Let’s talk about ….. managing the pathway of grief
Updated: Oct 1, 2022
The passing of our dearly loved and respected Queen Elizabeth II has deeply affected many citizens of the world.
Approaching thirty years ago, on 23rd July 1993, my own darling grandmother, “Granny Shadwell” died. Not quite an octogenarian, she was in her late 70’s.
Granny was the one who taught me how to cook, to bake the most amazing cakes. She taught me how to lovingly rub the fat into the flour, with my small fingers lifting slightly to bring air into my pastry. She was the one who asked me questions, interested in my life. She was the one who understood me the most. She was the one with whom I could feel safe and loved.
Granny had been unwell for a while and was eventually hospitalised, but when I visited her shortly before my wedding day, she had promised me she would be well enough to come to my special day on 24th July. With childish anticipation I assumed she’d be there.
She died the day before my wedding.
My Dad, her son, stoically and quietly dealt with his own grief. Hiding the pain that he must have been feeling, he insisted that my Grampy, her husband, his father, made the hour and a half journey to our home, to be with us, to painfully attend my wedding.
The summer’s day of 24th July 1993 was grey and rainy. I remember telling my father that it was an omen. That I should not marry my then husband-to-be. The rain embodying the extreme sadness and grief I was feeling for the loss of my wonderful grandmother. How could I raise myself to meet the joy that one was supposed to feel on their wedding day when my heart was breaking? Breaking for myself, for my Granny, and for my Grampy. How could I go ahead with my wedding?
Determinedly and with no room for doubt, my father told me to “pull myself together”, that “of course the wedding would go ahead”. “Don’t be ridiculous! Granny wouldn’t have wanted you to not get married”!
So my wedding day went ahead. With a heavy heart and super human effort we embraced the day. It was probably one of the first times I remember vividly when I learned how to swallow my true feelings and put on a ‘brave face’, masking how I was truly feeling. In denial as to what had happened the day before, we sang ‘morning has broken’, one of my Granny’s favourite hymns during the church ceremony, when a quiet but weighty tear rolled down my cheek, unnoticed by all but me. Knowing that behind me, there must be others who were also in deep sorrow, remembering, grieving too. How my Grampy managed that day, I shall never know! How my father courageously stood to make his father-of-the bride speech, toasting missing friends and family that day is beyond me.
It was during our honeymoon in the beautiful island resort of Antigua that her funeral took place. Without being informed, without being consulted, without being considered they buried my beloved Granny. Without me being present to say goodbye. Without the choice being offered. Still to this day, I feel deep regret that I didn’t have the chance to say a proper goodbye. Still today when I remember my wedding, do I also remember the deep sadness which was a complex and silent bedfellow with the immense joy of that day.
Swiss born psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, pioneer in near-death studies, developed the five stage model of the grief process. The Kubler-Ross Model.
Kubler-Ross, through her studies and in her book entitled “On death and dying” (1969) identified that we go through these five different stages when dealing with grief of death and dying:-
I can place myself in the phases of this model so clearly as my beloved Granny approached her death all those years ago. The denial when I stood next to her hospital bed, forcefully encouraging her to get better, to make it to my wedding.
The selfish and childish anger I felt that she should ‘choose’ to not find the will to live, enlivened by the thought of potentially missing her beloved granddaughters wedding day! How lttle did I know then. How selfish were my requests when she was tired, ready to leave this world.
Bargaining with the shadow of death, that if she became well enough, I promised my wedding would be long and meaningful, loving and enduring.
Depression as I left her hospital, secretly knowing that she wouldn’t be there beside me on my special day.
Acceptance on my wedding day, with grey skies and rain pouring, as my dad and I calmly, silently and stoically left for the church with heavy hearts in the knowledge that there would be a very special person missing that day.
Her Majesty, our late Queen Elizabeth II, role modelled the way forward for us all. As she stood alone, in black, shrunk in her own grief at the passing of her beloved Prince Philip, only one year ago. Regally pushing on, dutifully attending to the public appearances expected of her. Dealing with her grief in the privacy of her ‘alone time’. Most likely still in the throws of this journey through grief, which only those close to her would have witnessed, the Queen was not removed from these emotions - she was, after all a human being, she passed.
As we mourn our beloved Queen Elizabeth II here in the UK, across the Commonwealth and indeed the world, we must allow ourselves the time to move through these five stages. One stage may feel heavier than another, may linger with us for longer. We will however survive and we will get through this.
Remember, however, our journey on this planet is short and we have much to do. Do not put off until tomorrow what you could do today and waste not a minute of your valuable time. Every one of us has a purpose, a role, a destiny. There are two guarantees in life - you’re born and then you will, at some stage in the future, die. The architecture of your life in between those two points in time is of your own choosing and design. Make sure you’re building the life you wish to have.
Wether you are a royalist or not, there are many great lessons on how to be a "citizen of the world" that we can learn from the life of our wonderful, dutiful and regal Queen Elizabeth II.