Hilary Mantel, The Princess Myth: ‘Mourning is work. It is not simply being sad. It is naming your pain. It is witnessing the sorrow of others, drawing out the shape of loss. It is natural and necessary and there is no healing without it.’ Guardian Review, 26 August 2017
I love the way novelists can be so definite. I absolutely agree with her.
These sentences follow her eloquent and sympathetic description of the response to Princess Diana’s death. ‘.. The mass-mourning offended the taste police. It was gaudy, it was kitsch – the rotting flowers in their shrouds, the padded hearts of crimson plastic, the teddy bears and dolls and broken-backed verses. But all these testified to the struggle for self-expression of individuals who were spiritually and imaginatively deprived, who released their own suppressed sorrow in grieving for a woman they did not know. The term “mass hysteria” was a facile denigration of a phenomenon that eluded the commentators and their framework of analysis. They did not see the active work the crowds were doing. Mourning is work…’
Mantel attributes ‘suppressed sorrow’ to people being ‘spiritually and imaginatively deprived’. My own inclination would be to seek rather for losses they had suffered, probably in childhood, probably of close family; by illness, death, divorce or being sent to boarding school, for example, in situations where no adult was able to offer comfort and help with a grieving process. But then, I’m a counsellor, with a counsellor’s experience; she is a novelist for whom the life of the imagination is vital. And losses which are unmourned, by restricting both thought and emotional responses, do deprive people of spiritual and imaginative comfort.