Feelings of sadness about The Queen’s death are normal
I talk about grief everyday, so why was I surprised by it?
Perhaps because I work with grief every day, I found myself merely mildly astonished, rather than shocked, at how sad I was when I read the headline “The Queen has died.” I was instantly tearful, the words in my head were “oh noooooooooooo” the next thought was “wow this is harder than I would ever have expected.” I ran to tell my husband. His reaction was similar. As I shared my reactions with my friends and colleagues they also expressed similar feelings.
People from all over the world contacted me to both offer condolences and express their surprise at how deeply they’ve been affected by the death of a very old lady.
It is very common for those less impacted by the loss of someone well known to scoff: “but you never even met her!” Oh but I did.
Not physically, not in person but she was and is everywhere – on the currency in my purse, on the letters on my doormat, on the news I digest while eating dinner and she was a regular guest at my Christmas dinner. ( I have to say she was much less troublesome than some family members I could mention! At least she always had something positive to say.)
There are very few constants in life. In the turmoil of the last few years we have all lived with a great deal of uncertainty and grieved many losses. Once again the country is facing huge challenges and the changes in Government is contributing to the fear – “what’s next, what is going to happen?” so the uncertainty continues.
Throughout this, one thing didn’t change. The Queen was there as always, we partied earlier this year to celebrate that 70-year consistency – she was a constant in an ocean of change.
It is my feeling that the deep emotional reaction that so many have experienced unexpectedly is as much about loss of certainty, loss of the one thing that remained largely unchanged across the lifetime of most of the population as it is about the fondness for Elizabeth the person.
Humans are fascinating in that they are creatures of habit that crave an absence of change living lives where change is inevitable. When a loved one dies, that illusion of permanence, that sense of unconscious assumption that they will always be there for us is shattered. Not only was the Queen a Mother or Grandmother figure, her death reminds us of everyone else we have lost.
It is completely normal to reflect on our previous losses and shed tears again for our own Mum or Grandmother as well as for Dads, Spouses, siblings – or whoever we held dear. New loss can trigger memories of ANY loss – estrangements, break ups and more. There are so many ways to have a heart broken.
I was asked earlier today, “What do we do? What do we say?” My answer is simple:
Realise that your feelings are completely normal and natural.
Tell the truth about how you feel – saying it out loud helps to release it.
Know that it is healthy and normal to want to tell stories and share memories.
Accept that you may find it hard to concentrate or that you are easily distracted – this is a normal grief symptom.
If you find your anxiety levels rising, this too is a normal grief symptom – use whatever healthy coping strategies normally are helpful for you.
If someone near you is affected as above:
Listen without rushing in to offer advice – there is no “fix.”
Allow them to be heard without being closed down or judged.
Be patient. You may hear the same thing multiple times.
Remember, a hug or hand squeeze where appropriate can say more than a book full of words.
Carole has been helping people with significant emotional loss for over 12 years. Having been drawn to her work after the death of her 41 year old husband - and discovering a lack of anything truly helpful for addressing her profound loss. Find out more about Carole here.