How can counsellors respond to the news of the Queen’s death? Let’s take a look at a few different aspects of the situation.
What are People Feeling?
It’s important to acknowledge that people will be feeling a variety of different emotions. Here’s a few thoughts:
The death of a mother and grandmother may touch and rekindle people’s own losses. It becomes personal. Seeing another family in mourning may bring up painful memories for people. So let’s demonstrate that we understand this may be a difficult time for people.
For others, the monarchy represents a repressive system that has directly harmed their families. They may not feel grief but anger. This might be inflamed by the current news output that fails to acknowledge their feelings. A time of “national mourning” may increase their sense of isolation. Their feelings are valid but it may be very difficult to express them in the current climate. Let’s give people space to say what they really feel.
For some people, the Queen represented a sense of stability that may have been sadly lacking in their lives. Her loss may be more than they can bear. Let’s be aware of that and perhaps use it in conversations around World Suicide Prevention Day
Let’s acknowledge the fact that some people and some clients feel the Queen and monarchy are irrelevant to them. This may affect your decisions about what steps to take.
Should it be “Business As Usual”?
You may be wondering if it is disrespectful to be arranging appointments. Perhaps you feel it is crass to be working to promote yourself or to try and bring clients on board your private practice. You may be asking yourself if you should work or not during the funeral.
Remember that our work is about helping people, and that clients may need us more than ever if the event has brought up difficult feelings for them. This event may mean there are more clients looking for help and there is no need to feel guilty if you wish to support them.
But you’re important too. It is ethical to pay attention to your needs. Respect your own feelings around this time.
Time Off for the Funeral?
Should you wish to take time off to observe the period of mourning, the day of the funeral is a bank holiday. You can simply inform your clients that as it is a bank holiday you will not be working. There is no need to enter into a discussion or apologise if this is what you want.
Equally, if you wish to work there is no need to offer an explanation. If you are challenged about it you can simply say you wish to be available to clients at a time they need you.
Again I think it is important not to make assumptions about your clients’ viewpoints. Even if you wish to work, your clients may not want to attend. The date has been published more than a week ahead – and it has been declared a national holiday – so personally I do not think it is appropriate to charge clients for a missed appointment.
And if you need – ask for help from your supervisor if you’re finding it hard to make a decision about what to do.
How to have conversations with clients
- As demonstrated on social media in the past few days, there are very many varied thoughts and feelings about this subject. Don’t be like I was about Brexit and expect your clients to agree with you (whoops).
- Don’t be surprised if clients want to concentrate on themselves in the session. You may want to leave them to raise the issue rather than talking about it to them
- Equally, it may be important to explore the impact of the news with them – especially if you think they may fall into one of the categories described above. If it feels like “the elephant in the room” you may want to make it explicit.
Social Media Pages
If you have a social media page, you may be wondering what tone to take:
- It’s OK to be real. Social media is just that: “social”. While you don’t want to dump your feelings on your readers, explaining what you’re feeling and why can help people who read your page. What people love is honesty and integrity. You don’t have to be formal.
- Equally, you don’t have to share your feelings. You can simply acknowledge the range of emotions that people may be experiencing.
- By acknowledging that people may be having different emotions, you’re demonstrating your acceptance of everyone. That’s a very healing and helpful way to be.
And while it may feel uncomfortable to be seen as “selling”, or “profiting” from a sad time, remember to tell people that you’re available to support them 1-2-1 if you have space. You may be just what they need at a difficult time.
Look After You
In all of this, remember that you have feelings and needs too.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Take the time you need to process your emotions as you seek to help others.
So, How can We Respond?
In summary, let’s do what we’re good at.
Start conversations about what’s important and listen to people’s feelings. We can do that in sessions; in real life with family, friends and colleagues; in social media conversations and in our social media output.