Primrose Hill landlady joins TV presenter Jeff Brazier on fundraising mission for Grief Encounter charity

Karen Santi (picture: Nigel Sutton)

Karen Santi (picture: Nigel Sutton) - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Karen Santi knows well the grief of losing a parent, having lost both hers prematurely.

Jeff Brazier is raising funds for Grief Encounter

Jeff Brazier is raising funds for Grief Encounter - Credit: Archant

Now her own experiences have inspired her to join an expedition to the Great Wall of China to raise money for bereavement charity Grief Encounter.

The mother-of-two, who runs The Princess of Wales pub, in Primrose Hill, will set off on the trek next Monday along with Kevin Wells, the father of Soham murder victim Holly, and Jeff Brazier, whose sons lost their mother TV personality Jade Goody to cancer six years ago.

Barnet-based charity Grief Encounters, set up by Shelley Gilbert MBE in 2003, provides help and support for bereaved children and families through workshops, one-to-one counselling, camps and family days.

Karen, who lost her own mother to secondary breast cancer when she was in her twenties and then her father six years ago is inspired by the work of the charity.

She said: “Grief Encounter was set up in the front room of Shelley Gilbert’s house to help bereaved children deal with the loss of either a parent or a sibling. They only moved to a small office in Finchley a few years ago. Some people dedicate their whole lives to a cause and you have to admire people who choose to do this along with everything else that the world throws at us.”

She says of her own experience of losing both her parents: “I thought that I was coping, but life carries on and then one day grief comes up to bite you from behind when you least expect it.

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“I wish that I had gone to Grief Encounter and spoken to a councillor. It is very hard for people around you to see your pain, and the pain comes out in mysterious ways.

‘‘Mostly directed at people closest to you, it can put strain on your relationships as you struggle to see any positivity in front of you.

“Years have passed, but my parents are with me everyday in the decisions that I make, the thoughts and feelings I manage and the future that I want for my children and my siblings children, most of whom my parents never had the pleasure of meeting.”

Karen, who lives in Hamsptead, is looking forward to the challenge of the seven-day trek: “Awesome scenery, fresh air, good company and a proud feeling walking along a great big wall on the other side of the world knowing that we are helping children to deal with loss” she said.

“I am so excited to be going on the trip with people I admire, like Kevin Wells, father of Holly Wells who was tragically murdered in the village of Soham in the summer of 2002. A true inspiration,” she added.

Kevin, who is a patron of Grief Encounter, said: “It is of course the kind of help we all hope that we will never need to consider. Sadly the reality is very much different. I was genuinely overwhelmed when my wife and I found out a charity like Grief Encounter existed.”

To help Karen raise funds for bereaved children visit