Monday 19 September saw the nation stand still as we collectively mourned the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Her State Funeral was televised throughout the day — a finale of sorts after ten days of national mourning.
The queue to see the Queen lying in state became the most talked about event in the week leading up to her funeral. In quintessential British fashion, thousands of people spent day and night waiting to pay their respects.
Some people will have joined in for the historical aspect, to see what it was all about and to experience everyone coming together. Others will have joined the crowd as an emotive thank you to the Queen for being a calm and stable constant in their lives — particularly during what has proved to be a painfully prolonged period of uncertainty in our country.
Sadly, for many, the Queen’s passing will have triggered some of the emotions felt when their own mother or close loved one died.
Although the funeral service is now over and the call to ‘get on with life’ rings loud, the truth remains that — as I write this — many people continue to feel the weight of personal grief.
With grief comes many emotions. It may begin with relief that the suffering is over. It’s possible, too, that you may just want to get on with life and move forward. But your body may have a different response. You feel heavy. Tired. Your heart aches. Maybe you’re feeling exhausted, overwhelmed or confused — your ability to think, sleep and function interrupted.
Be kind to yourself
Loss of any kind is a powerful experience. I don’t profess to be an expert, but here is something I’ve discovered about journeying through grief — I’m aware that everyone’s experience is different, so please know that I’m not saying I understand what you are going through personally.
It’s important to go slow. Be kind to yourself. Don’t force yourself into any one direction. Take each day as it comes. Acknowledge the emotions as they come: ‘Hey, sadness, I see you…’
Recognise that emotions will be heightened and may seem irrational to those who do not share your grief. Let go of any offence or irritation you might feel in your interactions with people — for your sake as well as theirs!
Anger is part of the process. Again, acknowledge the sense of sadness or injustice you’re experiencing. (‘Why me?’ ‘Why her?’ ‘Why him?’)
What can you do with any powerlessness you feel? Journalling can be helpful here, to release your emotions, process them and let go.
Now isn’t necessarily the time to fight the fight you’re feeling. It doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t address any anger, guilt or regret you might have in the future, you just need to be in a better or stronger place to do it.
The practical aspects of loss can be both draining and cathartic. It can be hard when the life of someone or something you’ve loved comes to an end. And then there’s the practical sorting out of estates, packing up belongings, sorting out finances, deciding what needs to be discarded, and so on. But in that process, you’ll hopefully be able to remember the good times, as the tears and smiles dance together.
It’s easy to feel a bit lost in grief. The very nature of change that occurs in these times can challenge our identity. It can also trigger other hurts and loses. Again, see it, acknowledge it, name it, and talk it through if you can.
Faith helps in these moments, but faith can also wobble, so don’t wrestle alone. Please don’t isolate yourself. Find someone you trust to talk and pray with you.
I don’t think grief ever leaves, but we do learn to live with it. Humans are super resilient by nature. Survival is an instinct. Nor are we on our own.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is ‘the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’
You will smile again
Somewhere in the future, you will feel less burdened. You’ll realise you’re smiling more, able to look back and remember without the crushing sorrow you feel today. Your ability to think will return, and sleep will be a friend once more.
Yes, you’ll have moments when the tears fall and your heart feels more exposed than before, but this will become both a strength and a weakness. Empathy will set up home in ways you didn’t know before.
I believe that God can and will use our experiences of loss to help others. He can bring beauty from the ashes of our sorrows (Isaiah 61:3).
But, most of all, I think He meets us in the midst of our anguish. He sits with us. It doesn’t always feel like some supernatural — ‘takes away all my pain’ — encounter. Rather, it’s a knowing that you’re not on your own.
Silent but profound, it holds you and sustains you beyond your understanding. God’s presence becomes the pillow you lay your head on. A pillow that absorbs the tears and that, in time, brings comfort and aids rest.
Thank you for partnering with us in prayer
A prayer for you
Archbishop Justin Welby said this in his short but powerful sermon at Westminster Abbey: ‘The grief of this day… arises from her abundant life and loving service… We pray especially for all her family… May God heal their sorrow, may the gap left in their lives be marked with memories of joy and life.’
This is my prayer for you too, that God will heal your sorrow and fill any gaps left from your loss with joyful and life inspiring memories.