CAROLINE Donohoe will today start the long, lonely process of grieving for her beloved husband, Adrian. The days since the brutal gunning down of the 41-year-old detective garda in cold blood must be a blur. She has been carried through the past week with the support, love and sympathy of an entire nation.
Now that his funeral is over and the initial wave of revulsion at his murder has passed, Caroline will begin to get the space to come to terms with her unbearable loss. Her priority will be her two children, Amy (7) and Niall (6), who have lost an adoring father.
There is nothing that can be said to lessen the burden of Caroline's grief. Words will be of little comfort to her. When her door closes and she switches off her light tonight, and every night for many months and years to come, she will be on her own.
While the hunt for Adrian's killers will continue, the news agenda will move on to the next breaking story, the next tragedy, the next controversy.
Caroline will have to dig very deep in the coming months to remain strong and to cope. But she appears to be an incredibly powerful woman who, despite the horrific personal tragedy that has befallen her, ensured that Adrian's state funeral was not overtaken by pomp and ceremony.
Chief celebrant Fr Michael Cusack said yesterday that Caroline made all of the arrangements and prepared the Mass herself. She was deferred to on every decision that had to be made. And what a beautiful and touching ceremony it was.
Adrian's murder was played out very publicly. He was slain during a robbery of a credit union in his home parish, the first garda to be shot dead on duty since Det Gda Jerry McCabe in Limerick in 1996.
Death should be a private thing, shared among a circle of family and friends. Grieving relatives rarely feel the public spotlight on them, as was the case for Caroline this week. The public has owned this story. There were 4,000 at his funeral yesterday, the mourners including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins. Thousands more attended the wake in Adrian's home.
Caroline can draw strength and inspiration from Jerry McCabe's widow, Ann, who has always remained dignified and strong in the face of her loss. It was touching that she signed the book of condolence for Adrian, and I suspect she will meet Caroline in the near future to offer her comfort and support.
While she never publicly uttered words of bitterness or hatred towards her husband's killers, Ann McCabe did draw some comfort from the fact that they were convicted. After their sentencing, she said she and her family were free to be able to try to come to terms with their loss. She said it was a matter of pride that her husband's colleagues in Limerick never rested until his killers were brought to justice.
Caroline and two of Adrian's brothers are members of the force, so they will have an intimate knowledge of how the investigation will be run and will be kept up to speed on developments every step of the way.
The fact that the gardai have expressed confidence that they will arrest and bring to justice those responsible for Adrian's murder will provide some solace.
Despite the lonely times ahead, Caroline will have the support of the community, her family, friends and colleagues as long as she needs it.
She has memories that she will forever treasure, and the words of warm tribute that have flowed since his death ringing in her ears.
She will wonder about the element of fate that had her husband outside Lordship Credit Union in Co Louth when the armed robbers struck, even though he wasn't rostered to work that shift.
As a fellow garda, she will know that there was always a risk and danger with the job. But you never think the day will come when life is whipped away at the hands of callous thugs with no respect for human life.
Caroline will be identified in the months ahead as the widow of the latest member of the Garda Siochana to pay the ultimate price. Something tells me she will carry on and display the same sort of courage we have witnessed from her already.
My own mother was widowed at the young age of 42 when she was eight months pregnant with her 10th child. An inspiring and strong woman, she reared all her children and built a business at the same time. She is often asked how she did it. Her answer is always the same. "I had no choice. I had to get on with things."
Even though the road ahead will be rough, I suspect Caroline Donohoe will also get on with things, her two children foremost in her mind.
The thoughts of the country will be with her.