The death of Queen Elizabeth II has plunged the royal household and much of the UK into a period of mourning, with black armbands and flags at half mast. While such traditions may seem far removed from everyday experiences of bereavement, experts say rituals can help us cope with death.
“Mourning plays an important role in bereavement because it’s a way of externalizing the emotions and thoughts of grief and, through that, incorporating the loss into your life and beginning to heal,” said Lucy Selman, an associate professor in end-of-life care at the University of Bristol and the founding director of Good Grief Festival.
Mary-Frances O’Connor, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona and the author of The Grieving Brain, agrees that traditions are important.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
“Mourning rituals can offer constancy and comfort in a moment when everything can feel very uncertain,” she said. “By connecting us to rituals that have existed for hundreds of years, we are reminded that those who came before us have experienced grief and uncertainty, and they have carried on and restored meaningful lives.”
Selman said markers of mourning such as armbands could help identify those who are grieving and act as indicators to others to respect and offer comfort or support to the bereaved.
This could be useful, she said. According to a YouGov survey released in January, 30 percent of adults in the UK who had been bereaved found others not referencing their loss at all.
“If we had armbands or similar, perhaps grief would be less easy to ignore,” said Selman.
O’Connor also said outward cultural signs of mourning could be beneficial, but she noted that the way we express grief changes vastly over time and across cultures.
“What is important is an expression of grief that is meaningful to you, your family or your community,” she said. “There are many cases where black armbands would be appropriate, but expressions of condolences on Twitter are completely modern but no less meaningful.”
Chao Fang, a research fellow at the Center for Death and Society at the University of Bath, said the mourning traditions employed by the royal household offer a shared and personal platform to express grief, and enabled a smooth transition from loss. He said that made them a valuable way to encourage bonds and empathy among family, community and wider society in the face of death.
But with society becoming increasingly diverse, it is important to explore new customs and rituals, he said.
“No matter if we draw upon past traditions or create new and personalized rituals, at the heart of our endeavors to mourn and grieve is to love, to remember and, ultimately, to find our own way to live with loss,” Fang said.
Andy Langford, the clinical director of the charity Cruse Bereavement Support, said the pandemic’s disruption of funerals and other milestones for expressing grief had made bereavement much more painful for thousands of people.
Although these rituals have returned, Langford said more could be done.
“A fixed mourning period for everyone experiencing a personal bereavement is unlikely to cover every eventuality, but it would go a long way to society being kinder to those grieving,” he said.
“The expectation that grief has a short timeline and we should be over our bereavement in a few weeks is outdated. This morning period we are seeing unfold for Her Majesty shows the need to take proper time to mourn. But 10 days is just the start of the grief process.”
Langford said greater emotional support was needed for those who have been bereaved, including through funded specialist services, as well as better bereavement policies for employees, expanded statutory bereavement leave and a dramatic reduction in the administrative burden after someone dies.
O’Connor also stressed the need for employers to support bereaved staff.
“In our 24/7 world, many people find it difficult — or are not able — to take time for grieving. However, as human beings, we still need a time and space to pause, to mourn, to adjust to what it means for us that someone has died,” she said.
Last week, the presidential campaign of Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) tapped Cynthia Wu (吳欣盈), the granddaughter of Shin Kong group founder Wu Ho-su (吳火獅), as his vice-presidential candidate. Wu and her vast wealth seem to fly in the face of Ko’s claim to be offering new, cleaner politics. She wasted no time putting the peasants in their proper place. Asked last week by a reporter if she would publicly reveal that she had given up her US citizenship, Wu tartly responded that it was an issue between herself and the US government. The following day, when
On a dark November afternoon at Southampton’s City Farm, the animals are going about their business. They are all rescues. Penny the pig, a clutch of former battery farm chickens, three pygmy goats and Salvatore the cane snake, so orange and shiny he looks as though he is glowing from within as he twines around my arm in loving, even sensual embrace. All little miracles in their own right. But none so strange as the dull-looking brown shells in the glass tank in the corner. “Who’s that in there?” I ask Hannah, in whose charge they lie. “They’re African land snails”,
Leading British universities have been influenced by Chinese agents, with diplomatic and unofficial pressure resulting in censorship on campus, according to a Channel 4 documentary. The Dispatches documentary, Secrets and Power: China in the UK, alleges that the University of Nottingham closed its School of Contemporary Chinese Studies in 2016 in response to pressure from Beijing. The former head of the institute, Steve Tsang, has openly criticized the Chinese Communist party (CCP) on several occasions, but said that university management asked him not to speak to the media during Xi Jinping’s (習近平) visit to the UK in 2015. The saga at the
Author and academic Michelle Kuo will give a lecture on Dec. 8 titled Solidarity with People Behind the Bars. Kuo, an accomplished lawyer and writer, and fervent advocate for prison education, will draw on her extensive experience to discuss incarceration throughout the globe. The lecture, which is part of the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation’s (龍應台文化基金會) Taipei Salon (台北沙龍) lecture series, will be moderated by Ko Pei-ru (柯沛如), the founder of Food Culture Collective. With over 11 million people incarcerated worldwide today, the event will examine crucial questions surrounding their lives and the motivations behind punitive measures. The conversation will explore the complexities