With its queen missing, Britain wonders how to discuss the death

Where is Queen Elizabeth II goingthere — inevitably — each of us and all those we love.

Because she reigned and lived so long, seemingly unchanging and immortal, the death of the British monarch after 70 years on the throne and 96 years of extraordinary life was a reminder, in Britain and beyond, that mortality and the march of time are inexorable, awaiting neither man nor woman, even a royal.

This kernel of wisdom from Elizabeth’s passing, the last of many she dispensed during her lifetime, is uncomfortable, even difficult, for the living. The reality of death – the Queen being, by extension, a glimpse of the possibility of their own – is part of the reason some Britons mourning the only monarch most have known feel a complex soup of emotions.

Some called bereavement counselors for consolation and said his departure rekindled the grief of others they loved and lost. And Britons recognize that they sometimes struggle with the emotions of loss. “We don’t necessarily do grief and bereavement well,” says Lucy Selman, professor of palliative and end-of-life care at the University of Bristol.

British grief experts, however, hope the Queen’s death and his way – at home, with family, in his beloved Balmoral Castle – could also spark a national conversation about the sometimes delicate relationship that the British have with death. In the process, experts hope, it could inspire them to be better prepared for the inevitable.

“If we are going to die in a way that we hope will be peaceful, comfortable and satisfying for us, we have to do what the Queen has done: recognize that it is going to happen at some point and put plans in place for what we want. and what we don’t want to happen,” says Kathryn Mannix, author of “With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well.”

Mannix has witnessed thousands of deaths during his 30-year career as a palliative care physician. She says it became clear in the last two years of Elizabeth’s life that she was dying. She recognized familiar patterns – in the slowing down of the Queen’s usually frenetic schedule and the preparations she made.

During her final months, Elizabeth made it known that when the current King Charles III succeeded him, she wanted his wife, Camilla, to be known as the “Queen Consort”. And she lingered to see her grandson, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, move their family from central London in a royal cottage at Windsor.

One of her very last actions as queen was to ask Conservative Party leader Liz Truss to become his 15th and, ultimately, his last prime minister. This hearing took place on Tuesday, September 6th. It was the first time during the reign of Elizabeth that she had been absent from her official London residence, Buckingham Palace, for a nomination as Prime Minister. Instead, she stayed at Balmoral, her Scottish holiday home, and Truss traveled to her house.

Duty done, the queen died two days later. Mannix recalled other deaths she encountered during her medical career, people who clung to life ‘to hear the news that a baby was born or a test was passed’ and then relaxed “very quickly as they died”.

“There’s nothing disrespectful about acknowledging that even our monarchs are mortal and what happens at the very end of people’s lives is a recognizable pattern,” Mannix says. “We can maybe use this as an opportunity to start thinking about knowing the pattern, being able to recognize the pattern, being able to talk to each other about the pattern – without being afraid of it.”

Described by the government as “a time for reflection”, the 10 days of national mourning decreed for Elizabeth’s passing also inevitably give death, loss and bereavement prominent roles in media coverage of the Queen’s life and times.

Grief experts say community mourning rituals and the mourning period – virtually an age in the era of sweeping and tapping short attention spans – are a unique and important opportunity for Britons to adjust to losing a queen and gaining a king, and dealing with the emotions and anxiety that huge changes sometimes bring.

For young people, “it may be the first time they learn about the purpose of life and what it means,” says psychologist Bianca Neumann, bereavement manager at Sue Ryder, a British charity that offers a support for terminal illness and loss.

“We never really think about end of life like that unless we have to,” she says. “It would be good as a nation if these conversations could become more mainstream.”

Psychotherapist Julia Samuel, who was a close friend of the late Princess Diana, is urging Britons to pause and come to terms with their loss. Post to Instagramshe said that “if we keep doing what we normally do, our brain doesn’t receive the information to let us know that something very important has happened”.

“The task of mourning is to adjust to the reality of a death,” she says. “To do that, we have to let our brains slow down.”

To be fair, British conversations about death and loss have been going on for centuries. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare had his famous muse prince on the human condition, clutching the skull of Yorick, a court jester.

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him,” Hamlet laments. “Where are your teasing now? Your gambols? Your songs?

The British also surprised themselves and the world, abandoning their reputation as a nation with stiff upper lips, with an outpouring of public tears following the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

“The pendulum has swung from side to side,” says Adrian Furnham, professor of organizational psychology at Norwegian Business School based in London and author of “Psychology 101: The 101 Ideas, Concepts and Theories that Shaped Our World “. ”

“It’s now much more acceptable, and in fact much healthier, to ‘let it out’,” he says. “That has changed in this country, because there was a time when that was clearly a sign of weakness.”

Still, Britons admit they could do better to help others and themselves through grief. Sue Ryder launched a ‘Grief Kind’ campaign last yearto help people find words when those around them lose loved ones.

Selman is one of the founding directors of the “Good Grief Festival”, started during the COVID-19 pandemic to break taboos around death. She hopes the Queen’s mourning will produce “a bit more awareness and continued discussion about grief and loss and our social attitudes towards them”.

“There’s a conversation to be had about what a good death is,” she says. “And what we can do to try to make sure we have the death we want.”


Follow AP’s stories on the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family at https://apnews.com/hub/queen-elizabeth-ii

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