A Nation Mourns

A nation mourns. But why? And what is that all about? Nicola Reed, Cruse Scotland's Head of Client Services explains.

September 13, 2022

A nation mourns. But why? And what is that all about?

The streets have been lined, flowers have been laid, tears have been wept. The cortege has passed, the coffin lies in state, the TV channels are full of coverage. It is hard to escape in some ways.

Some people are there for the moment in history, some are there because their job requires them to be, some are there to pay honour and respect.

Some stand in uniform, some in black, some in bright colours. Some hold phones to capture the moment, some hold flowers and some hold children high on their shoulders to see above the crowds. Some are close to the activity, some watch from a distance, some have had enough and switched the TV off.

Some are sad, really sad. They have never met the Queen personally, but nevertheless they are sad. Some are surprised at just how sad they are – and not just sad when they are caught up in all the coverage and spectacle that comes with a State Funeral – they remain sad when the crowds have dispersed, the front door to their home is closed and the TV is switched off. They are sad because there is something in the death of Queen Elizabeth II that has resonated and impacted within them.

I have been in the proximity of the Queen twice in my life – once during a Royal walkaround in a park and more recently on Sunday when the coffin that carried her body passed by me as the cortege took her from Balmoral to Edinburgh.

I have never been in the Queen’s company - yet, I have known her all my life.

I have seen her in my living room on Christmas Day; I have watched people that I do know go into service for Queen and Country; I have worked with solicitors who carry the title, "Queen’s Counsel," I have waitressed in rooms where men did not remove their jackets, nor women their hats, until they had sung and toasted “The Queen”; I grew up in a country where she was painted onto some walls and defaced on others.

She has been part of the fabric of my life for forty seven years … and her death changes that.

Over the years I have seen her family shift and change – I recognise that same thing in my own family as births, marriages, rifts, divorces, and deaths happen. I have seen her, and her family, mourn – I recognise that humanity. I saw her sit alone at Prince Philip’s funeral – I wept for her, and many others, who have had to do similar over these last years – I recognise the pain of that. I have seen her smile, celebrate, and cheer – I recognise the joy in those moments. I have heard her speak of the importance of her faith – I recognise the weight of that. And I have seen her have tea with Paddington Bear – I recognise the astonishment of her great grandchildren in that.

I did not know her, but I knew her.

I will miss the familiarity and certainty of her being there.

Her death will bring change that I will adjust to.

That is grief. And I am allowed to grieve. I grieve because I knew her. My grief may look different to yours and certainly different to that of the family, friends and people closest to her. But it is still grief and it is allowed to be and allowed to have space.

So, yes, we are in a national period of mourning – but our grief may feel a little bit closer to home. The national period of mourning will have a definite start and end date – but our grief has no timeline.

The text books may call this grief I feel “disenfranchised grief” … but my heart just calls it grief.


Written by Nicola Reed, Cruse Scotland's Head of Client Services

Further reading: Social Grief and practical advice that may help


A Nation Mourns

About the Author

Nicola Reed - Head of client services

Nicola, after a 20 year career as a chartered accountant, joined the Cruse Scotland staff team as an Area Manager in April 2019. Alongside this shift from the corporate to the charity world, she also embarked on a counselling diploma, clocking up some of her placement hours with Cruse as a volunteer. This is all not as strange as it may as seem - for many years Nicola has been actively involved with a local Dundee charity which offers pregnancy and baby loss counselling and listening support - so her passion for seeing people well supported through bereavement has always been a driving force for her. In her “free time”, Nicola enjoys lots of different things – cooking, writing, crochet, parkrun, church and sometimes she even spares a bit of time for her husband and two girls!