“Daddy died of a grumpy illness” – Music therapy with a bereaved child in a mainstream primary school
This case study explored the experience of music therapy for a bereaved 7-year-old child in a mainstream primary school, who was referred to music therapy as she exhibited aggressive behaviour in school. The study aimed to explore what music therapy offered her and how music therapy facilitated her therapeutic journey. Within the literature review, I examined the impact of the loss of a parent in childhood, discussed how culture plays a role in a child’s experiences of death and bereavement, provided an overview of therapeutic interventions currently available to support bereaved children, and highlighted music therapy as a suitable intervention for bereavement work with children, supporting this with observations across a range of case studies. Through the thematic analysis of my process notes, I generated two themes and eight sub-themes that informed the aim of the study. The first theme related to factors that seemed to have facilitated the music therapy, discussed through three sub-themes – the client’s readiness for music therapy, the establishing of a connection, and the provision of a safe space. The second theme related to how the client seemed to have used the music therapy space as a transitional space. Within this space, the five sub-themes discussed how the Hello Song appeared to have been used as a transitional object, and how processes of mourning seemed to have taken place through splitting and projection, manic defences, playful control, and reparation. These findings This case study contributes to the limited literature describing how music therapy can be used in bereavement work with children, and how such work can be situated within mainstream primary schools, where currently limited resources are available to support bereaved children. were discussed with links drawn to data from the process notes, and also in relation to theory.