By Way of Sorrow

October 2, 2011

In the psych unit (and I have said this many times) the demographic is always a bit different depending on the day and week, so it helps to have a couple of options going into a group.

This past Friday, I got to the unit and had two ideas about what to do.  I was intent upon doing a music and art group (it had been a while), so my options were, depending on which patients attended: a relaxing music listening exercise where I play recorded world music from my iPhone on speakers, and patients paint with watercolors an image that the music brings to them; OR a lyric analysis & art exercise using the song “By Way of Sorrow” by Julie Miller.  I first heard this song during my internship, and the exercise I facilitate nowadays is inspired by how we used the song at that time.  Based on the clients who were present, I chose the latter.

You’ve been taken by the wind, you have known the kiss of sorrow.
Doors that would not let you in – outcast and a stranger.

You have come by way of sorrow, you have come by way of tears,
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years.
Meant to find you all these years.

You have drunk a bitter wine with none to be your comfort.
You who once were left behind will be welcome at love’s table.

You have come by way of sorrow, you have come by way of tears,
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years.
Meant to find you all these years.

All the nights that joy has slept will awake to days of laughter.
Gone the tears that you have wept – you’ll dance in freedom ever after.

You have come by way of sorrow, you have come by way of tears, 
But you’ll reach your destiny meant to find you all these years.
Meant to find you all these years.


I learned the song by word of mouth, so when I looked up a video to put on this page, the melody was a little different and there was not as much vamping between phrases and the chorus as the way I was taught.  In any case, a band called Cry Cry Cry does a really nice version of the song:

And here’s my version:

The exercise I lead goes something like this:


Materials: Colored pencils, crayons, lyric sheets, tissues (tears may happen), copies of art exercise papers (below).

"Bitter wine" (left) & "Love's table" (right)

1. I give everyone lyric sheets (without chords – this can be confusing for non-musicians)

2. I sing the song accompanied by guitar and invite group members to sing along.

3. When the song is over, I ask if any of the lines or phrases resonate with the patients, and allow them to speak freely about any issues they have.

4. When the discussion seems to have ended, I pass out copies of the two images above.  I ask clients to choose some colors that represent the “bitter wine” in their lives, and have them create an abstract design (or image) on the paper with the goblet, that symbolizes the difficult times.  When they are finished, I encourage them to share and talk about their work with each other.  They are given the option of keeping their bitter wine pictures or ripping them up (some patients enjoy the symbolism of destroying their bitter wine).

5.  Following the “bitter wine,” segment, we move on to “love’s table.”  I ask them to focus for a minute on where they hope to be in two years, emotionally, physically, physiologically, mentally, and then have them choose colors that symbolize their hopes for their future selves and create an image within the heart shape on the second paper.  Similarly, when they are finished, they are asked to share their work.

6. We end the group by singing the last verse and chorus of the song, which is the most positive verse, and the patients leave and go to dinner.


On Friday, I’m glad I chose the “By Way of Sorrow” exercise, because I ended up having a really great group.  Three women and two men socialized meaningfully, and were very supportive of one another.  M., a 70 year-old who I had met previously, came in with very little to say about how he was feeling.  When we began analyzing lyrics, he began to cry and spoke openly with his peers about his guilt and fatigue having to do with caring for his wife who is declining in health.  It was very profound for the other patients as well, as everyone had something to add to the discussion, and got feedback and validation throughout the session.  We ended up talking for so long about the song, and about everyone’s issues that we had very little time for the art exercise.  I decided that since we had spent so long talking about negative things, that we would end the session by just completing the “love’s table” image.  People were very responsive and impressed me with their eventual optimism.

My patients were able to vent and be outwardly emotional during this session, which is always my hope for my Fridays, and isn’t always the case.  It was so rewarding to be a part of their conversations, and to support them in their expression.

When I was doing my documentation, a nurse asked me if the group was fun.  I answered, “It wasn’t necessarily fun, but it was wonderful.”



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