As people across the United Kingdom prepare for Her Majesty’s funeral on Monday 19 September, our Head of Bereavement, Bianca Neumann, shares her advice about how to approach the day when you are already grieving for someone close to you.
Following the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the mainstream media has continuously reported on the grief collectively felt by members of the general public mourning their monarch. However, by shining a light on this response and putting it at the forefront of our daily news, we now are living in a moment where grief - for the majority of time - feels inescapable.
For those of you who have experienced the death of someone close to you, this all-consuming nature of grief may feel familiar, but seeing these thoughts and emotions magnified on such a huge scale can be triggering and upsetting. That’s why, as the nation prepares for The Queen’s funeral, we want you to know we’re here if you’re struggling.
In this article, you’ll find my advice about how to approach the day and turn it into something that will be meaningful for you and your grief. This might involve you engaging with the events in some way, perhaps by watching it on TV or taking a trip to London, or it might mean you try to stay away from it all.
Whatever you decide, remember that it’s OK to say yes and it’s OK to say no. Try to do what feels right for you.
Lean into the national outpouring of grief and period of reflection
When it rains, can you spot when someone is crying? Or, when you’re in a crowd of people, do you notice how every single person is feeling? More often than not, the answer is usually no.
That’s why, as grieving publicly is both accepted and encouraged over the next few days, you might want to consider using this outpouring of emotion as a vehicle for expressing your own grief. Whether your tears are for The Queen or someone close to you, give yourself permission to cry openly, engage with your emotions and feel freely.
Funerals also represent so much more than just the finality of death. They are a stepping stone of transition, and what follows them is a sense of recovery and renewal. And so, as the nation reflects on the past 70 years and moves into a new era under King Charles III, perhaps you too want to use this time to reset and reflect on your grief journey so far. Life continues, but how you feel about the person you’re missing will always stay with you.
Choose how to spend the extra time
When you’re grieving, keeping to a routine can be really important in helping you move forwards. But as the day of the funeral has been declared a bank holiday and organisations across the country will close for the day, you may be left feeling uneasy about what to do with this extra time - particularly if you are choosing not to engage with the royal events in any way.
Try to accept that time might feel slower on this day, and that this might leave you feeling out of sync or overwhelmed by the presence of your own thoughts and emotions. A nice way to try and bring order to this feeling can be through practising mindfulness, or doing something to help you feel positive about the spare time, such as reading your book or cooking that meal you’ve been wanting to try.
Whatever you do, try not to put pressure on yourself if things don’t go to plan. Not only is it important that you do what feels right for you, but that you recognise what feels right might also change as the day progresses too.
Talk about death and dying
People can often find it uncomfortable to talk about death and dying, especially if they have experienced a close bereavement in the past. But as we watch and listen to the news about The Queen, you might find yourself wondering about your own mortality - questioning how you might die or what it will be like.
I have talked extensively with my child about this, and so when The Queen died, we were able to try and make sense of it together. Big conversations start small, and perhaps this period of mourning and reflection will empower you and your family to take that first step in preparing for this eventuality.
Reach out if you’re finding things tough
I know that, for me, the day of the funeral will evoke memories of my late mum who lived through 54 years of The Queen’s reign, but it is this timeline that gives us a way to connect what was, is and will be. It may be a difficult few days, but know that you aren’t alone.
If you’re finding things tough, try reaching out to someone you trust to talk about how you’re feeling. If you don’t know who to turn to, or don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know, our Online Bereavement Community is a safe space for people who have been bereaved to come together and share their experiences.
You can also find more support on Grief Guide, our new free service dedicated to helping you learn about the grieving process. As well as interactive coping tools, you’ll find expert information and advice to help you through your grief journey.
Head of Bereavement
Bianca is a healthcare professional and experienced psychologist and hypnotherapist, with a demonstrated history of working in the hospice, hospital and healthcare industry.