Survival Songs

Music can touch depths of our soul where no other medium can quite reach. There is a reason that we turn to music when we worship or when we are experiencing indescribable pain. Music can capture the words that our spirits long to say but cannot always find. This power of music can be healing, a profound source of comfort and strength even in the worst of times.

Personally, music has been an escape for me on my own grief journey. There are moments on this journey when I have needed to be inspired and reminded that others have also endured and conquered pain. There are moments in which the grief has washed over me, and I have needed to curl up with a sad song to get through. There have been times when my soul needed music to reach out and touch God. And there are still other moments when I have needed to belt out a song in order to fill me with the determination and the drive to fight back against the forces of this world.

Here are some of the best songs that I have found for each of these moments. If you need them, I hope that they are able to help you as they have helped me.

When you need a little inspiration…

Be warned – you will need to listen to these lyrics and watch these videos with tissues in hand! These inspirational songs feature the ultimate triumph of strength in the face of adversity, of beauty in the face of pain, and of love in the face of tragedy. If you need some inspiration to remind you of your own strength and beauty, turn here.

“Fight Song”
CALY BEVIER (Rachel Platten Cover featured on “America’s Got Talent”)

Calysta Bevier was only 16 years old when she appeared on “America’s Got Talent” and shared about her battle with cancer.  Like her and like so many others who have endured difficult journeys, I gravitated to this song and its empowering lyrics as I faced my own battle. Every time before I would have to go to the doctor’s office, as I prepared to endure yet another painful procedure or feared bad news, I blasted this song in my car and belted it at the top of my lungs. Now, I still do this as I prepare myself to return to the hospital in my work with the families of organ donors.

You will for sure want some tissues for this one!

“Scars to Your Beautiful”

In an industry dominated by unrealistic beauty standards, this body-positive video is deeply inspiring. Profoundly, this video features women and men of different shapes, sizes, colors, and physical abilities sharing testimonies of their acceptance of their own beauty. Some are embracing their scars after surgeries. Some are accepting their hair loss after battling cancer. And others are learning to love some other physical difference that reminds them of their pain.

After enduring physical trauma, embracing one’s body and its beauty can be especially challenging. I know that I personally have struggled with my own body image after all of the physical changes my body went through first during pregnancy and then in the trauma of the stillbirth of my sons. For so many, this message is so needed.

May it help you too find your beauty.

“Rise Up”

Grab some Kleenex for this beautiful video that shows the power of love and commitment over tragedy as a woman cares for the man that she loves, even though he is now confined to a wheelchair.

This video touches me deeply, as I remember as my husband cared for me in my most vulnerable moments. Our vows were tested, and yet my husband was able to rise up when I needed him most.

If you need some inspiration to remind you of your own strength, even if you are not facing this particular situation, look no further than this beautiful portrait.


When you need to give into the grief…

There are times when you just need to give into the pain, moments when all you want to do is curl up with a sad song and some ice cream. These songs are perfect for those moments when you need to embrace the grief as it floods over you. Some of them were most likely originally intended to be breakup songs, but I have found that those are the absolute best songs for grief!

After all, loss is loss. Grief is grief. Pain is pain. Feel free to embrace it when you need to.

“Hurts Like Hell”

This song may be the most honest song about grief that I have ever heard. Its bridge, which is repeated throughout the song, captures the very essence of grief in painful simplicity –

“I loved,

and I loved,

and I lost you.

And it hurts like hell.”

Sometimes the simple acknowledgement of this agonizing truth is enough. Sometimes all we need and all we can say is, “This hurts like hell.”

“One Day I Will”

Artist Joy Williams is no stranger to loss. While she was still touring as one half of the famous duo The Civil Wars, she and her husband silently endured recurrent miscarriages. At the same time, she also lost her father, and ultimately, her band broke up. You can listen to her tell her story about her public breakup and private grief on WNYC’s podcast, Death, Sex, and Money –

This song – taken from her solo album written after this time of profound pain – is a beautiful acknowledgment of the hope that, though this moment may be painful, one day things will be better – “Even though right now I don’t feel strong, one day I will.” With beautiful depth, this song captures the unique tension of this somber hope for the future.

“You Don’t Know”

This song is perfect for those moments when well-intentioned people try to fix your grief with overly positive advice when you just are not ready to hear it. Katelyn Tarver shuts this down with one simple and powerful statement – “You don’t what it’s like.” And it is true – unless you have walked in another person’s shoes and experienced life as they have particularly experienced it, you don’t know what it’s like. This song is empowering for anyone who is in pain, and it is  a profound reminder for those who are desperate to try to fix it.

When your soul needs a lift…

“It Is Well”

This gorgeous prayer to God, attesting a profound sense of peace no matter what may come, is even more uplifting when you know its backstory. Amazingly, singer Mandy Harvey is deaf. She lost her hearing while she was still studying in music school, and at the time, she feared that her dream for pursuing a career in music was over. Yet, after training herself to experience the world in a new way, learning how to feel for vibrations rather than being able to hear the music, Mandy Harvey was able to sing again. And now, Mandy Harvey travels the world telling her story and sharing her gift.

(This video seeks to be accessible for others who are deaf or hard of hearing. It is captioned, and the singer signs throughout her performance.)

“The Prayer”

I am convinced that this is what heaven sounds like. This song has become a classic, and it is one of the few songs that is played equally at weddings and funerals. Its lyrics express a poignant hope for God’s guidance and grace. This particular rendition, performed with the angelic voices of Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli, will touch your soul.

“You’re Gonna Be Ok”

Uniquely, this praise song never explicitly mentions God. Yet, it presents a powerful promise of God’s continued presence and a reminder that this too will pass. It is a message that I have needed to hear countless times throughout this journey of grief.

May you too know that in time you’re gonna be ok.

When you are ready to fight…

When you are ready to fight back against the pain and reclaim your life, these songs make powerful anthems. Play them on repeat when you are ready to rise.

SUPERFRUIT – (Katy Perry cover)

“I won’t just survive. You will see me thrive… I will rise.”

This empowering anthem is made even more profound when sung by Superfruit, an all LGBTQ group which includes several members from the hit acapella group Pentatonix. This is a perfect song to belt in the car when you too are ready to rise against the forces of this world.

Thrive and rise, my fellow traveler.

“I Lived”

After so nearly dying, I have laid a new claim on my life. Brushes with the fragility of mortality truly inspires a desire to live life to the fullest. This video follows the story of one young man’s life which he determines not to be limited by his struggle with cystic fibrosis. It features home videos of his battle and his determination to “make the most of his life,” even while knowing that his life expectancy is only 36 years old.

As we look back on our own lives, I hope that we too can say with satisfaction, “I lived.”


Hang in there, fellow traveler. Whether you need some inspiration or need to wallow in the pain, whether your soul is reaching out to touch God or you are ready to fight back, we have got you covered. There is a song for every moment on this journey. May it help you as it has helped me.





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