I have been a bundle of very difficult and unexpected emotions the last few days. First of all, just to get things straight. I am not a monarchist. Nor am I even a ‘Queenist’ – a word that suddenly entered the English lexicon last Thursday. I am fully aware of the crimes against entire populations that have been committed under the gaze – and with the complicity – of the Crown (here are just a few).
A decolonial approach – which I advocate in my book – necessarily implies ending all regimes and institutions whose power diminishes and usurps the sovereignty and agency of others.So why has the death of Queen Elizabeth II brought on so much grief within me?
As one writer on Linked In eloquently reflected, death is complex. And so is life, and our experience of it. My own complexity resides in the fact that as a white, middle-class British woman it has been easy for me to watch the Queen’s Christmas speech and observe her multiple national and international tours with little more than a mixture of disdain and reluctant acceptance, that she was indeed ‘woven into the cloths of our lives’.
My complexity also resides in the fact that most of my life I have always wished to fight for the underdog; to ensure everyone has space to speak and to be heard; to give equal validity to everyone’s lived experience. Indeed, it wasn’t long after the announcement of the Queen’s death that I started listening and reading to the voices that we are not hearing in mainstream news: those whose association with the Queen are of oppression, and loss of dignity and humanity.
My heart goes out to those voices – they do indeed need to be fully heard. Yet I have also realised these last few days that in honouring all feelings I have to honour my own – first. It is only from there that I can feel into and respect the sorrows or grievances of others, and indeed take action for change.
I needed time to understand my own difficult emotions arising from the Queen’s death. These included a sense of losing an anchor; something steady, reliable, unchanging – even if I didn’t like what that person represented.
A sadness because like every human being on this planet, whatever strength and steadfastness shown in a life, beneath it all is huge and irrepressible fragility in the last years and in the last moments.
And here is really where I feel the grief – because the Queen’s passing reminds me of my own mother’s death, prematurely. And of how everything we hold dear to us, that we rely on, that we cherish, will one day all be taken away.
In order to honour my own grief, on Friday I took myself off social media. I stopped listening to the radio or watching the news. Instead I watched the sun set, and the beautiful harvest moon rise.
I turned on some gentle but uplifting music and I danced around my living room, letting my body move in whatever way felt right. I sang songs of love and devotion. And I cried.
Maybe it is ultimately not the death of the Queen I am crying about, but this undeniably massive event in our lives has unleashed something deeper that needed attention.
Maybe it has for you too – can you hold that, just for yourself?
Can we sit in the ‘both, and’ of our feelings, recognising the pain and suffering of others whose lives and experiences may be so different from our own – and also giving space to what needs to be heard within us?
If you would like to share your experiences of these last few days, and what has supported you, I would love to hear from you x