I Love you, Sunshine - help families left behind

I Love You, Sunshine - help the families left behind 

My name is Addy Farmer and I am a children’s writer. I spend my life thinking about readers and the stories they want to hear. There are so many stories to tell and some of them are easier than others. Milly’s story is a difficult story to hear but it’s a story that should be heard. I met ‘Milly’ a couple of years ago. She was speaking on a radio programme; her small voice wobbling as she related how her dad took his own life and how every day was hard. Her words were incredibly powerful and deeply affecting. I wanted to help there and then, I wanted to make her and others like her feel less alone. There was only one thing I could do - write a story.


I Love You, Sunshine is for all the Millys and their families. It is an illustrated chapter book which tells the story of how one dad takes his own life and how it affects his eight year old daughter, Milly, and the rest of her family. It is a story of bereavement but it is also a story of love. It is intended as a way for all those families, bereaved by suicide, to know that they are not alone; to build resilience through understanding; and to help take small emotional steps forwards. The story has been informed and developed through conversations with bereaved parents and feedback from bereavement support practitioners at Child Bereavement UK. This brilliant charity will be providing the important parental guidance notes to go alongside Milly’s story. These notes will also point the way to support networks for those families bereaved by suicide. I Love You, Sunshine is intended for distribution to bereavement charities and for sale to school counsellors or to any organisation which might find it a useful resource. 5% of all sales will go to Child Bereavement UK.


Your funding will be used in several ways. It will help to pay for our amazing illustrator, Darren Gates who beautifully captures the spirit of the story. He will create 22 black and white illustrations as well as the colour cover. Funding will also pay for the brilliant work of our designer and editor, Simona Sideri, whose work will bring out the best in the words and pictures. I am so grateful to Peer Music which has charged a nominal fee for the rights to use the words to the song, ‘You are my Sunshine’ which is referenced throughout the story. This fee, together with the costs of printing and distributing 2500 copies of I Love You, Sunshine, would also be covered by your funding.  Darren and Simona and I have begun the work of bringing the book together and with your funding we would hope to launch in March 2021. 


I am a published writer. I have shown the story to various editors who love it but will not publish it because this is not a book for general distribution. This is a book which answers a specific and yet rarely talked about need. Every day, children in the UK suffer when a carer takes their own life. I chose to write about a dad, mostly because of the families I had talked to and their experiences. But then there is the awful, glaring fact of a rising rate of death by suicide amongst men. It is shockingly common and yet rarely spoken about because it is a terrible event and is deeply traumatising. I would like to help the work of amazing bereavement charities and other organisations by having a story which speaks to those affected families.


I am the story writer. I’m not entirely sure why I chose to write Milly’s story other than I was moved to do so. Being moved by someone’s story, their plight, is how many writers find their way into a story. I desperately wanted to understand Milly’s relationship with her dad, I wanted to show his deep love for her and I wanted Milly to feel able to take her first steps on the long road to being able to live with the fact of her dad’s death. I wanted her to be able to embrace the love they had. 


Essentially, it is a story about love.


I also knew that if I wanted to help, that I was going to need help. I knew who Milly was and what would happen in the story but I had to get the details right. It was crucial to be sensitive to language; to understand how a child might react in such terrible circumstances; and to portray what help there is for families. I had to make sure that every word I wrote would do good and be helpful. 


There are some wonderful picture books for younger children and some excellent books which help children deal in practical ways with the emotional devastation following a death by suicide. However, an illustrated chapter story for those slightly older children aged seven to ten is not so common and I knew from my conversations with parents and bereavement charities that such a book might be useful.


As I began to work with Child Bereavement UK I realised how crucial it was to identify not just the grief felt by a child but also the possible conflicting feelings of guilt and love. Supporting a child through these emotions is hugely difficult and unlikely to be a one-off conversation. They need information and an explanation from a trusted adult. Understanding what has happened will be unique to the individual child. 

 

The main function of the book (I Love You, Sunshine) is to encourage communication between a child and adult, and to support a child in making sense of their own experience and give an opportunity for them to voice their own questions and worries.  Detailed supportive guidance for the adult is included, alongside details of where further support can be accessed.

Child Bereavement UK

 

It has taken two years to get to this point when we are ready to go ahead and produce, I Love You, Sunshine. Up to this point, it was crucial for me to research and understand the issue. I now better understand the issues and this is thanks to those incredibly brave parents and to Child Bereavement UK for their astonishing input. 


With understanding came the need to find an illustrator who could truly capture the spirit of Milly and her family circumstances. I also needed an editor and designer who understood how such a story could be sensitively brought to life. I was lucky enough to find Darren and Simona. But nothing was going to happen unless Peer Music gave its permission to use the words to the lovely song, You are my Sunshine. It’s a wonderfully simple song which says everything I wanted it to about the relationship between Milly and her dad. To change this motif would have changed the tone and how Milly and Dad’s close bond was portrayed.

 

But finally Peer Music gave me the rights and not only that but they gave the rights to 2500 books for a nominal fee. 


It all takes time. I’ve realised that sometimes the things that matter take the most time. My Milly was never going to be happy straightaway. I hope that the readers of I love you, Sunshine, will also realise that with help and love, the sunshine can return.


So, please, help me to publish I Love You, Sunshine. Here’s a chance to give some small help to those children and families left behind and to support those charities and organisations who, in turn, support them. 


Thank you.

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Fundraising team: Sunshine Team (3)

Addy Farmer 
Organizer
Crowle, Yorkshire and the Humber, United Kingdom
Darren Gate 
Team member
Simona Sideri 
Team member
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