Music at the End of Life

Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage

by Jennifer L. Hollis


The belief in the healing power of music dates back to antiquity. Today, the concept is widely accepted in the United States, and finds perhaps its most profound practical application with patients at the end of their lives, when practitioners bridging medicine, music, and spiritual care offer symptom relief and support to dying patients and their families.

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Cover image for Music at the End of Life

April 2010


Pages 153
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Religion/General

A practicing music thanatologist provides an insider's history of this remarkable profession, which combines music, medicine, and spirituality to help the terminally ill and their families face the end of life.

Reflecting on the author's experiences as a music-thanatologist, Jennifer Hollis's Music at the End of Life: Easing the Pain and Preparing the Passage is an enlightening and emotional examination of the ways in which the experience of dying can be transformed with music.

Music at the End of Life highlights the unique role music has come to play in hospice and palliative medicine. Jennifer Hollis interweaves narrative memoir, the personal experiences of fellow music-thanatologists and caregivers, and extensive research to demonstrate the transformative power of music when curing is no longer an option. Through story after unforgettable story, Hollis offers a new vision of end-of-life care, in which music creates a beautiful space for the work of letting go, grieving, and saying goodbye.


  • The bibliography includes material from the fields of anthropology, hospice, and palliative medicine and music therapy
  • A comprehensive index


  • Utilizes extended interviews with practitioners who reflect on the transformative power of music at the end of life
  • Provides a creative and compelling vision of end-of-life care to physicians, nurses, medical students, chaplains, social workers, and patients facing a terminal illness along with their loved ones
  • Includes moving, deeply personal stories of the music vigil experience, told by patients, families, music-thanatologists, and medical and psychosocial staff
Author Info

Jennifer Hollis is a music-thanatologist at the Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Burlington, MA, and is the president of the Music-Thanatology Association International. She received a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School.



"Superbly organized, informed and informative. . . .an especially recommended addition to academic library Psychology/Psychiatry and Health/Medicine reference collections, as well as the supplemental reading lists of both professionals and non-special general readers with an interest in end-of-life issues."Midwest Book Review

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