An orange background with a person from the waist up with short curly purple hair, wearing a blue top, holding 2 flowers in their right hand.

MindWell team member Gillian reflects on public grief, and how she, like many others, was deeply affected by the loss of Queen Elizabeth II.

When I heard the news about Queen Elizabeth’s death on 8 September, I was reminded of how I felt when the Queen Mother died. On the day of her funeral, I was at an old job, feeling sad and trying not to cry at my desk. One of my colleagues said something across the office about her that was cruel and nasty. I ended up going home sick and watching the funeral. Had a good cry, felt better.

There will always be those people who are mean and expect everyone to think they’re funny in situations like this. And there will always be people like me, who are very sensitive, easily moved and find it hard to stand up to people who are mean and shout over the whole office.

At the time, I felt weak and a bit useless. I thought I was the only person who couldn’t cope with sadness. I felt bad that I couldn’t stand up to him and say that losing a member of the royal family was important to me, even if he was glad about it.

I think, in 2022, we can talk a lot more about personalities, neurodivergence, differences in our brains or bodies or internal selves. The more I read about the ways people’s brains work, the more I realise that it’s OK for me to be sensitive and quiet.

Somehow, it still felt difficult to say I was upset by losing the Queen. I worried that admitting how sad I felt would be admitting that I was weak or silly. I expected to be laughed at, so I laughed at myself first.

It’s true that there are people in the media and online that have ridiculed the national and international reaction to Queen Elizabeth’s death. But there are so many more who have admitted to feeling more upset than they realised they would be.

Over 28 million of us watched the funeral at peak time, apparently. And people gathered to view big screens, like the one in Millennium Square in Leeds, as well as the crowds who lined the London streets. That’s a huge number of people who did care about the funeral and about Queen Elizabeth.

In our state of national mourning, some people were tearful, some stoical, some uncaring, others angry about the cost or mean about the personalities involved. But grief is very personal and emotions might not represent current events, but old losses, recent bereavement, buried pain or anger about the state of the world.

There was a helpful thread on Twitter when Queen Elizabeth died, from Dr Hannah Barham-Brown, an ambassador for the Good Grief Trust, talking about why so many of us were surprised by our emotional response to the news. If you felt more upset than you expected, it’s worth a read.

Even though people have so many differences and experiences, we still have similarities. We have more in common than we realise, but it’s OK to be ourselves too. And it’s OK to feel grief and take time to process a loss, whether it’s someone close to us or a famous personality. 

The Bereavement and loss pages on MindWell remind us that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, we’re all different, but there can be some common experiences or feelings. You can also read about Self-care during bereavement and How to support someone who is grieving.

However you felt when Queen Elizabeth died and however you’re feeling now, remember to be kind to yourself and be kind to others who might be experiencing things differently to you. 

The views within this blog are not of the NHS.