Our history

Winston’s Wish was founded in 1992 to support bereaved children in Gloucestershire and has since expanded to provide bereavement support to children, young people and those who care for them across the UK.

Vision and mission

Winston’s Wish was set up in 1992 to meet the needs of bereaved children, young people and their families. Since then, we have helped many thousands of children begin to live with their loss.

The idea took root when clinical psychologist, Julie Stokes, visited the USA and Canada on a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Inspired by the services she saw there, she returned to the UK and set up Winston’s Wish.

‘Churchill’ quickly metamorphosed into ‘Winston’ – a bear – who became our mascot. We say it is Winston’s wish that every bereaved child should receive the help they need to cope with the death of someone important in their lives.


Winston’s Wish was founded to meet the needs of bereaved children in Gloucestershire.


We held our first residential weekend, bringing together bereaved children and young people.


Winston’s Wish won the BT/ChildLine Award for providing ‘outstanding services to children’.


We won the Guardian Jerwood Award for community achievement.


Worked with Macmillan Cancer Support to produce a children’s book, The Secret C.

Winston’s Wish worked with the BBC to produce a BBC Everyman documentary ‘Goodbye, God Bless’ which won a Royal Television Society Award.

We received funding from the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund to develop an interactive website aimed at 12-18 year olds.


Our Family Line (now called our National Helpline) was launched to provide advice and guidance over the phone to those supporting bereaved children.

Our booklets about serious illness (As Big As It Gets) and suicide (Beyond the Rough Rock) both won the Plain English Campaign awards.


The service Winston’s Wish provides to bereaved children, young people and their families was recognised by Her Majesty The Queen as ‘pioneering’ and making a ‘significant contribution to the life of the nation’.


Winston’s Wish launched it national service to provide face-to-face support for children bereaved by homicide or suicide.


Winston’s Wish opened its office in West Sussex to provide support for families in the South East.


The Channel 4 series ‘The Mummy Diaries’ and ‘Why Did Dad Choose to Die’, both featuring families supported by Winston’s Wish, aired on national television.


Winston’s Wish launched its national service supporting bereaved children and young people in military families, thanks to funding from Help for Heroes.


We celebrated our 20th anniversary year and Winston’s Wish was awarded funding by the Big Lottery Fund for a new service targeted at bereaved teenagers at risk of offending.


Winston’s Wish launched a new bereavement service for teenagers called SWITCH.

We published two new books for those supporting bereaved teenagers (You Just Don’t Understand) and military families (The Family Has Been Informed).


Winston’s Wish opened a North West hub, providing support services in the Wigan and Greater Manchester area.

Our book for military families, The Family Has Been Informed, won a Plain English Campaign ‘Standard Bearers’ award.


Winston’s Wish was honoured at the prestigious Children and Young People Now awards with a ‘highly commended’ in the charity category.


We collaborated with Macmillan Cancer Support to release the ‘Preparing a Child for Loss’ book.

Our new online service for young people (help2makesense.org) launched.

The Winston’s Wish National Helpline became free to call.


The Channel 4 documentary ‘A Killing In My Family’ which filmed one of our residential weekends for children bereaved by homicide, aired on national television.

Winston’s Wish celebrated its 25th anniversary and we launched our new, refreshed brand.

In partnership with Place2Be and Child Bereavement UK, we established a base in the Grenfell community to support the children and families bereaved by the Grenfell Tower fire.


We opened a new face-to-face service in Bristol and moved our South East base to the city of Brighton & Hove.

We launched a pilot online chat service enabling people to contact us directly for anonymous online support via our website.

We received funding from Children in Need to create a new specialist SEND Lead Support Worker role to co-ordinate all of our work with bereaved children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Winston’s Wish were finalists in the Children and Young People Now awards in the Children and Young People’s Charity category and finalists in the Third Sector Excellence awards in the Brand Development category.


BBC Inside Out West produced a documentary following the journey of four military families who have received bereavement support from Winston’s Wish. The documentary attracted more than 250,000 viewers and media coverage reached more than nine million people.

Unfortunately, due to lack of specific funding we had to close our North West hub.

We published We All Grieve, the UK’s first SEND specialist bereavement book for parents and professionals. Thanks to funding from the True Colours Trust we sent a free copy to each of the SEND specialist schools in England.

We published a study carried out for Winston’s Wish by researchers at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education revealing the lack of support in schools for bereaved children.

In partnership with Shout and Crisis Text Line, we launched the Winston’s Wish Crisis Messenger text service, the UK’s first 24/7 crisis text service for bereaved children and young people.


The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns forced us to suspend all face-to-face support services and quickly adapt to supporting children and young people remotely.

We redesigned and extended our bereavement support to offer individual, bespoke support remotely across the UK to children and young people up to the age of 25. Alongside our remote Children and Young People’s Bereavement Support Service, we launched a new Family Bereavement Support Service. This provides specialist bereavement support to parents and carers, helping them to support their children.

In partnership with Learning Nexus, we launched a free online childhood bereavement training course aimed at teachers and school professionals. This course was designed to help schools understand how children and young people grieve and how they can support it. The course was taken by 17,200 professionals in 2020.

Winston’s Wish featured in the BBC Lifeline Appeal in December 2020, raising awareness of the charity and funds to help us continue to support grieving children and young people.


Winston’s Wish launched free PSHE lesson plans and resources for Key Stages 1-4, to help schools teach their pupils about loss and bereavement.

We launched our online Grief Support Groups for bereaved children and young people aged 8-25, and for the parents and carers supporting them. Young people often tell us that they feel isolated in their grief and like they are the only who has experienced a bereavement. So these groups bring these grieving young people together to share their stories and connect with others.

We released an updated and extended version of our bestselling book, A Child’s Grief. This book is designed to help families and professionals to support primary school aged children after the death of someone close to them.