'You Need a Song to Bring You Through': The Use of Religious Songs to Manage Stressful Life Events

Jill B. Hamilton
Margarete Sandelowski
L. T. C. Angelo D. Moore
Mansi Agarwal
Harold G. Koenig


Purpose: To explore in a sample of older African Americans how religious songs were used to cope with stressful life events and to explore the religious beliefs associated with these songs. Design and Methods: Sixty-five African American older adults residing in the Southeastern US participated in a qualitative descriptive study involving criterion sampling, open-ended semi-structured interviews, qualitative content analysis, and descriptive Statistics. Results: Religion expressed through song was a coping strategy for participants experiencing stressful life events who described feelings of being comforted, strengthened, able to endure, uplifted, and able to find peace by turning to the types of religious songs described here. Five types of songs were used including those evoking Thanksgiving and Praise, Instructive, Memory of Forefathers, Communication with God, and Life after Death. Implications: Religious songs are an important form of religious expression important to the mental health of older African Americans. The incorporation of religious songs into spiritual care interventions might enhance the cultural relevance of mental health interventions in this population. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)