Tuesday 25 October 2016

Sitting in judgment on grief

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

The remains of Liam Hawe follow his mother Clodagh as they arrive at the church for funeral mass in Castlerahan Photo:Gerry Mooney.
The remains of Liam Hawe follow his mother Clodagh as they arrive at the church for funeral mass in Castlerahan Photo:Gerry Mooney.

We cannot tell anyone how to grieve. We cannot tell anyone how to feel at life's most acute and traumatic moments. We cannot sit miles away in judgment and find people wanting for not conforming to whatever agendas the rest of us wish to attach to their grief.

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Families, communities, need to do what they need to do to get through awful times, to get through the madness of grief. The extended family, friends and community who mourn the Hawes, of Ballyjamesduff, are suffering a grief more maddening than most of us will ever know. They have been left with nothing. They don't even have anyone left to comfort, except maybe each other.

In a modern world that sometimes talks too much and thinks too little, the busybodies were straight down to it. First it was expressions of shock and grief. But then, very quickly, it moved to the meta-analysis of how this tragedy was being treated. First it was that Clodagh Hawe was apparently made invisible initially as everyone focused on the three boys. As if it were not human nature to think first about the children. It may not be right. But we do that. Cavan, Nice, the beaches of the Mediterranean. . . Children dying tragically is a different kind of affront to our humanity. Why do we remember Warrington so acutely? Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry, two children. How many other victims of the IRA were there whose names we don't remember?

Sadly, it is likely that even poor Clodagh's final thoughts were for her children.

The busybodies moved on then to seek harsher condemnation of the man who murdered Clodagh and her children. This man was being eulogised, we were told. He was being lumped in with them as a victim. And it's true that Alan Hawe was not treated like another mass murderer. It is true that a linkage was not made immediately with the bigger picture of domestic violence.

But maybe that bigger picture is for another time. In the confusion of grief, maybe it is okay that the people who knew him need to remember Alan Hawe not just as a murderer. Maybe to keep some scintilla of sanity in the madness of grief, they need to remember, too, the father, the teacher and the active member of the community.

No doubt we will learn more in time. The pictures of the family, Clodagh's stance in them, seem to tell a story. There is talk of a family that kept itself to itself.

But grieving people need to process things as best they can. Grief requires denial and delusion, too. And yesterday, if those people, who had already known so much grief before now, and if that community, which must be asking itself so many questions about why no one spotted anything, needs to grieve the way it did, for a whole family tragically and horribly snuffed out, and for five tragic deaths rather than four tragic deaths and a monstrous crime, then who are we to judge them? We cannot tell anyone how to grieve.

Sunday Independent

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