Emotional messages take to the skies to mark release of charity record

Emotional messages take to the skies to mark release of charity record

RELATIVES grieving the loss of a loved one were among those gathered for the poignant launch of a charity single by Coventry’s MOBO Award-nominated musician Sandra Godley.

My Darling, Sandra Godley, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire MIND, balloons release
Releasing the balloons in memory of lost loved ones at The Telegraph Hotel Rooftop Bar..

National Grief Awareness Day on Monday (August 30th) marked the release of My Darling which is raising funds and awareness for three local charities in the wake of the pandemic – Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly’s Wishes and Coventry and Warwickshire Mind.

In collaboration with Surviving Bereavement Founder Tracey McAtamney from Balsall Common, the event included a minute’s silence and the release of 100 white balloons bearing emotional messages, from the roof of The Telegraph Hotel in Coventry.

My Darling, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons launch
Musicians Sandra Godley and Roy Hemmings.
My Darling, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons launch
Jessica Weeks with daughter Hannah.

Specially invited guests included Roy Hemmings, formerly of The Drifters, who lost his brother Neville in April last year. My Darling will be played at a memorial for Neville in Birmingham tomorrow. (Friday Sept 10th)

Also releasing a balloon, in memory of her daughter Emelia, was Jessica Weeks and her family, from Coventry. Emelia’s died in 2017 less than one hour after being born with spina bifida and anencephaly. Jessica went on to establish Hannah’s House, a charity which provides support after the loss of a sibling to neonatal death, miscarriage and stillbirth. (See accompanying Case Study here)

My Darling is a particularly heartfelt piece of work for the Bristol-born musician, Sandra, who is still grieving the loss of her own aunt to the virus in April last year.

She said following the launch: “I am delighted that the song ‘My Darling’ is now finally released. I’ve been carrying the words of the song for over a year now.

“It was such an incredible time to be amongst friends and family on a very special day, Grief Awareness Day. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen. Special thanks to Matt Cossey for producing the track. I now want to encourage everyone to give what they can to the fundraising page to help spread the message of hope and I know the three charities involved will be very grateful for all donations received.”

Those who would like to donate more can now also visit a new fundraising page here

And My Darling is available to download for 79p from any of these outlets

Tracey McAtamney said: “The launch of My Darling and release of the biodegradable memory balloons could not have gone better despite it being a bank holiday Monday – people came out to remember their loved ones. It felt very personal, moving and heartfelt, especially during the one-minute silence, a time for reflection before the balloon release.

“The song is beautiful and I know is touching many. We are hoping that people will continue to download the song for just 79p or donate to the JustGiving page. All monies raised will be in support of those struggling with grief.”

With four successful albums and a clutch of awards to her name, Sandra’s proudest musical career highlights include singing in The House of Commons as well as creating and performing The Big Love Song as a wedding gift for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, joined by a choir of mental health ambassadors on BBC’s The One Show, in 2018.

My Darling, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons launch

My Darling marks a departure from Sandra’s usual soul and gospel style, instead following more contemporary musical influences to appeal to a wider audience impacted by Covid or otherwise-related loss.

The single’s producer Matt Cossey said: “Coming off the back of a global pandemic, this track has been really meaningful to work on, but also a real privilege. Trying to simultaneously capture the sound of grief and hope was a particularly interesting and poignant challenge, but I think we have managed it! I hope the track raises a lot of profits and awareness for the charities.”

Through the work of The Surviving Bereavement Foundation, Tracey McAtamney has helped many others through their journey with grief by offering legal and financial advice as well as practical and emotional support.

Tracey, from Balsall Common, established the Foundation 16 years after herself being widowed with two sons at the age of just 38. Her husband Tony had died suddenly in his hotel room while on a golfing holiday in Spain.

As part of the Foundation’s growth, she recently qualified as a Grief Recovery Specialist and the past year has also seen a huge rise in demand for her personalised Memory Boxes, which contain specially chosen items that celebrate the life of a lost loved one.

My Darling, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons launch
Sandra Godley and producer Matt Cossey in the recording studio.

The record, which has been produced by Matt Cossey of The Nexus Institute of Creative Arts in Coventry, is being funded by an anonymous sponsor and supported by Alsters Kelley Solicitors.

Some of the proceeds will also benefit Warwick-based charity Molly Olly’s Wishes and local mental health charity Coventry and Warwickshire Mind.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

My Darling, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons launch
Tracey McAtamney, Sandra Godley and Molly Olly’s Wishes founder Rachel Ollerenshaw.

Rachel said: “The launch of My Darling was a very special and poignant day. It is a beautiful song and the emotion behind it really highlights the importance and significance of being aware of the challenges that grieving families face. Molly Olly’s are extremely grateful for the support and thank you to Sandra, Tracey and everyone who was involved for including Molly Olly’s in this project. Funds raised will help us to support families at the saddest of times.”

Local mental health charity, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind is part of the national Mind organisation – delivering services and support for people with mental health problems for over 50 years.

Recognising the importance of listening to, and working with, people who have experienced mental health issues, the charity aims to provide support for those who live with and recover from a mental health problem. This can mean providing access to information, a listening ear, or providing more specialist support and services.

Steven Hill, CEO Coventry and Warwickshire Mind, also attended the launch. He said: “It was a pleasure to be a part of the event for ‘My Darling’ – a poignant song about the loss faced by many of us over the past 18 months and highlighting its detrimental impact on our mental health.

“We’re honoured to be one of the charities chosen by Sandra Godley. The money raised will enable us to continue our work – ensuring that no-one faces a mental health problem on their own.”

Watch the music video for My Darling here

My Darling, Surviving Berevement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry & Warwickshire Mind, loss, balloons release

Contacting the charities:

Further information about Surviving Bereavement or how to donate can be found here

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found here

Further information about Coventry and Warwickshire Mind or how to donate can be found here

For more information about Hannah’s House visit here Donations can be made here

Charity song set to raise funds and awareness of loss

Charity song set to raise funds and awareness of loss

My Darling, Sandra Godley, Tracey McAtamney, Molly Olly's Wishes, Surviving Bereavement, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind

AN award-winning singer songwriter has released a new single close to her heart to raise funds and awareness for three charities in Coventry and Warwickshire.

My Darling is the exclusive new track written and recorded by MOBO-nominated musician Sandra Godley in aid of Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly’s Wishes and Coventry and Warwickshire Mind.

In collaboration with Surviving Bereavement Founder Tracey McAtamney, the project draws much-needed focus on the increasing mental health problems post-pandemic.

It is a particularly poignant piece or work for the Coventry musician and local BBC radio host, Sandra, who is still grieving the loss of her own aunt to Covid-19 in April last year.

She said: “This track is based on conversations that I’d had with people like Tracey and others who survived having lost people and having had a year out to think about that.

“Because I work in broadcasting people are telling me their stories of loss and grief and anguish all the time. I got to the point where I thought, what do I do with all this? This is a real situation and I need to help as many people as I can.

“I wrote the lyrics for this hoping it would offer some kind of comfort and a way of journeying these next few months and years. What I’ve found is that a lot of people haven’t been able to talk about it because they haven’t been able to physically go and see someone in the family during the grieving process.”

With four successful albums and a clutch of awards to her name, Sandra’s proudest musical career highlights include singing in The House of Commons as well as creating and performing The Big Love Song as a wedding gift for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, joined by a choir of mental health ambassadors on BBC’s The One Show, in 2018.

My Darling, Sandra Godley, Tracey McAtamney, Molly Olly's Wishes, Surviving Bereavement, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind
Sandra Godley in the recording studio as Tracey McAtamney looks on. Photo by Dy Holme

My Darling marks a departure from Sandra’s usual soul and gospel style, instead following more contemporary musical influences to appeal to a wider audience impacted by Covid or otherwise-related loss.

“I wanted this to be more modern in terms of the Billie Eilish, James Arthur and George Ezra-type sound. I was actually influenced by a lot young artists for this song when I usually tend to look backwards in time for a lot of my music. Most young people won’t have previously experienced the kind of trauma of the last 18 months and I thought these artists were writing some really inspirational stuff for this ‘now’ moment,” she said.

Through the work of The Surviving Bereavement Foundation, Tracey McAtamney has helped many others through their journey with grief by offering legal and financial advice as well as practical and emotional support.

My Darling, Sandra Godley, Tracey McAtamney, Surviving Bereavement, Molly Olly's Wishes, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind
Sandra Godley and producer Matt Cossey in the recording studio. Photo by Dy Holme

Tracey, from Balsall Common, established the Foundation 16 years after herself being widowed with two sons at the age of just 38. Her husband Tony had died suddenly in his hotel room while on a golfing holiday in Spain.

As part of the Foundation’s growth, she also recently qualified as a Grief Recovery Specialist, using an actioned evidenced-based programme for moving beyond death, divorce and other losses including health and career.

The past year has also seen a huge rise in demand for her personalised Memory Boxes, which contain specially chosen items that celebrate the life of a lost loved one.

She said: “During lockdown I delivered or posted 136 free Memory Boxes or Bags to children and young adults. I realised with us coming out of the pandemic we needed a way to reach more people. Music is that way – Sandra’s song is one of hope for all of those people grieving due to the loss of loved ones, many of which were unable to say goodbye.

“I am so grateful to Sandra for putting the words on paper and then adding her voice – it is beautiful. The track could have been written for me when my husband died and I was unable to say goodbye 16 years ago!”

There has been an increase in demand for memory boxes from the Surviving Bereavement Charity run by Tracey McAtamney.

“I am hoping that the song will provide hope for many and that by downloading it, will ensure that more children and young adults will continue to receive free Memory Boxes.”

The single, which has been produced by Matt Cossey of The Nexus Institute of Creative Arts in Coventry, is being funded by an anonymous sponsor and supported by Alsters Kelley solicitors and Coventry’s The Telegraph Hotel – the host of an official launch event on National Grief Awareness Day, on August 30th.

Some of the proceeds will also benefit Warwick-based charity Molly Olly’s Wishes and local mental health charity Coventry and Warwickshire Mind.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

It works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw
Rachel Ollerenshaw, the Founder of Molly Olly’s Wishes with mascot Olly The Brave. The charity was established in her daughter’s name.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “The death of someone close to us is hard at any time but the restrictions and effects of the pandemic have made the grieving process all the more difficult.

“Raising awareness of the struggle and the enormity of loss and how it affects us all differently and providing support through these challenging times is so important.

“Molly Olly’s Wishes work with families who sadly have a child at end of life and help them to create memories and support their emotional wellbeing and we are extremely grateful to Sandra. It is a beautiful song and we hope it helps highlight the awareness of loss and the work of charities.”

Local mental health charity, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind is part of the national Mind organisation – delivering services and support for people with mental health problems for over 50 years.

Recognising the importance of listening to, and working with, people who have experienced mental health issues, the charity aims to provide support for those who live with and recover from a mental health problem. This can mean providing access to information, a listening ear, or providing more specialist support and services.

Steven Hill, Coventry and Warwickshire Mind CEO said: “During the lockdown we were all forced into periods of extended isolation – this was difficult enough for those of us with close family networks but for those of us living alone, this increased the sense of anxiety, of isolation, and of hopelessness.

“The impact of this isolation, added to the trauma of loss and bereavement experienced across Coventry and Warwickshire, has exaggerated mental health issues for many, leaving them desperate for support at a time of mental health crisis.”

My Darling is available now to download for 79p from any of the following outlets

 

Tragedy inspires bereavement campaign – 15 years later

Tragedy inspires bereavement campaign – 15 years later

IN the early hours of a June morning in 2004, Tracey McAtamney took a phone call that was to change her and her children’s lives forever.

It was the worst news imaginable for the mum-of-two from Balsall Common, who is now launching a series of seminars and Memory Boxes as part of a foundation she founded 15 years later.

Her husband Tony, who had left for his regular Law Society golf trip to Spain just days earlier, had suddenly died.

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars

“We would normally go as a family but this particular year my older son, Anthony who was 15, was just taking his last GCSE exam so I made the decision to stay at home with the boys,” recalled Tracey.

“He had spoken to me on the Sunday night and I always remember, he said ‘I wish you were here.’ He spoke to the boys and finished the call to me with ‘I love you.’

“Oliver, who was just seven at the time, wanted to sleep in my bed because his daddy was away. At 1am my mobile rang and I grabbed it and just had this feeling. I stumbled into the bathroom and answered the phone and there was just one word – he just said my name. There was a silence and I just said: ‘he’s dead isn’t he?’

“When he said ‘yes’ I just collapsed in a heap on the floor. I remember sliding down the bathroom door and saying ‘OK, I can’t talk now because Oliver is in the bedroom. I’m going to have to call you back.’ It felt like someone had punched me in the chest. I crawled out of the bedroom because I didn’t want Oliver to see me, I just couldn’t face him.

“I opened Anthony’s bedroom door, where he was still awake with his friend, and just blurted it out. Anthony just looked at me, we hugged and the tears came down.”

Tony was discovered on the floor of his hotel room after suffering what turned out to be an abdominal aneurism.

It came as a huge shock as news spread to friends and colleagues of this well-known and respected lawyer who had been running his own practice in Coventry for 20 years.

He was also well known for charitable work and was a trustee and secretary of the St Bernadette’s Trust which organised trips to Lourdes for youngsters and raised money to help those unable to pay.

Tracey, 54, said: “People are not meant to die on holiday. They are meant to come home. I had lost my husband, father of my children, our livelihood and most of all, my best friend. How do you tell a seven-year-old that his daddy is never coming home? To this day, this is the worst thing I have ever had to do.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Memory box

It was some 15 years later, in 2019, that this tragic event was to inspire a series of new ventures aimed at helping others overcome loss, and a foundation called Surviving Bereavement was born.

Tracey explained: “I started to go to a networking group Ladies First which was being run by a couple of ladies I knew we each shared our personal stories. This is the first time I had publicly talked about my loss and dealing with grief and resilience. It was following this I realised how many people were touched by my story and I was invited to be ‘A Women of Spirit’ in 2019 as well as publishing my own book, Hidden Strength.

“When I was asked to write my story I was surprised, but decided, if my experiences could help others, it would be worth it.

“Once my book was released a lot of people started getting in touch for advice and that’s when I decided to establish Surviving Bereavement, to raise money to fund my Memory Box/Memory Bag Campaign.”

“I had closed all these emotional boxes 15 years ago and once I had the time to open them, I realised that I had a lot to share.”

Surviving Bereavement exists to offer legal and financial advice as well as practical help, all the things, says Tracey, that were not to hand when she needed them.

She said: “Our aim is to raise awareness of not just the emotional aspect of grief, but also the practical and the mental wellbeing required to survive bereavement.

“After someone dies you find yourself surrounded by paperwork. I realised quickly that people needed help.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars

This support also takes the form of seminars, a new series of which are now being planned remotely after lockdown brought an abrupt end to face to face gatherings.

A host of speakers are lined up to talk about their own personal experience with bereavement from this month, including topics on How to Support a Bereaved Young Person; How to Decide Style of Funeral Service and Coping With Baby Loss, attended by Sharon Luca-Chatha who founded The Luca Foundation following the stillbirth of her son Luca. (https://thelucafoundation.org.uk/) Further details on seminars at: https://survivingbereavement.com/seminars/

Efforts to find innovative new ways to keep the support going through the pandemic has coincided with a need for service being brought into even sharper focus.

She said: “At the moment there is an awful lot of pain because people are not able to see loved ones when they die and I relate to that because there was a lot of anger and regret that I couldn’t be there for Tony.

“We were only just getting the foundation on its feet when lockdown struck. It’s been very hard not to be able to meet up face to face. I really believe that talking is the best thing and really does help – but not being able to give out hugs at the moment is hard.

“I think these meetings are going to be needed after this pandemic more than ever.”

The latest initiative to come out of the foundation is her new Memory Boxes, created in Tony’s memory and personally hand-delivered by Tracey herself.

The bespoke boxes and bags, which are available for children and young adults, typically contain items such as forget-me-not seeds, a personalised book and letter and age-relevant treat item.

“I thought memory boxes were really important to offer some comfort, but when I looked into it there was nowhere that actually gave them away for free, so I thought I would set it up myself,” said Tracey.

“I do cherish the importance of memories. You can lose people but you can’t lose memories. They are always there and we should treasure them as much as we can.

“I’m hoping to be able to put the boxes into hospices but I haven’t been able to do that yet because everything closed down.”

One of Tracey’s own cherished keepsakes following Tony’s death, is actually a golf ball.

“When I went to Spain to repatriate Tony’s body, I visited his hotel room and the weirdest thing happened – a golf ball rolled out from under the bed. It was like some sort of message. That’s Tony telling us that he’s OK, I thought. That turned out to be a sort of turning point for me.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Tracey and her sons today

It was to be 12 years later when Tracey had to come to terms with her loss that her her mum died following a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.

And she was no stranger to grief even at an early age, after losing her father in an accident when she was just seven – the same age as her youngest son Oliver had since lost his father.

It is hoped Surviving Bereavement will continue to grow and help navigate more people through their journey with grief which, Tracey promises, does become easier.

“You go through pain, anger and sadness but you do get through the other side and you smile again. It’s about survival more than anything else. But you do survive. That is why I wanted to do this, to show that to people.

“The pain changes and you never stop missing somebody that’s lost from your life. But memories must always be treasured and talked about. They mustn’t be the elephant in the room.

“I developed a coping mechanism which I never knew existed. I had no choice, my boys were now my priority and I would protect them with my life. We would survive.”

Surviving Bereavement, Tracey McAtamney, Memory Boxes, seminars
Tracey at the launch of her bereavement book Hidden Strength

Now settled with a new partner of 10 years – and spending as much time as she can keeping up with her sons, now aged 32 and 23, three step-children, Helen, Victoria and Gerard, and four step-grandchildren, aged between 4-16, Tracey knows Tony’s memory is never far away.

“I think he would be so proud of his whole family. When I go to see them I always get upset because it brings home what he’s missing out on.

“But I don’t think he’d recognise me today. I am a different person. I became a different person the moment that phone call arrived.”

She added: “Over the last 15 years, I have had to rely on that inner strength to get me and the boys through situations that have seemed impossible. Death has not defined us as a family, however it has truly shaped us as people.

“My motto – there is always a light at the end of a tunnel and always an answer to that impossible situation – and that’s what Surviving Bereavement is here to help with too.”

Visit Surviving Bereavement at: https://survivingbereavement.com/

For further information or to enquire about donating, contact Tracey McAtamney at: tracey@survivingbereavement.com