specially for the two of them. This first sound of a mother’s heartbeat teaches that child to appreciate music. Babies move to music before they have the words to sing, they move their bodies to the beat, clap hands and shake toys and rattles ignited by the first song they hear.
As we grow up and begin to feel the music within us we are individually drawn to certain styles of music that make us feel more alive. As I entered my 2nd year as a bereaved mother I made a conscious promise to myself that it was going to be a year of trying new things that I’ve never done before. I kept my promise to myself and in March of this year I enrolled in a local African drumming group. I placed my hand on the large djembe and drummed a beat for my son Jacob. The sound I made with my hand on the drum was a heartbeat. A heartbeat that Jacob had once heard. This was what connected us. It was our song – between mother and son. I played the drum loud and proud in the hope he could hear it and feel it through the vibrations of time and space. Animals too have their own unique beat too passed down to them as a way of connecting and communication. Gorilla’s beat their chest and kangaroos stamp their feet on the ground.
Jacob’s own heartbeat stopped just as a special song had finished playing on the iPod. It was a song that he had introduced me to on the way home from having chemo one day. He said to me ‘mum you’ll like this song.’ I did like the song as I heard it with tears running down my face hidden behind dark sunglasses and I liked the title -‘it’s nice to be alive.’ I talk to him all the time in my mind and out loud and will always long to hear his voice in response. We have to find a different way to communicate and connect now he’s not in the physical world.
Over the years trauma specialists have recognised that rhythmical music can be beneficial as a way to heal trauma and grief, particularly the studies they have carried out with children. The rhythmical patterns that are played impact the centre of the brain which helps the way humans process trauma. Just this weekend I enrolled in a drum circle facilitators course and met some fantastic people who work with diverse groups within the community like youth, special needs, refugee families and elderly with Alzheimer’s who use rhythmical musical patterns as ways to improve a persons emotional wellbeing (Course was run by Arthur Hull and Ryhthm2Recovery). Maybe that’s the reason why enjoy my drumming each week. I’m allowing my body, heart and soul to heal the hurt of losing Jacob. You don’t even have to be able to read music to play a percussion instrument, you just play to the beat within you, the heartbeat that you played for your child, your song that was written for the two of you. The song that I play will tell you more about me than I ever will. I will find pieces of Jacob in every song I listen to.
To all those who have lost loved ones I hope you all find the song that’s written for you. Once you’ve found it, hold on to it and play it loud and proud so our loved ones can hear it. It’s ok to tell your heart to beat again.