Grief as the world moves on

The Queen's funeral marked the end of an intense period of national mourning. It’s been an emotional time for many people for many reasons. But what happens now? When, if at all does life return to 'normal' after any funeral?

September 20, 2022

Across the time of national mourning many of us who didn’t know her personally have found we have felt a great deal of grief for different reasons.

For her close friends and family, it will of course have had a very personal meaning, with the added complication of happening in front of millions of people. I’m sure many of us watching were thinking of them and the grief they are feeling for a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend or employer.

Funerals have a vitally important part to play in saying goodbye and paying our respects to someone. They are also emotional times.

  • Many of us dread the funeral as the last time accepted time we have permission to show emotion.
  • For some the funeral marks the first time when there is space and time to let the full grief in, and that can feel overwhelming.
  • You might worry that after the funeral you’ll have to be OK to get on with life, and the support around you will disappear.
  • However you might also find some relief when funeral is over and feel grateful for some private time to grieve out of the spotlight.

Whatever you feel, in some ways the funeral is only just the beginning.

When does it start to feel better?

People often ask us at Cruse how long their grief will last. While this is a natural question, the truth is there are no set stages or time limits to grief. Starting to feel better after a bereavement can take a long time, and it’s important not to be hard on yourself for how you feel.

We all want to believe there is a set road map for our feelings, but the truth is that everyone grieves differently and we sometimes experience some of our most painful feelings many years after a bereavement.

Early days

In the early stages after a bereavement, you might feel numb or nothing at all. You might carry on as if nothing happened or find yourself focusing on administrative tasks such as cancelling bills or sorting out the will.

On the other hand, some people feel a strong and powerful range of emotions from the start. What usually happens over the first few months is that slowly it becomes possible to pay attention to coping and getting on with the jobs of every day life.

Events and reminders

Grief can often feel a bit like a ‘one step forward two steps back’ experience in the early months or years. We know that many people have found the intense coverage of The Queen’s death has brought their own grief to the forefront. That’s very normal.

Sometimes people find keeping a grief journal can help track progress when it doesn’t always feel like things are getting any better.

After the first year

It’s common to find the second year after someone dies to be just as difficult or even harder than the first. People around you may have gone back to normal and you might feel there’s less space for you to talk about your feelings.

It’s important to remember that, in time, you will feel better and more able to cope. This doesn’t mean that you are ever completely over it, rather that it is possible to start to find pleasure in life again, while still remembering and missing someone you have lost.

After several years

As time passes, most people find they are able to adapt to their grief and return to some kind of normal life. While some experiences will still trigger your grief (such as films, songs or smells), you are likely grow around these feelings and find space for other things in your life.

Lois Tonkin’s Growing around Grief metaphor is a helpful way of thinking about how long grief lasts. The grief doesn’t ever completely go away, and sometimes the feelings can be as intense as when someone first died. But in time the painful feelings come less often and your life starts to be filled with other things.

What can help

It can help to remind those around you that you are still grieving, and would like to talk about how you are feeling or about the person who has died. Sometimes people will be happy to follow your lead, and have been keeping quiet because they don’t know how to start the conversation, or don’t want to upset you.

If you find that you are stuck in the intense feelings of early grief after six months or a year has passed you may need extra help. But you don’t have to be stuck or overwhelmed to talk to us. We’re here to share any feelings you may have about someone who’s died, whether that was last week or 30 years ago.

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