Why am I so emotional over the passing of Queen Elizabeth II?

The Queen is dead. The impact of these four words has rocked the nation and people across the world. Whether a royalist or anti-establishment, the passing of HRH Queen Elizabeth II has connected profoundly with many of us, and we cannot quite understand why. The ultimate matriarch has left us, and shockingly fast at that. The news came suddenly, within hours, and the wave reverberated across the country and world. People have been surprised by the impact of the news, and the emotional toll over someone they have never met, or known. Why is it that many are feeling extremely emotional?


Reflecting on your grief, past and present

To have had that call; to be told you need to come to the bedside of the dying, to say your final goodbyes, pay your respects or hold your loved one’s hand. Knowing the Royal family were travelling to Balmoral, it was clear they had all had that call.

This was a family situation which people could identify with, we all knew what was coming through the imminent summoning of family. There was a shock and a hum through the country as the news travelled and the family gathered. The end had come, alongside disbelief for many.

Heavy is the head that wears the grief crown

This participation in the death process can catapult you back to when this has happened in your life, echoes of your own grief, long buried, can surface. A complex mix of sadness for your loss and for that of the Queen and her family can become meshed together.

If your bereavement was recent, it can be extremely painful as you try and find your way through your own loss alongside a public mourning from which you cannot find reprieve. The feelings of losing that person again can return. A complex mix of emotions new and old even if we have considered past grief resolved. This is a normal response.

Talking to friends and family will help but, if you are struggling, therapy is a place where you can express safely what is going on for you and someone can help you make sense of your overwhelming mix of emotions.

It is OK to feel these feelings - you are not alone.

There is no time limit on grief and a well of intense emotions can resurface. It is worth taking time to acknowledge when you are feeling like this, a therapist can help you work out what belongs to you and the extra pressure you are feeling due to the passing of the Queen. It may help to write down how you are feeling and link it back to when you have felt like this previously. Keeping a journal, somewhere to express what is going on for you may help.

Who was the Queen to you?

The late Queen connected us with a past era, a golden thread to our family history which linked us to many that have passed. Royalist or not, we all knew her traumas, the death of her own father and becoming Queen, her own family problems, and the passing of her husband during the pandemic. The public watched her life unfold with frequent turbulent moments.

Family life and tragedies happened to the Queen, and we watched. People began to connect and empathise. She was human and it was anything but a fairytale at times. Everyone had an opinion, everyone knew, the public was involved, and people felt like they knew her. She was part of the fabric of the country and was ever-present for most people their whole lifetime. As she grew older, so did we.

The late Queen has a unique representation for each individual. The fact that we did not know who she really was personally, enabled her to represent other people in our lives. She was a portal to our individual families. As we are bombarded with iconic images, we can identify a timeline over the last 96 years. This allows us to access the past, how our ancestors lived and what life looked like over the last century.

Queen Elizabeth II led a unique life which was documented by images that many families do not have. It allows a glimpse back; we can remember what was happening in our lives during those iconic moments. Her reign was a 70-year document of history that few of us have only lived partially through.

This constant presence was comforting in an ever-changing world which has seen huge changes. We were all able to watch the physical development of the Queen and this can connect us to her in certain eras of her life, tied with our own. It may be worth considering who she represented to you at certain stages of her life; a child, a young woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a daughter, and a strong female lead.

People have felt like they have lost a family member again. This new and very public loss is likely to bring back the memory of past losses. This does not mean you have failed to process what has happened before or you are going mad, it is normal! You are feeling echoes of what is stored in your mind and body.

The seniors in our society have grown up and watched Queen Elizabeth II develop and age as they have. She has lived through their lives with them and all the change that has gone with it. Many in this age group will feel profoundly connected and see her as a friend as their own peers have since passed. There is also the issue of their own mortality and how her passing is a stark reminder that no one is immortal. Listening to their stories and taking time to spend with the older generation is critical at this time.

Shock and permission to grieve

The news was a shock to many. Two days previously we saw images as she welcomed in the new Prime Minister. For those of us who have had fast and quick bereavements to crawl through, those feelings may be echoed, hitting us hard meaning we revisit our personal traumas. Talking to others about what this is bringing up for you will help, as will sitting with your feelings and giving your body and mind time to process what is coming up. If it becomes overwhelming talking therapy can help.

Unusually, we have been given permission to grieve, as it is a collective grief felt across the nation. It has normalised the uncomfortable feelings of grief, knowing this is not a solitary occasion, confined to a few. The nation was told it is in mourning, you can talk to anyone, and they will have an opinion, but it will not take long to find someone you can connect with.

Know that you are not alone. Tell your stories that link to this if you feel safe to do so and name your feelings when you talk about how the news of the death of the Queen has impacted you. People actively want to take part in this grieving process, it is an unusual situation where we are not isolated to a few people. If old grief is still around we can find this collective mourning comforting.

Questioning our own mortality and that of those around us

This is a huge change at a time when we crave stability. That familiar face and image have gone. Something else in our turbulent world has now altered forever. We are suffering another loss. Losing someone who has always been around catapults us into questioning our own mortality and that of those around us, this can be frightening and upsetting.

The ultimate message is that no one can go on forever, not us nor the ones we know. Especially our elderly friends and relatives who are represented through her. Death is the one thing we cannot change. Our own mortality is highlighted as we begin to look at the existential element of our own lives.

As the seasons change to mark this occasion we can be left with a sense of uncertainty with old feelings emerging. There is no shame in feeling strong feelings about the death of the Queen. The news has linked back to our own stories of grief, and family and can throw up existential questions for all. One thing for certain is that many are revisiting those that have passed over the last 96 years of her life, alongside feelings of sadness for this much loved and revered figurehead.

For all that have passed in her reign, I will hopefully echo her late Majesty’s words, "We will meet again."

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Horsforth, Leeds LS18 & Leeds LS16
Written by Vicky Warburton, Reg BACP, PG Dips, Counsellor and Psychotherapist. BA (Hons)
Horsforth, Leeds LS18 & Leeds LS16

Vicky Warburton works in private practice in Leeds LS1 and LS16. She also works for a charity that makes counselling available to those on low incomes. She has a keen interest in attachment, trauma and how it resonates in the body.

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