Many people have been surprised at the way the Queen’s death has affected them, the level of grief they’ve experienced for someone most have never actually met, let alone come to know personally. But the Queen has been a constant, steadying presence in many of our lives, calm, stable, a link to our roots.
For a young woman, who never anticipated becoming queen, she came to embody duty, loyalty, stoicism, never being seen to put a foot wrong. Over the years the way the Queen interacted with the public changed and softened, as TV and social media introduced greater accessibility and awareness of her life and activities.
She’s the only monarch many of us will have known, with her presence reinforced by being on our currency, Royal Mail and even on many of the goods we buy. Annual celebrations, like the Queen’s Speech at Christmas, the Trooping of the Colour, the Royal Variety Show, televised visits to charities and functions brought her regularly into our homes. Then there’s the regular coverage of her various family members, with their activities.
The Queen has felt like a familiar, benevolent grandmother to many; kindly, enduring, always there. So when she died, after several intermittent bouts of bad health, it’s understandable that we felt the loss personally. There followed a time to grieve for someone we felt close to, what she stood for, what she meant to us and also perhaps to grieve for our own people, now gone from our lives, who we were unable to mourn then, perhaps because there was no time, space or opportunity to reflect on their passing.
The end of her reign is truly the end of an era, and provides an opportunity for us to pause and appreciate what this past seventy years, and indeed other significant people and events have brought into our lives. What lessons can we all learn from those experiences, as we respect and value the late Queen and her dedication to her role as monarch, Head of State, ambassador as well as wife, mother and grandmother.
The end of an era can also bring with it feelings of uncertainty. What will the future hold for us, what will it look like? We may grieve for what we’ve lost but also experience apprehension and concern at what will replace it.
We’ve all had personal experience of an era coming to an end. As our days in education came to a close and we started work or left home to go to college or university we took a deep breath and knew it was a defining moment in our lives. Moving away from a long-standing family home or a multi-generational family business, or even when our grandparents died, are all significant events, the end of an era, which may be experienced personally, either alone or as part of a close-knit group.
Transitioning in our daily lives from school to university or from university to work, from living at home to suddenly becoming responsible for ourselves can be harder than we initially anticipated. It can be a shock, especially at first. Budgeting money, shopping, cooking, cleaning, all those daily chores which we perhaps took for granted and never really thought about are now down to us. Whether we do them or not is our call.
But when something momentous happens on a larger scale, impacting the nation as a whole, it connects many people in a collective, shared experience. We’re able to support each other, share stories, reflections and reinforce bonds with the people with whom we communicate, whilst providing space for us all to process grief from our personal experiences of endings and loss.
How do we cope with the end of an era?
A shared loss, like that of a much loved, long-standing monarch, is a time when people unite and share memories, reflect on other significant losses and hopefully are gentle with themselves and others. It’s also important to appreciate that not everyone will feel the same way you do or react with the same intensity, and that’s fine. Allow yourself to feel your own feelings, but don’t demand that others share your views, sentiments or opinions. Respect their right to have their own responses, just as you expect them to respect yours.
But the end of an era also introduces new values, requirements, attitudes and approaches. It’s an evolution of life, the transition we all go through at different times. And often we look back on those momentous times of growth, when new opportunities challenged and excited us, moved us out of our comfort zone, into a new phase of life. We can appreciate that those experiences helped us become the person we are today.
But just as we may only gradually notice the implications of a new era, when we have to start singing ‘God Save the King’, use new postage stamps, currency or see the changes in branding of many everyday products, all can serve to remind us that a new era is starting.
Similarly, in our own personal lives, the new relationships, connections and skills we gradually acquire can be a challenge, but they also provide a welcome nudge to move us out of our comfort zones into an interesting new stage of life, the beginning of a new era.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor & Hypnotherapist www.lifestyletherapy.net