Shirley Gilbert, founder of Grief Encounter, Whetstone, awarded OBE

Times Series: Shirley Gilbert Shirley Gilbert

A daughter left heartbroken when her parents died before she was nine has been honoured for her work helping children deal with their grief.

Shirley Gilbert, the founder of Grief Encounter, was named on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

The 56-year-old founded the charity, based in High Road, Whetstone, in 2005 to help other children through what she describes as a “traumatic” experience.

After qualifying as a children’s counsellor she published a book on the way children deal with grief, and was then inspired to do more.

She said: “Adults are easily fooled. If a child says they are okay, the usually believe it. The child is sometimes sent back to school and has to get on with it, when really they are deep in grief.

“It is a hard subject to speak about. You don’t want to open old wounds or upset or frighten the children, although they are usually open and honest.

“I used what happened to me to give the children hope that things will be okay again, and things will get better. You can’t bring a person back from the dead, but you can help them through.”

Now a grandmother-to-be, Mrs Gilbert was adopted by her aunt and uncle after her mother died of breast cancer and her father died of a heart attack within five years of each other.

She credits the success of the charity and her OBE to her husband, her four children and the “wisdom” of her aunt and uncle.

She added: “When I found out I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and that I’d followed the yellow brick road to success after all these years.

“I’m very proud of the charity, it’s something I never imagined would be possible.

“I couldn’t have done it without the people who share my commitment to helping bereaved families through their darkest days, without being motivated by financial gain. They are all wonderful.”

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