What is Your Heart Song? - Imagine NJ
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Perspectives on Grieving

What is Your Heart Song?

Written by Nicole Hudson, Donor Engagement Specialist

***Spoiler alert for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” within***

The character Zoe from "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" looking at her father, played by actor Peter Gallagher
ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST — “Pilot” Episode 101 — Pictured: (l-r) Jane Levy as Zoey, Peter Gallagher as Mitch — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

What is it about certain television shows that genuinely hooks us in? I believe we really connect to a show for two main reasons. The first is that we can see ourselves in the characters and situations. That reflection can feel cathartic and the relatable nature of the story makes us feel seen. The other compelling reason is the complete opposite. The scenario we are seeing is so fanciful and out of our world that we can’t look away.

I believe “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” accomplishes both. It centers around the main character of Zoey Clarke. Zoey is a smart young woman experiencing many of the typical career and romantic milestones of a 20-something. But she is also experiencing grief. At the start of the series, we learn her father, Mitch, has progressive supranuclear palsy, a neurodegenerative disease that has robbed him of most of his mobility and even his speech. Throughout the season, we see the Clarke family go through ups and downs – moments of hope and moments of despair. I know so many of our families at Imagine, who are a part of the Coping with Illness program, could relate to the fact that grief can start at the diagnosis. We see each member of the Clarke family deal with this grief in different ways, from anger and sadness to avoidance and finally acceptance. In the very last episode of the season, Mitch passes away. A heartbreak, that again, so many people can relate to. The very real reflection of losing someone you love.

What is fanciful about “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is her very extraordinary powers. In the very first episode, while Zoey is getting an MRI and listening to the technician’s music, an earthquake occurs, and something magical happens. From that moment on, Zoey has the ability to hear people’s expression of their innermost feelings…through song. While the person singing their “heart song” (as the show dubs them) has absolutely no idea they are doing it, Zoey is witnessing a full-on song and dance. This power gives her an amazing ability to understand and empathize with the person singing. The jovial guy in the office that seems like he has it all is tearfully singing “Mad World” because he lost his father to suicide. The powerful boss who is fierce at work is singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” because she is belittled by her husband at home. And the loving father who cannot move or speak sings “True Colors” to show his daughter, Zoey, she is still seen and loved by him. Because Zoey can hear all this and no one else can, she makes it her responsibility to help each singer as best she can.

What a gift.

How many times do we hear of someone in our life losing someone and we don’t know what to say? Unfortunately, as we continue to see the devastation of COVID-19 in our community, I have found myself in this situation entirely too often. We dutifully come up with “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My condolences” or “I am praying for you and your family.” All well-meaning, but are we really connecting? What if we could hear their heart song and know exactly what it was they were feeling and what they needed to hear. Often there are no words, and that is good to know too. Some people want to be alone and some people want to be surrounded by friends. What a gift it would be to know how to really help.

As someone new to Imagine, I am looking forward to taking one of my colleagues, Connie Palmer’s, upcoming community trainings to gain more tools for talking about death and grief. Please join us on May 28th for the “Supporting Adults, Teens and Children Coping with Loss” community training from 6:30 – 8:00. I may never hear a “heart song”, but if I can open my heart up to be a better listener and a better communicator, that would be a gift too.

Did you watch “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” and did their experience with grief resonate with you? If someone were to hear your heart song right now, what would it be and why?

Photo credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC via www.bostonherald.com

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