While the UK and world adjust to what the death of Queen Elizabeth II means for the monarchy, many of us will be reflecting on our private griefs. For some, the deaths of our own beloved family and friends may have occurred years, months or perhaps only days before the Queen’s. While adjustment to the loss of people we love may be easier over time, this new national period of mourning can cause even the most steadfast person to feel unmoored.
Grief and loss are not just responses to death though – so this mourning speaks to other adjustments we have made in recent years. Covid-19 brought with it lots of losses, including for many, work, touch and life as we knew it. The healing from living through lockdowns has barely begun, as we are catapulted into the post-monarchy period of grieving.
The grief and mourning we have witnessed on our tv and phone screens, and in our communities, since the Queen died will be a heavy mixture of these personal losses bound up with the transition to a new configuration of the monarchy and loss of one of the constants over the last century. Some people will find it hard to understand where their sadness comes from – is their sadness the death of their own mum, or The Queen’s death, or social injustices they see around them? It is a ball of emotional yarn knotted and tangled. For others, the link to their own personal losses will be clear; for those people the continued news coverage may sting; our own personal losses feeling that they warrant as much attention and airtime as the royal family. And they are not wrong. Grief should not be hierarchical.
While most of us have experienced grief in their personal lives, care home staff and palliative care staff are exposed to this daily. Their own grief, for patients/residents they have come to form deep bonds with, and in supporting the surviving relatives. Likely, the grief will be amplified in these settings, with sadness and anguish ricocheting around buildings.
Let us all do our best to share our stories not just of the Queen, but of our own personal griefs and losses, worries and fears. Let us ask care staff to talk of their losses, speak with our neighbours, and create space among colleagues for these wider conversations about grief. In doing so, perhaps we can find a way for everyone to honour and talk about those who we have loved, who will not see the autumn leaves of 2022.