Collective Grief

What does it mean to grieve as a community, nation or city?

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to know someone personally to be affected by their death. And, that while collective grief can be upsetting, sometimes grieving as a group can allow us to process our feelings more easily.

What is collective grief?

Collective grief happens when a group of people (usually a nation, community or local area) experience the fallout from a death or multiple deaths. This might be due to war, a natural disaster, or other events that resulted in multiple or high-profile casualties.

In British history, events such as the 7/7 bombings, Grenfell, Aberfan and the Manchester Arena Bombings have all resulted in a sense of shared or collective grief.

Now following the death of Her Majesty The Queen, the nation will be experiencing collective grief once again. It is likely that many people will be experiencing a great deal of grief for The Queen who has been central to life in the UK for so long.

The death of Princess Diana is also often used as a previous example of collective grief. After Diana died in a car crash in 1997, the public left flower tributes in their thousands and numerous people were seen crying on national television. On the day of her funeral, three million people were estimated three million came out onto the streets of London and 2.5 billion people worldwide watched the television coverage. For many people, it was the first time grief had been so widely discussed at a national level.

Why does collective grief take place?

  • When death and dying is in the news, it can trigger feelings about your own experiences.
  • Hearing about death or tragedy in the news can also be deeply upsetting even if you haven’t lost anyone yourself.
  • Knowing others around you are feeling sad might gives you “permission” to grieve and thinking about your personal experiences

Are there benefits to grieving collectively?

While collective grief can be overwhelming, for many people it can also be comforting to know that you’re not alone in how you’re feeling. Sometimes, if you’re grieving someone you didn’t know it can be hard to allow yourself to feel sad. When grief is nationally recognised you are more likely to feel justified in how you’re grieving.