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  • Ronan Harrington

A-Z of Resilience - M is for Mourning


In absence we understand significance.


As a nation mourns the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, we grieve not just a remarkable figure but remarkable virtues that are absent in public life.


Self-sacrifice is a relic of a bygone era when a robust collective identity compelled us toward duty.


Today, we mourn a model of public leadership that has been corrupted by a short term, self serving individualism. The revolving door of Prime Ministers that marked the end of her reign spoke of One Nation, but underneath lay a what's in it for me mentality.


In Queen Elizabeth, there was a consistent embodiment of self-sacrifice, across seven decades of public scrutiny, so that even the most ardent of critics couldn’t be left in any doubt that she was the real deal.


We long for figures like Queen Elizabeth as a function of a deeper need to embody her virtues within ourselves. We recognise that they are at least an antidote to our self absorption, and at best, a calling to who we were always meant to be.


Spurred by this collective moment, I struck up a conversation with an elderly couple, who have been married for 60 years. Disarmed by the shock of her passing, they opened up about their lives in a way that they likely never had before.


The husband lost his father at the age of five in the German bombing of Portsmouth in World War 2. He is now 87 and was in my town for a reunion of the boarding school the orphans were sent.


His wife told me that her father was a prisoner of war, who returned to find that her mother had started a new relationship, assuming he was dead. His reckless act was to take her, at the age of seven, from school one day under the pretences of a day out shopping. She never saw her mother again.


I asked them how they coped and the husband quickly interjected: ‘you just get on with it.’ It was painful to sit across the table as she wiped away a tear, and he looked away.


Queen Elizabeth’s death is a vessel for mourning of all kinds. We can pour our grief at how our society and our lives have turned out, without facing them head on.


As a resilience and wellbeing keynote speaker, I often say that mourning is central to our resilience because it forces us to abandon the pretence of being impenetrable.


The tragedies of life are unbearable unless we surrender and allow them to move through us, completing their inevitable cycle.


It’s ironic that for someone that struggled to shake the stiff upper lip, Queen Elizabeth’s passing has opened the floodgates.


Let them remain open so that all that has gone unacknowledged can be mourned.


This is an A-Z guide to showcase some unfamiliar concepts in resilience, originally shared on my LinkedIn and inspired by day-to-day insights from my own experience with stress and chronic illness and my work as a mental health keynote speaker.


Also is this series: A (is for Auto-Regulation),B (is for the Breath), C (is for Coping), D (is for (the far side of) Despair), E (is for Endurance), F (is for Forgiveness), F (is for Family), G (is for God), H (is for Habit), I (is for Interdependence), J (is for Joy) and K (is for Kintsugi).

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