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.
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. (See Case Study below)
Specially invited guests included Roy Hemmings, formerly of The Drifters, who lost his brother Neville in April last year. My Darling was played at a memorial for Neville in Birmingham on Friday. (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.
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 the following 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 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, 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.
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
CASE STUDY: Jessica Weeks, from Coventry
“They said she wouldn’t survive the birth but she did – she lived for 57 wonderful minutes.”
For any parent, having less than one hour of memories of their child to treasure for life is simply unthinkable. For Jessica Weeks, from Coventry, it is only too real – but meeting her precious girl, albeit so briefly, is something she’ll never regret.
It was at the 12-week scan, in January 2017, that the bottom fell out of Jessica’s world. She and husband Andy received the devastating news that Emelia had severe abnormalities and they should expect the worst.
Forty-year-old Jessica recalls: “Emelia was diagnosed with spina bifida and anencephaly and it was the biggest kick in the gut. We were told she wouldn’t make it past 20 weeks, then told 28 weeks and then that she wouldn’t survive the birth. But she was my fighter, my little miracle baby and she lived – and we had 57 wonderful minutes with her.”
Four years later Jessica finds herself surrounded by the family she so desperately craved, with two cherished children, aged 6 and 2 and another on the way. But it was in Emelia’s memory that she was invited to the launch event last week for Sandra Godley’s charity record.
Emelia’s legacy also proudly lives on in the form of Hannah’s House, established by Jessica in her firstborn’s name. The charity offers a place of refuge after the loss of siblings to neonatal death, miscarriage and stillbirth.
It provides vital support through Parenting With Hope groups as well as counselling and ‘Celebration Days.’ And a feature of Jessica’s long-term aims is for the charity to work more closely around bereavement with University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, where she both met and lost her precious girl on the same day.
“I wanted to take the pain of our loss and turn it into something to be able to help other people, by working with their other children and help them to understand death,” she said.
“My eldest daughter Hannah was two when we lost Emelia and there was nowhere for us to go. There was lots of help for us as parents but it was really hard for us to explain to a two-year-old why her little sister didn’t get to come home with mummy from the hospital.
“The following year we had another baby, our son Daniel, and I found that again there was nowhere to turn for support with pregnancy after loss.
“Sadly I knew I wasn’t going to be the last mum who would have to bury their child, who has to think about how they’re going to remember them as opposed to how they’re going to bring them up. I decided I didn’t want the pain we were feeling to be in vain.
“Hannah’s House was something I always wanted to do and finally got charitable status in February.”
She is also keen to encourage wider discussion around the sensitive subject of neonatal terminal diagnosis and available options to parents.
She said: “I knew as her mum the only thing I could give my little girl was the opportunity of life. They didn’t know how long she would survive or, if she did, how long we would have her for but there was that chance of life and she deserved that opportunity.
“We made the right decision for us but of course I appreciate it might not be the right decision for everybody. I’m just so happy that I got to see her big brown eyes.”
As Jessica and Andy continue to navigate the long path of grief ahead, they also look forward to meeting the newest member of the Weeks family in November, although Jessica admits there will always be a hole in the family that can never be filled.
She said: “I really love my children but it’s so hard when you look at them and think someone is missing. That’s what connects us as parents in the support group.
“When you get the question ‘how many children do you have?’ you can feel a bit like a rabbit in the headlights. Sometimes I’ll say I’ve just got the two and Hannah will chip in with ‘what about Emelia?’ But now four years later I am more easily able to say I have three children – soon to be four – but only three of them live with me and one lives in heaven.
“Hannah knows that Emelia is in her future so when she gets to heaven she’ll be able to meet her sister. And she has birthday and Christmas cards from her.”
Jessica, Andy, Hannah and Daniel, were proud to be among specially invited guests at the launch event for My Darling, at The Telegraph’s Rooftop Bar in Coventry on National Grief Awareness Day. (August 31st)
The release of the single, written and performed by MOBO Award-nominated Coventry musician Sandra Godley, was also marked by the release of 100 white balloons in honour of lost loved ones.
Jessica said: “Being a part of the event with my other children was just wonderful – being able to remember our daughter as well as all the other babies that didn’t get to come home. The song is absolutely beautiful. It really captures the emotion of being separated from somebody you love.”
For more information about Hannah’s House visit here
Donations can be made via here