“It’s important to remember however that while grief is universal and is a normal response to loss that we will all experience during our lifetime, while there are some acknowledged similar experiences and reactions to loss, grief is unique to all of us. It is determined by our relationship with the deceased, to the meaning of their loss and how it effects our life.”Professor Nichola Rooney, a chartered member of the British Psychological Society
Today, 19th of September, the funeral takes place of the longest serving monarch of the UK and Northern Ireland, the late Queen Elizabeth.
Incredible scenes have been streamed into our living rooms of members of the public laying bunches of flowers, soft toys even marmalade sandwiches at various locations around the country associated with the late Queen. Thousands of people have queued up to file past her coffin – some doing this more than once.
At 96 years of age, the death of Queen Elizabeth , was not unexpected, and enormous planning has gone into the pageantry surrounding her death. The cost is unknown but it is in the millions.
We can all recall that image of the late Queen when she sat alone in a pew at the funeral of her consort, Prince Philip. She did this because that’s how everyone else in the UK had to mark the passing of a loved one during the measures put in place to limit the spread of Covid. We also now know that whilst the late Queen sat alone grieving for her husband, that the UK Tory Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and his entourage were partying, ignoring all the rules his government had imposed upon everyone else.
Grief is a complex emotion, bringing out in some deep regrets and loss. It is also a time for celebrating the life of the person now gone from our lives. Millions of people in the UK have been unable to grieve or to even celebrate the lives of those who died during the first two years of Covid. It should surprise no one that the collective grief we are witnessing and which is providing nonstop TV images is taking place triggered by the death of a monarch who had shared with people those same restrictions .
It is also not surprising, but profoundly distasteful, to see the mawkish commercialisation of the death of the late Queen. The soft toys, plastic mementoes, coins, mugs and other tacky goods feeding off the genuine grief many feel at her passing.
Inexplicable too is the closing down or limited provision of many services, not just on the day of the Queen’s funeral, but for the whole week before. The late Queen symbolised the World War 2 slogan ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’. Would she really have wanted that on the day of her funeral that people in need of basic food supplies would not be able to access a Foodbank to get them? Would she have wanted her death celebrated by people having long awaited medical and dentistry appointments re-scheduled – perhaps for months?
It is completely understandable that people who felt a strong connection with the late Queen – perhaps who even met her – should grieve at her passing. A long life, at 96, spent mostly in excellent health. It will have triggered in many the feelings they felt when a loved one died, especially over these last three years.
Professor Rooney of the British Psychological Society explained:
“Talking about dying is not something that we do very well in Western cultures, so this collective grief can often be difficult to deal with.
“It can feel overwhelming and it can also trigger feelings about our own losses and experiences of grief and exacerbate existing psychological distress.
“For some people who lost loved ones during the pandemic there may be some feelings of resentment that the death of the monarch has involved so many memorials and opportunities to express grief. During the pandemic these rituals were denied to the grieving and our unprocessed collective grief from the pandemic, has undoubtedly been touched. But for all of us, the death of Queen Elizabeth and the huge media coverage can trigger grief for loved ones who have died, no matter how long ago.
“While this is a difficult time for many, there can actually be some benefits to seeing others mourn a loss in such an open way. It can give us permission to revisit our own experiences and to express our own grief again. We can find comfort through our connection to others with the same lived experience.”
Links for support organisations:
- Cruse Bereavement Care – offers face-to-face, telephone, email and online support for anyone who has experienced a loss.
- Child Bereavement UK – provides support for anyone who has lost a child, and for children themselves who are bereaved.
- NHS support services