Grief Encounter - A History

Grief Encounter - A History

At Hand on Heart, giving back is incredibly important to us. We’re extremely proud of our charity partnership with Grief Encounter; every year, we aim to raise vital funds for this amazing cause. 

This September, we’ll be donating 10% of profits from our Memorial Jewellery range (Memorial Ashes Jewellery, Self-fill Ashes Jewellery and Memorial Fingerprint Jewellery) to Grief Encounter. Any customer who orders a piece of jewellery from the memorial range throughout September will receive a card in their order that tells them where the donated money is going and how it will help. 

Hand on Heart managing director, Amanda Dixon, said: “We truly believe that in business and in life, we all have a role to play to help others. We feel so grateful that doing what we love allows us to support others, and we’re delighted to be able to support such a wonderful charity.”

Memorial Fingerprint and Ashes Jewellery

Grief Encounter is a phenomenal charity that does amazing work. We thought we’d mark the start of our fundraising month by sharing some information about the charity, its founder Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, and how it has grown since its inception. 

Firstly, did you know that 1 in 29 children suffer the death of a parent or sibling every year in the UK? It’s a heartbreaking statistic, and it was this need for support that inspired Grief Encounter, which was first established in 2004 by Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE. 

The idea behind the charity was to offer bereaved children and young people a safe space to grieve and talk about their feelings following the death of a parent or sibling. The charity’s work is vital because without intervention, statistics show that bereaved young people can go on to suffer emotional, behavioural, social and academic issues. 

Grief Encounter founder and lifetime president, Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, said: “I want to make things different for today’s bereaved children. They need to be chief mourners, and they need to be acknowledged. I grew up with two feeling words – happy and sad – and there was nothing in between.”

One of Grief Encounter’s initial schemes in its first year was rolling out 1,000 workbooks. A year later, the workbook became a bestseller, leading to the charity establishing a home office and phone line with 12 volunteers.

The first workshops and counselling sessions were then launched in 2006. Just two years later, 8,000 workbooks were in circulation, and the word continued to spread as Grief Encounter’s accredited training vision expanded nationally.

Grief Encounter Charity

In 2009, the 1:1 counselling sessions expanded to 40 sessions per week, and the charity received its first celebrity support, with Jeff Brazier, Arlene Philips, Antonio Carluccio, Gabby and Kenny Logan, David Morrisey and Dawn French all offering their support.

A year later, in 2010, the charity expanded to Essex and the South West of England. That same year, the residential camp was launched. In 2012, Dr Shelley Gilbert was named the Daily Mail Inspirational Woman of the Year, another book was published, and further initiatives, including e-counselling, were launched. 

The year 2013 marked a significant development for Grief Encounter. New clinical offices opened, the charity received Children in Need funding, and the first full-time COO was appointed. In 2014, Grief Encounter’s 10th anniversary was marked in an incredible way, with Dr Shelley Gilbert receiving an MBE at Buckingham Palace. The first gala dinner celebrated a decade of work, and accredited training programmes were also launched.

The year 2015 saw the first overseas charity challenge to the Great Wall of China, together with the very first Children’s Grief Awareness Week, launched by Grief Encounter and CBN. The following year saw Richard Fogelman appointed CEO, and the charity’s profile was raised internationally with a TEDx Talk and further services abroad.

In 2017, a second London office opened, and a Bristol office was acquired. A Grenfell response team was also established, and Grief Encounter joined the Parliamentary task force for Bereavement Support.

A year later, in 2018, Grief Encounter was chosen for Good Morning Britain’s One Million Minutes campaign. The Grief Encounter charity choir also sang with Katherine Jenkins.

Grief Encounter Charity with Katherine Jenkins

Grief Encounter marked 15 years with a gala dinner in 2019, together with an exciting rebrand. The incredible grieftalk helpline was also launched in 2019. A year later, the helpline was extended to all frontline workers during Covid-19 when the global pandemic hit in 2020, using the hashtag #youarenotalone.

It has been amazing seeing how Grief Encounter has expanded and developed since its launch in 2004. The charity has grown year on year and now supports more than 6,500 bereaved children and young people every year across the UK.

Grief Encounter’s qualified clinical team offer face-face and online therapeutic services, including grieftalk – the charity’s free, national helpline, open weekdays, 9am – 9pm. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, grieftalk has been available to all those suffering grief, with immediate listening services, advice and support available.

The charity’s Family Programme is offered remotely and in person for up to two years, and includes tailored care plans for the individual, such as 1:1 counselling, e-counselling, online workshops, Covid secure family days, creative therapies and more. 

Grief Encounter also provides free advice and best practice bereavement training to educational institutions and corporate organisations, following the death of a student or an employee. Its specialist trauma team works with the public and government to support humanitarian disasters such as terrorist attacks and tragedies such as the Grenfell fire.

Grief Encounter Charity

Donations are essential to Grief Encounter’s current and future work. With no government funding available, the charity relies solely on private donations to fund its £1.3 million running costs, supporting more than 6,500 individuals annually.

If you have experienced bereavement, you can call, chat or e-mail the free, national grieftalk helpline for instant support and listening services, open 9am – 9pm weekdays, on 0808 802 0111. For more information, please visit the website:

We’re delighted to be supporting Grief Encounter as our charity partner again this year. If you order any pieces from our Memorial Jewellery Range throughout September, you’ll be supporting them too, as we’re donating 10% of profits from this collection to the charity. If you’d like to get involved with fundraising too, please keep an eye on our blog where we’ll be sharing ideas on how to support Grief Encounter. 

Grief Encounter Charity