How Then, Do We Grieve?

There are some days which begin entirely ordinarily, and yet end with the dates engraved in hearts, minds and history books. Thursday 8th September became one of those days when it was announced that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had died, peacefully at Balmoral. 

People from across the spectrum of politics and position have expressed their grief at the loss of a woman whose life was devoted to service, and whose presence has been a constant amidst the rapidly shifting times we’ve experienced over the past few decades. 

The question for us all, is how then do we grieve? 

For some of us, it might be by consuming all the content produced in memory of the Queen, assimilating ourselves with the reality that the only monarch we have ever known has now died.

Others of us may need to take a step back from social media, to limit the near constant stream of rolling news and take our own time to adjust to the new reality. 

There is something about collective grief that can nudge those bruised and scarred parts of us which are still grieving our own losses – even if the loss was long ago. It’s important that we are able to acknowledge that pain, and recognise that we don’t need to feel guilty for this very public loss reawakening our own private grief. 

Times of great grief demand great gentleness and kindness, towards one another and ourselves. It’s important, therefore to respect the ways in which other people may be experiencing this strange time. 

Where we can be united, however, is that we are invited to express our grief to our Creator.  All over the country, churches have opened their doors to be places of prayer and reflection, and it is important that we are creating spaces in which people can process their feelings before God. Throughout scripture, we see people expressing their pain before God both individually and communally – we have permission to do the same through lament. 

Lament allows us to hold together the twin realities of our grief and God’s goodness in the pattern of the Psalms. For example Psalm 116 begins with an expression of love for the God who hears us, but also speaks of the ‘cords of death which entangle.’ 

Over the coming days and weeks; we need to make space for lament in our church services and small group gatherings. This might be by holding a service of remembrance for the Queen, or making space within our small groups to talk and pray about how the Queen’s death may be affecting our own grieving. 

It’s also important that we don’t forget our children and young people; for many children this may be the first experience of death, so taking the time to speak clearly about the Queen’s death; using the language of death rather than more abstract terms like ‘passed away’ or ‘gone to sleep’. 

Our young people have experienced a great deal of loss and uncertainty during the past few years, and the death of the Queen may bring up those feelings of unsettledness for them in particular. We can reassure them that whilst we do seem to be in a period of great change; the love of God and the love we have for them remain the same. 

Those with pre-existing mental illnesses and vulnerabilities may also be feeling fragile over the coming days and weeks. Our communities can be offering support for those who need it and ensuring that those who are really struggling know where to go to get extra help. 

The legacy of Her Majesty in one of service; and I believe that her death is an opportunity for us to serve one another with the kindness and gentleness of our God who is close to those who are brokenhearted. 

This article was originally published on Woman Alive.

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