a deathworker’s statement on Queen Elizabeth II’s passing

logo for Ever On And On: a multicolored infinity symbol at the top, overlaid by the words 'EVER ON AND ON griefwork + deathwork'

cw: death, colonization, grief

Note: it is completely okay if you don’t agree with this statement. You don’t have to agree with me in the slightest, and if you’re reading this, I really appreciate it. The tiny head of a pin I’m balancing on as a deathworker and someone actively trying to decolonize myself puts me in a precarious situation; but we can’t just sit some things out. I have a voice to use here.

Queen Elizabeth II has died, and I wanted to make a statement, to the best of my ability as a deathworker and as a member of a mystery tradition that has many roots in Celtic lands and even specific protocols (that I cannot speak on) with regard to the British monarchy.

As a practitioner and a deathworker, I want to be as lawful neutral as possible here.

Everyone dies. All of us will experience the great mystery of death at some point in our existence. Being alive for ninety-six years does not mean death cannot come.

With every death as public as this one, there are those that mourn, those that rejoice, those that have confused and upsetting feelings and either do or don’t have the language to speak about those feelings.

No one is required to respect the dead, whether they died today or a thousand years ago.

When one of us dies, the world changes a little. How does it change? I cannot really say. Despite how much I would like to know the answer to that question, all I have is subjectivity.

When the leader of a country dies, they are judged by the actions they took, by the ones they did not take, by the ways in which they did or did not uphold the structure that they existed within.

I believe that we should all be free to speak about what that person means to us.

I also believe that with every death, there are those whose grief is immediate and sharp. Death rites and funerals are for the living and the left behind. They enshrine what we believe and hope is true.

We can miss someone deeply and hold them accountable in the same moment.

A brief personal story: when my paternal grandmother died recently, I felt an immense sense of relief. She had been overtly and passively abusive to me and my kids for decades. It was a relief to know she couldn’t do that to us any more.

When my maternal grandmother died, I had (and still have) a huge amount of grief and a feeling of deep loss. I was not able to be with her in her last hours, which I had hoped to do. My grief for her is wrapped up with my personal loss of time with her, and I can’t untangle that.

And yet, my maternal grandmother was a white woman that benefited from the patriarchy and she never did anything to address that. She was racist. She had a frightening capacity for hatred. It was nearly impossible to make her happy.

As her grandchild, I usually experienced the best of her. There are still some things she said that I will never be able to forget because of the meanness behind them, and there are many memories I have that I will always cherish because they meant love to me in that moment.

All that is to try and communicate that the dead are just as multifaceted as the living. The Queen’s legacy means something completely different to her blood family than to the thousands of people her monarchy conquered and kept for as long as possible.

There are people in my household today who are mourning, and my perspective is absolutely colored by that truth. In my very own small bubble, I am seeing the paradox of love and hatred contained in the mystery of death. My speech is tempered because of this.

I am, and will continue to be, a flawed person that is working to decolonize my thoughts, my belief system, my family, my legacy. I will fail and I hope to sometimes do the right thing.

On this day, I acknowledge the grief of many while acknowledging the celebration by others.

Such is the dichotomy that death presents to us, I suppose.

I hope for the dead Queen the same that I hope for every one of the dead: what she deserves. She is now among both the honored dead and the problematic ancestors. We must learn something true from those who pass.

What is remembered, lives.

And what is wrong, must be torn down and replaced with what our own problematic hopes can build.

featured image is the logo for Ever On And On, my death doula work

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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