A LONG-serving volunteer with a Worcester hospice whose parents died when she was just six years old has used her experience to help others who have lost loved ones.

Mary-Rose Fawkes has worked with St Richard’s Hospice for the past 28 years and was recently awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Years Honours list for her work supporting bereaved families.

When she enrolled as a volunteer in 1986 – just two years after the hospice was founded – she was the only person dealing with counselling, a service now widespread for bereaved people.

Mrs Fawkes said her parents had died within months of each other when she was just six years old, and she had always remembered the support she had received in getting through the experience.

“I wanted to give that care to other people,” she said.

“Over the years with St Richard’s I have supported bereaved people in groups and as individuals, often going into their homes and supporting them after the death of a loved one.

“It’s very important to be able to offer bereavement support as many people can feel very lonely and isolated.”

Mrs Fawkes, who has also been a member of the Three Choirs Festival for more than 20 years, said said she found her work “tremendously fulfilling”.

“It’s a real privilege for me to travel along their journey of bereavement,” she said.

“The key is listening and gaining empathy.”

Mrs Fawkes paid tribute to the support of the team at the hospice, as well as her husband John.

“There is always someone at the hospice who will help and listen to me so I can make sure I am giving the best support to the people I see, whether as a patient before their death or their loved ones into bereavement,” she said.

She will be awarded her medal by Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire Lt Col Patrick Holcroft and has been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace later this year, which she will attend along with her husband and grandchildren.

Head of St Richard’s family support team Sarah Popplestone-Helm said she was “delighted” Mrs Fawkes had been recognised for her tireless work.

“She has been a long standing volunteer for St Richard’s Hospice and has helped make a difference to many bereaved people in Worcestershire through her gentle care and support,” she said.

St Richard’s Hospice provides free specialist palliative care for more than 2,500 patients living with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses and their families every year.

For more information call 01905 763 963 or visit www.strichards.org.uk.