Our Complicated Grief for the Queen – Pastor Thoughts

I was sitting in the board room at church last week, having just finished two zoom meetings when the people I was meeting with arrived for my third meeting and told me that the Queen had died. 

I had just checked the news only about 45 minutes prior and knew that her doctors were concerned. Her family had been summoned and I had seen the Twitter reports that the BBC news readers were already in their black ties. This didn’t feel like the previous health scares. 

Most of us were either very young or not alive at all the last time a monarch died. While 3/4 of my lineage is Norwegian, a quarter of me is Scottish and Welsh.  

I am also the son and grandson of royal watchers, and so had to endure waiting in crowds for the briefest of glimpses of visiting royals growing up. I also had to watch royal weddings and funerals whenever they were broadcast on TV.  But I am sure that I am not the only one whose family had a love for royal things. 

Many of these images provided some of the touchstone moments of our history. Now we are about to witness another in about a week. 

As we grieve the Queen in the days to come, I cannot help but think of my own grandmother, 98 years old. From the same cohort and stock, she was a women whose life was also marked by service to her community as a Pastor’s wife. I am sure we all have loved ones in our lives who come to mind as we ponder the Queen’s 70-year legacy. As much as she was a remarkable woman, the Queen is also symbolic of an era of rapid innovation and loss, from World War 2 and the invention of TV all the way to the internet and COVID-19 Pandemic. 

As I talked with a parishioner this week, our discussion of the Queen led us to memories growing up in the horse a buggy, pre-electricity era. We compared that reality to the fact that my watch today can show pictures, tell me the weather, send text message and measure my heartbeat.

The Queen’s death is a time to grieve all the that has taken place during her reign and how the world in which she first ascended to the throne is completely different from the world she leaves behind.

Just in the days before the Queen died, we also bore witness to the terrible tragedy that just happened at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon. Horrible acts of violence that will take a long time for families and communities to heal from. Not to mention that the story of the perpetrators of this violence is connected to Canada’s history of colonialism, most clearly symbolized by the Crown. 

They are reminders that in these days we are experiencing grief upon grief, and it is complicated and messy. 

As we contend with our experience of grief in the days to come, we will be reminded of all the change that happened in the world during these past 70 years. We also be reminded of how that change has impacted us personally. 

In a rapidly changing world, there is so much that we must leave behind, so much to feel as though we have lost. It will be a big change to see a different face on our coins, to sing God Save the King, to change the name of all the public institutions titled after the Queen that will now belong to the King. Reminders of change and loss, and I am not so certain that we are ready to find hope in the ‘new’ either quite yet.  

As we grieve the Queen and a changing world, the thing that we can hold onto is our faith. Perhaps more accurately, and what I often tell to families grieving a loved one, God is holding onto us. 

Even as we struggle with all that is taking place around us, even as we feel as though we are losing much to the pace of change, even as there is much grief to bear these days, God promises that we do not bear it alone. 

Instead, we bear it together, we navigate this changing world in the body of Christ, in community. We given each other to hold on to, and we are held by the love of God. God who knows grief and has walked this path before, and who will see us through to the other side. 

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