What the mourning of a monarch tells us about grief

It’s been an odd feeling kind of a week hasn’t it? Our Queen has passed away after seven decades on the throne, and a lifetime in the role. Some are devastated and others are asking if it presents a natural turning point for change where the Royal Family is concerned.

Given the ‘grief’ the Queen’s family are seen to have caused her over the years, it’s perhaps not surprising that her passing has proved to be so controversial.

Because throughout the deaths, divorces, sex scandals, discrimination accusations and, reportedly, unhealable rifts that have come to define our modern version of the Royal Family, the Queen remained committed to the role she felt was her divine calling to carry out, and to her husband too.

And given the seismic tenure of her reign, within that time people across the country will have come to view her as a daughterly, motherly, grandmotherly or even great-grandmotherly figure depending on their own situation in life too.

And yet in reality, very, very few of us in this life can say we are grieving the Queen on a personal level. There will be seldom few in this world who are carrying that burden at present, as one of the select few to have truly infiltrated the private life of one of the globe’s most publicly acknowledged figureheads.

And therefore, the loss that is currently being felt on a mass scale is likely based on what the Queen’s presence meant to us as individuals.

To some it may be that the death of a contemporary comes as yet another reminder of their own mortality, and that one of the only remaining constants of a long distant past has now also gone with time too.

Others might be trying to adjust to the fact that the figurehead they have dedicated their entire working lives to serving on a professional level is no longer there, and the post they have only ever known as being filled by her is now set to be taken up by somebody else.

Many people have said how much the Queen reminded them of their own Mum or Nan, while others undoubtedly identified with her through her love for equine sport and the countryside. Some locals in Scotland have expressed the sense of loss they feel at knowing the Queen will no longer be spending her summers in Balmoral, as she has done since she was a child.

For others, the role of the Queen and the Royal Family no longer holds any relevance to them at all in the modern world, and the sense of loss they feel at the monarch’s passing is likely minimal, which is only to be expected too.

And for many, many more, the loss of the Queen will have simply brought back poignant memories of a time or times when we ourselves lost people that we love, and all the feelings that went with it.

And so, when it comes the UK mourning its monarch, here lies the rub.

Because, this is what grief is – it is highly personal depending on what our own relationship to the person that has passed away meant to us. It is something only we can feel in its entirety, and the extent of which only we can ever truly know within ourselves.

And so, whatever our politics may be, it seems to me that we have no choice but to try and give those experiencing a sense of bereavement the space they need to grieve, and do our best to resist making judgements on how self-indulgent we may or may not perceive such behaviour to be.

What struck me most on the day that the Queen passed away was the idea that when we lose someone, that’s all they really are – lost from our lives.

Because it’s not as if their death means that they never were in the first place. It’s not like they will never be present again in the way we continue to live life after they’ve gone. The effect that they had on this world is not diminished, just because they are no longer here.

Their impact lives on but life for those of us living beyond theirs inevitably changes as a result of them no longer physically being in this world.

For me, what the mourning of our monarch as a nation has yet again highlighted, is that the grief we feel is often as much for the life we were used to, as it is for the person who is gone.

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