Communal Grief, Funerals and Wearing Black

communal grief header shows me wearing a loose open top over my naked breasts.

Today the world said farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, ending the ten days of mourning that I’ve kept half an eye on. Whether you love the royal family, hate them or sit somewhere in the middle, I’m sure the news will have touched some part of you since the news broke. Not many people can say they’ve worked seventy years in the same job and worked up until the eve of their passing. Whatever you thought of her perhaps this is worth remembering. Today, the funeral, a gathering together of family and friends, dignitaries and the public. Communal grief enveloping each and every one of them. A warm embrace from the crowds, bearing witness to the love of strangers, people whose lives our monarch had touched in some way throughout her life and reign.

I watched a little on the TV.

The sea of black in the Abbey made me sad, I do hope when I die people wear my favourite colours at my send off. King Charles III together with his family, looking broken. The loss of his mother, not just the head of the church and nation, but the head of his family. Having to step into her shoes when, I imagine, he just wants to curl up in a ball and sob. When they sang the new national anthem I sobbed for him, with him. Feeling his pain from my own experiences.

Funerals bring a communal grief not easy to endure.

When my dad died I was met with so many well wishing strangers. People who knew him but that I’d never met. Barely an introduction went past without “you’ve got your fathers’ eyes” being mentioned. My experience, twenty-four years ago, stays with me. Having kind-hearted strangers intruding on a time that I wished could have been just our immediate family. But of course, that isn’t how it works. And having to face a couple of hundred pales into comparison with theirs. I know, I know. They’re the royal family, it’s what they are there to do. But take the word royal away and you have a family. An imperfect group of people, linked by birth and marriage, grieving the loss of their matriarch, the glue that held them together in tricky times. She, herself, imperfect, but isn’t that the joy of being human?

For me each funeral I attend makes me think of those I’ve loved and lost.

Returning to the vision of the new king, I remember my mum at my gran’s funeral just four years ago. Her disintegration after the service, so out of character, the communal grief of the packed church breaking down her barriers. The love surrounding us all giving her access to the heartbreak of losing her mum. Eventually being able to share memories with me on the beach later that afternoon, gazing out to sea through the puddles of our eyes.

I don’t have any grief directly linked to the queen, but perhaps I don’t need to.

I deeply sympathise with the family left behind and wish them nothing less than peace and space to grieve in the way that is right for them. She was the same age as my gran, and they were very similar in stature, faith and twinkly eyes. I must have been moved as I dug out a sheer black top and took the above image. If the twinkle in her eyes tells me anything, it’s that the queen had a sense of humour and a love of life. So here I am, celebrating life while joining in with the wave of communal grief that has flooded the nation, supporting the royal family in the best way I know how.

Boob Day

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