We often don’t think about using actual, real heartbeats to create songs, especially songs for grieving parents who are coping with the loss of their child. But that’s just what 35-year-old music therapist Brian Schreck does.
So, how does he actually do this? He’s a hospice employee at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who records the heartbeats with a stethoscope and a microphone, then uploads it to his computer, and works with the parents to create original scores, which means he often incorporates their vocals and lyrics along with favorite songs. When the child passes on, he gives the completed songs to the family. As of now, he’s created over 100 songs in just the past two years. He told PEOPLE:
“The heartbeat is a symbol of love. Creating these songs helps parents to remember their children, it’s an act of therapy. It’s a lovely way to connect with lost ones.
This intervention is a coping mechanism and a way for parents to remember their kids when they’re gone. It’s an honor to work with these patients on their journey. I’m really just trying to use anything I can creatively come up with to impact families positively during their hardest days.”
Schreck, who is a father of two, was inspired to create these emotional songs after learning about how the heartbeat rhythm itself is soothing while he earned his masters’ degree in music therapy at New York University. This is not too surprising to me as a poet, considering part of the reason why people are so attracted to iambic pentameter (the meter Shakespeare wrote in) is because it mimics the way our hearts beat.
In order to make his songs, he records the heartbeats for about 30 seconds so he can get the most natural sound possible. He explains why this is so helpful to grieving families:
“Internal rhythm is so personal and I thought it could be used as a way to really help families feel connected to ones they’ve lost. By having the parents engage in the creative process of making the songs, it brings them together, preparing them for the grief and the pain they may soon encounter.
If the mom or dad or brother or sister want to participate in playing an instrument or singing, I include that. Everything is up to the families. I’m just there to help them do whatever they think will work for them.
The heartbeat is a metaphor for undying love. And a heartbeat song lives forever.”
I’m glad people like Schreck exist, because it not only proves that there actually are good people in the world (and it’s easy to lose faith in that idea), but also inspires me to want to do better. Listen to one of the touching and heartbreaking songs below: