A charity founder who runs monthly bereavement cafes in Warwickshire and the West Midlands, has been named as a Platinum Champion as part of a national Jubilee awards celebrating dedication to volunteering.
Tracey McAtamney was recognised for her work as the founder of Surviving Bereavement foundation, which she established in memory of her late husband Tony.
The former Coventry Carnival Queen, from Balsall Common, was left widowed with two sons at just 38, when Tony suddenly collapsed and died in his hotel room while on a golfing holiday.
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. It offers legal and financial advice as well as practical help.
This support also takes the form of a new series of bereavement cafes at venues across the county including Leamington, Kenilworth, Balsall Common and Berkswell.
The charity also provides bespoke Memory Boxes – hand-delivered by Tracey – which are available for grieving children and young adults, and typically contain items such as forget-me-not seeds, a personalised book and letter, journal, cuddle bears and other age-relevant items.
Such is the demand for the boxes, Tracey, 56, is soon to scale up the service by launching a community interest business, working with hospitals and hospices throughout the country.
“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.”
In 2019 she also published her own book, Hidden Strength and has since gone on to qualify as a trained grief counsellor.
The Platinum Champion Awards are a Jubilee project launched by The Royal Voluntary Service in honour of The Queen’s 70-year reign and celebrate ‘extradordinary volunteers who go that extra mile to improve the lives of others.’ The 490 winners received a specially designed pin and certificate.
Reacting to the award, which she received this week, Tracey said: “I am honoured and delighted to be recognised in this way. I am passionate about supporting those coping with the pain and isolation of loss. Our cafes provide a safe place for people to talk and I hope our Memory Boxes bring some comfort to children and young adults.
“I would like to thank my sponsors, Alsters Kelley Solicitors, Jamieson Christie Wealth Management, John Pigott, Kenilworth Lions and the many other people who have made donations to make this happen.”
Now settled with a new partner of 12 years – and spending as much time as she can keeping up with her sons, now aged 34 and 25, three step-children and four step-grandchildren, Tracey knows Tony’s memory is never far away.
Tracey added: “Since Tony’s death, 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 here
For further information or to enquire about donating, contact Tracey McAtamney at: email@example.com