Paying Respects

Guest Post by: Sharon Michelle, MSc Psychology

Queen Elizabeth II’s passing has provided so much to reflect on. In a world that seems endlessly divided her death has brought millions of people together. United in expressing feelings of loss and sadness, and in celebrating her life. The scale of which has touched me deeply, especially as I live in England – a country famous for being reserved and keeping a stiff upper lip.

Regardless of your views about Monarchy and what it represents, the Queen was well-loved and seemed to genuinely care about people. She was a constant amongst so much change and it seemed like she would go on forever. The status quo has shifted, which feels challenging and uncomfortable.  

A quarter of a million people queued for up to 24 hours to see her resting in State and pay their respects. Catching glimpses of the length of the queue was quite moving. More people crowded the streets from London to Windsor to be part of the funeral processions, to mark the moment and play their part in history. The Nation closed down. Radio and TV stations spent days honouring her life, giving people time to express what she meant to them.   Music was chosen to reflect the mood and play feelings out loud. The impact was awesome.

So many of us have lost parents, friends, and beloved pets as much a part of the family as anyone else. So we know what loss feels like and what the Queens’ family are going through right now. Sadness and grief experienced together at a level rarely seen before.  

And I have been wondering why are we not sharing or expressing the sadness of the loss of so much of Nature on the same scale?  

We’ve used ceremonies and rituals throughout history to bring family and communities together in times of loss.  They allow us to recognise the importance of the occasion, the transition from life to death.  They allow us to focus on the value of that life.  A time to appreciate what a relationship meant or you wished you’d had instead – so a different kind of loss.  The significance of the person, the event, and the impact of the passing can be acknowledged and recognised.  

The Queen’s death has prompted me to continue to process and be conscious of all of the loss I have experienced. Also bringing back treasured memories too. My Dad, my best friend, and recently my wonderful and spirited dog called Lady. They meant something, and a part of me is missing without them.  

And then there is how to process what we have lost in nature. In the UK since the end of the 2nd world war, we have lost 97% of our wildflower meadows and a significant amount of insects that depend on them, and a significant amount of birds and other animals that depended on them. There are several studies which show in the last 50 years the Earth has lost over 60% of all Wildlife, so much plant life and an alarming amount of deforestation.

I feel the loss of the Queen, and part of my family. I also deeply feel the tragic loss of so much nature. I know many others do too. But we don’t talk about it. There is no funeral for Nature, no eulogies or remembrance days. No real space to express how we feel about the realities of all this death, or to show how much we value this life and how wonderful Nature is.

So I propose an annual International day of mourning for the Nature we have lost. 

A Global remembrance day, with suitable eulogies from leaders and the public. To pay our respects. A time set aside to stop. And think. And reflect upon the impact of the loss. For all of the people in the world who feel sad, and/or who want to celebrate the life of Nature.  An opportunity to pay our respects at the same moment in time, expressing how important Nature is to us. Imagine how powerful that would feel?  Imagine the consequences of this recognition.

And if this is not the right time – when is going to be the right time?  And if this is considered an outrageous suggestion – let’s address that.  Why is the life in Nature not to be valued on the scale it needs to be?  Why aren’t we globally grieving for our loss of nature?  For the impact its loss is having and will continue to have?

This discussion needs to be had so that we can move past it and heal our planet.

The function of a funeral or memorial service is to unite us, honour a life, and connect to something deep within ourselves. It gives us a chance to confront the painful reality of death, to process the grief. It is also an opportunity to heal and transition to a new chapter.  

The Queen’s passing has shown there is a deep level of feeling that can unite many people around the world. It highlights there is a massive need for millions of people to feel part of something. A deep need to find comfort in others when sharing loss. 

We have now turned over a new chapter. King Charles has always been vocal in promoting the idea Humans should be stewards of the Earth and need to protect the environment.  Prince William is also an active Environmentalist. This has already had a significant positive impact and long may it last. ( I must also mention the Royal family like to hunt and have huge areas of land maintained for the purpose of raising game in order to shoot them.  Hopefully, this hypocrisy will change soon with public and media pressure).   

There will be much debate about the future of the monarchy, its history, what it represents, and the privilege for those born into it. Tradition gives comfort and structure, and there will always be changes too which isn’t a bad thing.

I would like to finish off by saying goodbye and thank you to her Majesty for her 70 years of service and dedication to raising her nation’s spirits and others all over the world. She touched the hearts of so many. Her funeral made me I realise I’ve connected on a deeper level to more people than I knew was possible. This could be a significant lesson we could choose to learn from.

I also want to share that my heart is heavy and full of love for the planet, and want to say goodbye to all of the millions of creatures and all of nature that’s been lost too soon.  You mean something to me.  I honour, highly value, and respect your lives. Thank you for contributing to the ecosystems you were part of.  I feel enough sorrow to fill the universe for your suffering, for the immensity of what we have lost, and the impact it will have on all of our futures. I feel guilty that I haven’t done enough to protect you.  

The day of the Queen’s funeral was a powerful experience. It is also a reminder for us to honour, cherish, and respect what we still have. And an opportunity to address why it is more of us don’t value what we should.

 

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