The world has been shaken by news that Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s Head of State and Monarch for 70 years, passed away peacefully in her Balmoral home on Thursday. Thousands have flocked to Buckingham Palace and her estate in Sandringham to pay respects to a woman adored across the globe, and there is without doubt a sense of disbelief in the air.
As a bereavement counsellor in Harrogate and online, I deal with the grief experienced on an individual or family level, but rarely is the subject of collective grief discussed. In many ways, it is a more complex phenomenon, because it is something experienced by everyone yet processed differently.
Some people, for instance, may not want to be part of the wider grieving process happening at the moment for whatever reason. They may be afraid to turn on a TV or radio, or look at their phone, for fear of coming into contact with this pandemic of grief on a regular basis. Others, however, may wish to grieve by leaning into the wider grief that is out there, watching videos, reading quotes, hearing stories. We will all experience this bereavement in a different way, which is always the case with grief, but when splayed out across an entire country, it can be especially jarring.
There are many examples of how a specific bereavement triggered nationwide - or even worldwide - grief. The September 11 terrorist attacks, for example, shook the entire world, altering the United States’ political landscape indefinitely. Princess Diana’s death was also a shock that deeply touched people in the UK and beyond. Cubans could hardly believe it when Fidel Castro died, such was the longevity of his time as father of the nation.
It will take some time to process such a powerful loss felt all over the world. In the case of the Queen, it felt like she was somehow eternal, that she would never die. Those feelings of disbelief are normal, and there are a range of painful emotions out there right now: shock, sadness, numbness, hopelessness.
However, collective grief, potentially more so than individual grief, can also be extremely empowering. While the individual may be alone in their grief, this bereavement that touched us all has brought a nation together, put us on the same page - something we can all relate to, regardless of country or kin. Collective grief may be difficult, but at least we experience it together.
If you are looking for personalised, sensitive bereavement counselling in Harrogate or online, feel free to give me a call at any time and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.