If you met me today you would, as always, be greeted by a smile and a loud and cheery “Hi how are ye?”. I would appear to be in great form and we would chat about this and that and enjoy a good laugh. But as you walk away, my smile would disappear and if you looked closely you would see a different me.
For today my heart is heavy. Today is the beginning of Irelands state exams. Thousands of young students will spend the next two weeks doing their Junior and Leaving Certificates. We will see them streaming in and out of schools which would otherwise be closed. We will pass them and wonder did they have a good day, but no matter how hard we look and wish, one will be missing.
Today Daniel should have been sitting his Junior Cert. He should have driven his parents mad over the past few weeks by his ‘relaxed’ attitude. He should have headed off this morning pretending he is not one bit bothered, even if deep down he might have been, and last night as I delivered cards to his sister and cousins I should have had one for him.
Grief is a strange one. In the early days it is obvious, as tears are shed and the mood is low. This is the face of grief which is expected, and considered ‘normal’. As time ticks by it moves at a different speed to those who are not grieving. They can look at a calendar and think “It’s been a year”. They see those left behind laughing and living and are grateful that they are ‘getting over it’.
They see what they want to see.
For behind the scenes, for all who have experienced grief, are the many days filled with Oscar winning performances, where they hide their sadness, in order to appear ‘normal’.
Today is such a day for all who knew Daniel. For his friends who will walk into school without him, for his sister and cousins who will have one less beside them leaving for school, and for his mum and dad, aunts and god mother who will collect the other students after their exams each day and try not to look at the empty seat in the car.
Today as I walked around my village, I wondered at those I passed. How many more were hurting, missing parents, partners, siblings or friends. How many more smiled and laughed with heavy hearts?
Those who grieve belong to a secret club of many.
Perhaps today those of you who are not grieving will take a moment to acknowledge a friend who has lost someone. Maybe ask them how they are? Let them know you have not forgotten their loss, and that it is okay for them to continue to grieve. Do not fear you will cause them pain, for they are already in pain, you are just not seeing it.
Nothing you can say or do will not take away that pain, but you just might make today a little bit easier.