Bluebox 2024 Chosen Charity: Grief Encounter

April 30, 2024

Bluebox is pleased to announce that one of our chosen Charity’s for 2024 is Grief Encounter.


Can you tell us a bit about Grief Encounter and what your Charity is all about?

Grief Encounter was founded by Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE. She was orphaned by the age of 9 and fully understands how bereavement can have a devastating impact on a child. She has dedicated her life to the mission of making sure no child grieves alone.

Every 20 minutes in the UK, a child will experience the death of a parent/carer. Children facing such grief without support are at risk of behavioural and academic issues, isolation, poor school attendance, and unemployment as an adult.

Following the death of someone close, the darkest, most challenging days for children and young people can be held by Grief Encounter. We help families navigate grief and provide a safe space for conversation through a dedicated Bereavement Support team, 1-2-1 and group counselling, weekend residentials and family fun days.


What is the mission and vision of your organization, and how do you work towards achieving them?

Our vision is to ensure that no child grieves alone. Our mission is to help bereaved children, young people and families find hope and healing.

We focus on helping children and young people build resilience in the face of grief. This could involve developing coping mechanisms, fostering a sense of an inclusive community, and encouraging open communication.

We provide the opportunity for bereaved children and young people to meet each other, allowing them to feel less isolated, and also having new, fun experiences together.

We educate families, schools, and communities about the needs of bereaved children and young people, and their role in helping normalise grief. This could include dispelling myths about grief, providing information on how to offer support, and reducing the stigma associated with bereavement. We focus on providing support to disenfranchised communities who may not have had access to prior support.


Can you tell us about some of the main programs and initiatives your charity is currently involved in?

Grief affects people in different ways. Children are no different but may be less equipped to deal with the emotions that grief brings with it. That’s why Grief Encounter offers a wide range of services to help children and their families work through their pain. This includes:

  • A dedicated Bereavement Support team
  • Specialist, intensive support services including 1-2-1 and group work support
  • Creative therapies including talking, music, art and drama
  • Bespoke care plans including support with sleep, care in school and more
  • Weekend residentials and family fun days
  • Age-appropriate resources, kits and tools for in-home support
  • Online and remote support offered


What are some of the biggest challenges your charity faces in fulfilling its mission?

The key challenges for Grief Encounter include:

  • Being able to respond effectively to increasing demand
  • Reaching more of the most vulnerable bereaved children and young people or those hidden from view
  • Increasing our profile and attracting new supporters and volunteers
  • Sustaining delivery from growth
  • Balancing support for early help and more complex support so that we reach more children and young people and more of the most complex cases get the right help.


Can you describe some success stories or notable achievements of your charity?

We provided 1,380 individuals with ongoing support over the past year. 93% of children and young people reported an improvement in their wellbeing following our support.

Our success stories are found in bereaved children and young people finding hope and healing. For example, Adam, whose dad died suddenly when he was 16. The pain and grief threatened to derail his education and aspirations to become an architect. He received art therapy and Adam captures his grieving experience in this painting.

“I feel as if this painting encapsulates a lot of what the grieving process meant for me.

Looking back now I always referred to the water: I, at times, felt as if I were drowning in grief and my emotions, waving from the surface in desperation but feeling unsure how to communicate my feeling about my Dad’s death.

This painting is of my Dad, floating in the sea in Sardinia: somewhere where I have the fondest of memories, and it was very helpful for me to paint as it was a process where I could express my emotions and feelings through art.

Talking about my art and art in general with Grief Encounter really helped me process what it means to grieve, and that it is certainly not a linear process. It’s complex, and everyone views/experiences it differently.

I’m very proud of this painting, as it symbolises how just like my Dad, I’m not drowning but floating through life and what is to come my way.”

Thanks to receiving support at the right time, Adam found the strength to rebuild his life. He is now looking forward to the future and is studying architecture at university.


How does your charity collaborate with other organisations or partners to maximise impact?

Grief Encounter recognises the strength of working together to improve the lives of children and young people and we are a member of the Childhood Bereavement Network. We have joined in recent campaigns to bring grief into the National Curriculum and for the government to collect data on bereaved children.

We work closely with schools and support them as well as the student(s) following the death of someone close. We regularly deliver both 1-2-1 and group support within schools as well as training to teachers. We receive great feedback like this from a Head of a Secondary School in London: “We have seen a noticeable improvement in how we handle grief-related situations, and students have expressed feeling more supported during challenging times. Thank you, Grief Encounter, for making a lasting difference in our school community.”

We mobilise our Trauma team and work in partnership with other organisations in cases of grief that affect a community. For example, with the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, we ran a community project in partnership with The Good Grief Trust and Jake Walker Music, a project giving children the opportunity to take part in creative sessions in The Playground Theatre and receive support from grief and trauma counsellors.

Grief Encounter works with The Emergency Response Initiative Consortium (ERIC) which is a partnership of voluntary sector agencies coming together to provide guidance and a face-to-face first responder service to Jewish schools after a student suicide or sudden traumatic death.


What are your plans for future growth or expansion of your programs and services?

Reaching more bereaved children and young people and increasing the breadth of our services is paramount.

The majority of Grief Encounter’s bereaved children accessing face-to-face support come from London and Bristol, where we have a clinical presence. We want to reach out and develop more community-based hubs across England and Wales.

We want to target those groups whose grief may be hidden from view, disenfranchised or who are disproportionately affected by death.

At a time of a cost-of-living crisis, this includes those children living in poverty, based in those areas of high deprivation and the working poor.  The needs of these families are often focused on practical help, where emotional and psychosocial matters may be overlooked. We aim to develop our presence in these areas through a range of methods that include improved access to advice, help and support.

Moving forwards, our plan is to increase our reach into other communities where there is a lack of bereavement provision for families, significant demand and/or support for under-represented groups where harm may be hidden.

We also want to empower parents and carers to get the right bereavement support so that they are better equipped to support their children with coping strategies after a bereavement.


How can individuals or businesses get involved with your charity and support its work?

We need to raise £2.5m a year to fund our vital work. We receive no government funding, and we are reliant on voluntary donations. Individuals and businesses can support in lots of ways including:

  • From a skydive to a swim, or a marathon to a mountain trek, challenge yourself in memory of someone close
  • Nominate us as your company’s charity partner
  • From a bake sale to a quiz night – get your friends, family, school or club together to raise vital funds
  • Leave us a gift in your will
  • Make a regular donation
  • Become a charity ambassador or volunteer your time
  • If karting, golf or comedy is your thing, register your interest for our Grief Encounter events!
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