How to Rise From Personal Tragedy Through Songwriting

Posted by Kathleen Parrish on Jan 30, 2015 10:00 AM

claptonEric Clapton wrote "Tears in Heaven" after the death of his young son, Conor. (Image via

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." –Confucius

Some of the greatest and most successful songs were written after heart-wrenching moments in life. When you're actually in one of those scenarios, though  be it coping with a breakup, death, illness, or other serious life events – getting through the tragedy can seem impossible. At a certain point, we'll listen to those great songs that inspire us to pick ourselves back up and eventually grasp reality.

There have certainly been moments in my own life where the only way to get through what I was dealing with was through writing. I've been able to look back and see how I've grown and strengthened as a person and musician by choosing songwriting as my outlet. To make coping easier, engaging in a healthy, creative way to manage the aftermath can help you grow emotionally and musically, as well as move forward in your life and career. Here are some steps that will have you on your way to writing a memorable song during difficult times.

1. Acceptance

One of the hardest parts of any circumstance is actually accepting that it happened. No matter how painful it may be, the fastest way toward regaining happiness is understanding that life changes unexpectedly. Writing your thoughts in a journal will come in handy for this period of time, and when you're ready to dedicate a bit of time to piecing a song together, your thoughts and writing will be great references.

2. Turn tragedy into creation

After you've taken time to accept the event and issues surrounding it, letting yourself release the negativity through creation is beneficial for your emotions as well as your craft. Write as much as you can during this time, because everything is going to be honest and raw – exactly what creates a mind-blowing song.

Doing 10-minute freewriting exercises will get your words out easily and let you piece together anything that stands out. Using the journal suggested during the acceptance period is also a fantastic way to begin a song. There will likely be sentences in there that can be refined to base a song around or fit the one you're working on.

3. Move forward

Heartbreak is universal, and though you don't necessarily need to be coping with a real issue to write a good song, it'll always come across more sincere when the emotions are true. In most cases, the event you're dealing with has been dealt with before by others, so putting your pain into music is bound to connect with people. Allowing yourself to move forward will open many doors emotionally and career-wise. The songs written during this period of time will expand your songwriting experience and hopefully inspire other types of creation along the way.


It's incredibly difficult to move on, and this may be a process you'll have to repeat until you feel you're ready to truly move forward with yourself and career. That said, you never know when a stroke of genius will inspire, encourage, and strengthen you. Continuously writing is the key to refining one's craft, so dedicate this period of life to yourself and rise from the tragedy in a healthy, motivated, and inspired way.


How has songwriting changed, strengthened, or motivated you during difficult times? We'd love to hear your stories in the comments below.


Kathleen Parrish is a singer and songwriter from Seattle, WA. While she specializes in lyrics, she enjoys writing short stories, poetry, and journalism. For more information, please visit

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Topics: Musician Success Guide, Motivation & Inspiration


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