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Douglas MacGregor

Songs of Loss and Healing

A Musician's Journey through Delayed Grief

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Seven pieces of music recorded in seven different locations around the UK each with the accompanying story

A seven part musical and textual series by musician, composer and writer Douglas MacGregor exploring the connections between music, loss and healing arising from his personal experience of delayed grief twenty-five years after he lost his mother to cancer at the age of seven. 

 

These are songs from the deep, meditations and manifestations of loss, place and memory...and a hymn to hope in disguise.  

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My mother died when I was seven but I didn’t grieve for 25 years. Music helped me tap what seemed like an infinite well of sadness hidden inside of me. Yet, when tapped, contained within was not only the beautiful memories and connections to a happy childhood, but also hope.

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Lurking in my past was an ancient trauma, as well as feelings of vulnerability and abandonment, feelings so strong they threatened to blot out the joy and hope I had found. Music helped look squarely at that and find the hidden beauty on even the greyest of days.

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It wasn’t just the loss of my mum, but also of place, identity and friends - a whole way of life. Music can help us with the difficult and necessary task of just sitting with our losses and acknowledge them.

3/7
Song for Lost Childhood
The Loss of a Whole World
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4/7
The Pathway
An Unfinished Legacy 

Events at my mum’s funeral were infinitely far beyond my control and left me with an unfinished legacy. Throughout the ages humans have used music to spirit the dead into the afterlife. Music helped me shift my traumatic memories to a place of peace.

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5/7
The Stowaway's Voyage
Visions from the Bottom of the Ocean

In grief, we often lose our sense of self control and feel adrift at sea. I experienced ‘visions’, intrusive images and waves of emotional turmoil over long periods of time. Music helped me move with, rather than against, those waves and reach calmer waters.

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The last thing my mother gave me before she died was a guitar. That instrument saw me through the toughest of times and pointed the way to a new life post grief.

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I have so few direct memories of my mum and yet she was ever present throughout my formative years. Maybe the feeling of her surrounding presence, warmth and love – all those ungraspable feelings – are the sweetest memory in themselves.

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If you have enjoyed the music or found this project of use, please consider buying the album or a single to have your own copy of the music and to support future projects. Many thanks. 

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This story was also featured in 

A Word of Thanks

I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped out with this project.

To George Finlay Ramsey, Harrison Reid, Larissa Moran and E Zhang for filming. To Richard Pollack for proofreading.

To all my family and friends of the family who have been very supportive to me going through delayed grief.

To all the people who have given kind words of encouragement.

And, of course, the biggest thank you to my wife, who was the first to spot that I hadn’t grieved and who has supported me every step of the way emotionally, practically and with her graphic design skills - literally couldn't have done it without you.