Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/Pool Photo via AP
During this time of public grief and mourning for the loss of Her Majesty the Queen, it is only natural that we all might find ourselves re-experiencing or experiencing for the first time some of the stages of grief. We might find that the death of such a public figure is prompting us to remember our grief for a special loved one, or that we find ourselves overwhelmed with mourning for the loss of her majesty.
This is quite a common phenomenon.
Studies show us that the death of a public figure can produce the same grief and melancholy as the death of a family member.
So at this time, we want to take an opportunity to remind everyone of our top tips for dealing with grief. We’d like to use the acronym, PEACE, to help us remember that in times of mourning, it’s important to find moments of peace.
The PEACE Acronym for Coping With Grief
P – Precious memories
If we are overwhelmed with despair, it can be hard to remember the good times we experienced with the person we lost. It’s important to hold onto those things as they can be a life float in the whirlpool of grief.
It can be helpful to create a memory box of treasured items from your loved one, have a special framed photograph that highlights their joy, or plant a tree or dedicate a bench in their honour in their favourite space. This has the dual benefit of also giving you a place to go where you can happily reflect on the good times you had with them.
If your grief is for the Queen, perhaps you could spend some time looking at the myriad of videos of her happy and content with her family that have emerged online, to help you reflect on what a full life she lived. If your grief is for a recently lost loved one, give yourself the time to remember the precious memories.
E – Energize yourself
Grief can impact our bodies as well as our minds. We might feel sluggish, sick, have a loss of appetite and have trouble sleeping. It’s really important that we help our bodies re-energize with some exercise that will release all of those good, happy chemicals in our brains. Getting out and getting some exercise is really helpful and important for us.
If grief is a season, it could be called a long, dark winter. With the death of the Queen, you might feel like you’ve been dropped back into a winter that you thought had thawed long ago and you are now feeling once again the chill of grief. If that is the case for you and the death of the Queen is triggering feelings of grief for a loved one, it is important to remember that you have survived this once already. Whilst your body may be carrying all the feelings of a raw loss, you have actually done some healing. Exercise reminds our bodies that we are alive and that we are resilient, which is what we all need at times like this.
A – Anger
Anger is a natural part of grief. It’s normal to feel rage and a sense of injustice when someone who is cherished is taken from us.
You might be feeling angry at the Queen’s death because it is yet another sad thing to happen in what has been a couple of very trying years. You might be feeling angry over the death of a loved one, reminded once again of the unfairness of a loss. Whatever you are feeling, it is important to process the anger and not let it fester inside you. We suggest writing an anger letter, this involves writing a letter to whomever you want to express all of your most angry feelings. You can either keep the letter or, if it feels like it might be cathartic, burn or throw it away. We also think that talking about your feelings of anger stops them from becoming toxic. We recommend either talking with a friend or a trained counsellor to give yourself the necessary healthy outlet for your feelings.
C – Carve out time
Something that is hard about grief is that it emerges at the oddest and strangest times, usually when we are reminded somehow of the loss of a person.
In the case of the Queen, it is likely that the public will feel her loss when the King takes up his responsibilities in the next year. It will be a year of firsts, it will be the first time we have seen a King open parliament, and it will be the first time we have seen a King give the King’s Speech at Christmas. These are moments when grief is likely to emerge. We believe that it’s important to allow those moments to be significant, to carve out a small space in the day to grieve what is lost, celebrate what was given and then continue on with your day. Carving out time for grief hopefully means that it is not overwhelming all the time and that life can be lived around it.
E is for Endurance
Endurance in grief is the belief that whilst our grief may never shrink or dim, our lives will grow around it until, at some point, it no longer seems so large and overwhelming by comparison.
On the subject of endurance, it seems appropriate to defer to the words of the Queen herself who said: “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
In the last two days, many people have taken comfort in the belief that the Queen herself is enjoying her own reunions after a long life of endurance. For some, it is comforting to believe that death is not the end and that there is a world beyond in which friends are once again met, families are made whole and all endurance is made worthwhile.
If you are feeling grief for her Majesty or for a loved one, perhaps it is helpful to imagine them in comfort, enjoying reunions, in whatever version of an afterlife makes sense to you. For those who do not find comfort in the notion of an afterlife, perhaps it is more helpful and comforting to remember how a person’s memory endures in the lives of the people they have left behind. How their legacy lives on in the examples that they set and the lessons that they taught. No doubt many around the world will carry the legacy of Elizabeth the 2nd in their hearts.
Grief can seem endless and overwhelming, but little by little, grief changes. It becomes something different, takes on different qualities. Where once there was only pain and melancholy there will eventually be gratitude and comfort.
As her Majesty said:
“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”
So if you are feeling overwhelmed with grief in the coming days, we suggest that you remember that grief is overcome and lived with through these small steps, not giant leaps. That the small steps we take towards healing are valuable and necessary and each one moves us closer to change and growth.
From all of us at the Lily Jo Project, we stand with you in your sadness and hope that each small step you take brings you closer to peace.
Further Resources on Grief
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources and support.
- The Lily-Jo Project’s video, The Whirlpool of Grief
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, How to Support a Loved One in Grief
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, 5 Tips for Helping Children Manage Their Grief: An Interview with Alyson Marsh
- The Lily-Jo Project’s article, Loss: How to Manage Loss in this Difficult Time