The passing of a loved one opens a floodgate of emotions that can be hard to process. Some of us grieve immediately, while others take a while before they can accept the death of their loved one. The songs below can help those of us who are grieving, as they approach death from various perspectives.
Four Year Strong – One Step at a Time
The thing about grieving for someone who died is that you can’t just wake up one day and be over it. It takes millions of little steps to finally come to terms with losing someone you love. One Step at a Time is the perfect song that embodies that feeling. It’s was written as a tribute to guitarist Dan O’Connor’s brother who passed away from leukemia.
The saddest lines: I’ll never forget the day my heart fell from my chest
It was the moment that I said goodbye
And I laid your body to rest
I’ll never take this life for granted
I’m living it for two
‘Cause you’re always the one who sang the songs
And I’m singing this one for you
Saosin – Mookie’s Last Christmas
While it may not be obvious when you first hear it, it’s actually about the death of one of the band members’ dad. Justin Shekoski’s father was on his way home from one of Saosin’s shows, and he got into a car accident. The driver, Justin’s brother, survived, but his dad didn’t. It was 23 days before Christmas, hence the title.
The saddest lines: We count the days left, 23
And all I know
Honestly, could I be protected
With you suddenly gone
The feeling that you were honest before
I can’t shake it
Bloc Party – Signs
Signs has such a surreal quality that sounds almost like a lullaby. In this song, the protagonist has already known that there was something wrong with his lover. Sadly, he wasn’t able to prevent her death. In turn, he sees signs all around him about her still being around. He likes to believe that she’s not dead, just sleeping – something he tells himself to help him remain close to her.
The saddest lines: I could sleep forever these days because in my dreams I see you again
But this time fleshed out fuller face in your confirmation dress
It was so like you to visit me to let me know you were OK
It was so like you to visit me, always worrying about someone else
Pearl Jam – Light Years
Light Years was written by Pearl Jam as a tribute to their friend Diane Muus from Sony Music. According to Eddie Vedder, Diane was a great person whom they suddenly lost without having a chance to say goodbye. He says that it taught him that if you have good friends, you have to love them while they’re still around.
The saddest lines: And wherever you’ve gone
And where ever we might go
It don’t seem fair
Today just disappeared
Your lights reflected now
Reflected from a far
We were but stones
Your light made us stars
Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue
Alice in Chains wrote this song as a tribute to their late frontman, Layne Staley. Staley died of an overdose in 2002, and the band decided to dedicate a song to him. Jerry Cantrell explains that the song is about the experiences the band went through. It’s about moving forward together despite everything. And while things were quite dark for the band at the time, things were beginning to get a little lighter.
The saddest lines: I don’t wanna feel no more
It’s easier to keep falling
Imitations are pale
Emptiness all tomorrows
Haunted by your ghost
Lay down, black gives way to blue
Lay down, I’ll remember you
Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wrote this song as a tribute to his father, who died of cancer on September 1, 1982. He couldn’t handle his grief, so he ran home and locked himself in his room. When his mother knocked on his door, he told her to wake him up when September ends. The song was written seven years after his father’s death, which is why the lyrics go, “seven years have gone so fast.”
The saddest lines: Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
Wake me up when September ends
Like my fathers come to pass
Seven years has gone so fast
Wake me up when September ends
Counting Crows – A Long December
A Long December is about the death of Adam Duritz’s friend, Jennifer. She was involved in a car accident and didn’t make it. It sparked in him the awareness of his own mortality and made him reflect on his life. He says that it’s a song about looking back on your life and seeing the changes happening. And while not everything will turn out great, he is hopeful at least for the possibility that things will get better.
The saddest lines: A long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember the last thing that you said as you were leavin’
Now the days go by so fast
Chris Cornell – Wave Goodbye
Chris Cornell was a good friend of singer Jeff Buckley. So when Jeff Buckley died from a swimming accident, Chris’ grief was evident. His friend’s death inspired him to write a song about how much he misses his friend and how he wished he could have said goodbye. In 2017, Chris Cornell committed suicide, which makes this song all the more haunting.
The saddest lines: Words get tangled on your tongue
And you stumble on your feet
When you miss somebody
And everywhere you think you see them
Walking down the street
When you miss somebody
When you miss somebody
You tell yourself a hundred thousand times
Nobody ever lives forever
So you give it one more try
To wave goodbye, wave goodbye
Modest Mouse – Ocean Breathes Salty
While there’s no clear word on who this song is about, Modest Mouse lead singer Isaac Brock says that this song is about death. It plays as a song being sung to someone who has already passed away, with the protagonist pondering on what could happen in the afterlife and asking the departed about what life is like in the world of the dead.
The saddest lines: Well that is that and this is this.
Will you tell me what you saw and I’ll tell you what you missed,
when the ocean met the sky. (You missed, you missed)
You wasted life, why wouldn’t you waste the afterlife?
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – The Crossroads
The Crossroads is dedicated to Eric “Eazy E” Wright, a rapper and music mogul who died of AIDS in 1995. The song is a tribute to all the people the members of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony have lost – from family members to fellow gang members to friends they met in the music industry.
The saddest lines: What’s up with murder y’all, see my little cousin was hung
Somebody was really wrong, everybody want to test us dawg
Then miss sleazy set up Eazy to fall, you know why we sinnin’
And Krayzie intended on ending it when it ends
Wanna come again, again and again
Now tell me whatcha gonna do
Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares to You
Sinead O’Connor may not have written this song, but it still had a huge impact on her. In the video, Sinead is seen shedding a tear near the end. This is because she strongly associated the song with her mother, who died a car accident in 1985. Sinead’s relationship with her mother was rife with conflict, but it didn’t make mean the singer didn’t grieve at her passing.
The saddest lines: All the flowers that you planted mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try
Nothing compares to you
Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack
While this song sounds upbeat, it’s actually about a teenage love gone wrong. Leader of the Pack is about a young girl who falls in love with the leader of a motorcycle gang. The girl’s parents don’t approve, and so she breaks up with him. Sadly, he gets into a motorcycle accident as he speeds off into the rain. The girl is left devastated and states that she’ll never forget him.
The saddest lines: I felt so helpless, what could I do
Remembering all the things we’d been through?
In school they all stop and stare
I can’t hide the tears, but I don’t care
I’ll never forget him, the leader of the pack
Eric Clapton – Tears in Heaven
Tears in Heaven was written by Eric Clapton originally for the 1991 film Rush. However, as he was writing, he was also able to incorporate lyrics about a tragedy in his life. In March of 1991, Eric Clapton’s son fell from the 53rd floor of an apartment in New York. He had said he wanted to write a song about his song, and thus Tears in Heaven was created.
The saddest lines: Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would you be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
Puff Daddy and Faith Evans feat. 112 – I’ll Be Missing You
I’ll Be Missing You is a tribute song to Notorious B.I.G., who was a rapper and close friend of Puff Daddy. He was shot to death in 1997, at the age of only 24. Notorious B.I.G. was signed to Puff Daddy’s record label at the time. Puff Daddy says that when he wrote I’ll Be Missing You, he felt like he was finally able to talk to him.
The saddest lines: Seems like yesterday we used to rock the show
I lace the track you lock the flow
So far from hanging on the block of dough
Notorious they got to know that
Life ain’t always what it seem to be
Words can’t express what you mean to me
And though you’re gone
We still a team
The Beatles – Let It Be
While many people seem to think that the Mother Mary in the song is a biblical reference, Paul McCartney states that it’s actually a reference to his own mother. He says he was inspired to write this song when he had a dream during a difficult time in his life. In his dream, he saw his mother, who was somehow able to bring him peace. His mother had already passed away ten years prior, and yet her presence was still able to calm him.
The saddest lines: And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
We hope these songs are able to help you get through the death of someone you love. Leave a comment below about other songs that were able to help you come to terms with the death of someone close to you.