'I wanted to be soothed by music': Grieving mum's wish

Jenny McGregor with her son, Jamie.
Jenny McGregor with her son, Jamie. Photo: Facebook/Jenny McGregor

"Jamie's heart stopped, he's not breathing, we're on the way to hospital."

It was the phone call that turned first-time mum Jenny McGregor's life upside down. Fifteen minutes after putting their 18-month-old son down for the night in November 2010, Jenny's husband Ben went in to check on the toddler. He found Jamie face down and unresponsive.

Jamie was rushed to hospital, ribs broken from desperate attempts to revive his tiny body.

"It was mayhem,"Jenny tells Essential Baby. "Doctors were working on Jamie for hours. There were worried faces, beeping, tubes. I had the social worker telling me to be prepared because he might have brain damage. I was just screaming, 'save him'".

Tragically, the couple's beautiful "blonde-haired blue-eyed boy" was pronounced dead later that night. "We left empty-handed," she says, adding that the cause of Jamie's death remains inconclusive, seven years later. 

In the months after Jamie died, Jenny, a singer and songwriter, turned to music to help process the trauma and grief of his sudden death. 

"I was saddened to find a lack of music written by and for bereaved parents," she says, explaining that while many songs speak to relationship breakdowns or the loss of a parent or spouse, there aren't many for those who've lost a child. "I wanted to hear firsthand from another parent who had been through this turmoil and heartache. I wanted to be soothed by music that really understood my pain and I wanted to feel like I was not alone," she says.

It was a time Jenny describes as "surreal", for only nine months later, just days before giving birth to her second son, Charlie, her ten-month-old nephew, Lachlan, also died, due to a congenital heart defect. 

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"The day after I gave birth, I was standing at the same altar I'd stood at for Jamie's funeral, thinking, 'I can't believe I'm back here.'"

As she and her family grieved, Jenny started to write music, songs of hope and healing. With 12 songs ready to go, Jenny has now launched a Kickstarter campaign, which ends this week, aiming to raise money to record the album, "Love and Let Go". All proceeds will go to Red Nose.

Of the concept behind her album Jenny explains, "It's not about letting go of Jamie, it's letting go of some of my pain and my grief - of the idea that I could control it. This is my story. I won't get to see him grow up or go off to school. Death is final, you can't change it."

The songs Jenny has written are what she calls an "eclectic mix", representing "all the emotions you go through" after losing a child. 

"It's not just an album of sad songs to cry to," she says, adding that while there are sad songs, it was important for her to also reflect the fact that even though your world has been shattered, "life still carries on".  

Anger, she says, is a huge part of that too. "I remember having the anger for a while which is totally normal. I want parents not to feel bad about their emotions." 

There's also a song about the way men and women grieve differently. "I wanted to get the male side," she says, adding that the song is called "Together Separately".

For Jenny, writing the album isn't just about supporting bereaved parents, giving them another "tool" to help them through their grief, it's also a way to give back to Red Nose.

"I don't have lots of money to give," Jenny laughs, "but I can give music. It's a piece of the puzzle I thought was missing and I can give that."

With her own family in the UK and both of her husband's parents deceased, it was Red Nose counsellor Marybeth who stepped in with invaluable support.

"She acted like that maternal figure for us," Jenny says. " All the hard things we had to do like going to the morgue. She came with us. We both wanted to say something at the funeral. I thought 'How am I even going to be able to do that? She talked us through that. She was more like a mum than a counsellor."

And the support Red Nose provides, says Jenny, goes deeper than the individual and group counselling they offer. "They allow bereaved mothers to be bereaved mothers," she says. "They honour that. They honour your babies."

"Love and Let Go" will be available to bereaved parents, for free, via Red Nose, in loving memory of Jamie. It will also be available for sale to the general public, with all proceeds going back to the charity.

"Who would have thought an 18 month old boy could inspire so many people," Jenny says. "He's not just inspired me but thousands now. He's touched a lot of people, through who he was and the journey we've been on. I'm a proud mummy. He might not be here, but I'm a proud mummy."

You can make a donation to Jenny's Kickstarter here: