In Memoriam Seán Nolan 2
Many years ago I learnt the stages of grief at college during some psychology lecture or other. I was to hear them reiterated many times over the last thirty years of my working life. The psychiatrist responsible for outlining and studying them was none other than the famous, Swiss-born Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004). She outlined her famous 5 stages of grieving in her 1969 book called On Death and Dying. This was a seminal study of the attitudes and feelings of those who were close to death or actually dying. Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to any form of catastrophic personal loss (job, income, freedom). This also includes the death of a loved one and divorce. Kübler-Ross also claimed these steps do not necessarily come in order, nor are they all experienced by all patients, though she stated a person will always experience at least two.
The stages are:
1. Denial - The initial stage: "It can't be happening."
2. Anger : "How dare you do this to me?!" (either referring to God, oneself, or anybody perceived, rightly or wrongly, as "responsible")
3. Bargaining : "Just let me live to see my son graduate."
4. Depression : "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"
5. Acceptance : "I know that I will be in a better place."
I suppose we went through the first three or possibly four stages this week when we as a school were grieving for the loss of young Seán Nolan. The delay in releasing Seán’s body, necessitated by a second autopsy at the behest of the family of the accused, made us all very angry indeed. There ceretainly was plenty of denial: “I can’t believe that this has happened” etc etc. How many times I heard these and such like sentiments I cannot recall, but it was countless times.
I noted that many of his fellow classmates exhibited stage number 4 – they just did not and even do not want to bother with anything. Indeed, even the Leaving Certificate rates very low in their priorities and I heard a good number of them talking about failing, about repeating and one lad even stating that he would not even bother sitting his Leaving Certificate. These are all normal reactions when we are stressed out, when we are traumatised, not alone by an untimely death of a young much-loved lad, but traumatized by a random and horrendous murder. Of course, it is hard to get one’s head around such a dastardly and cowardly act.
Over the coming weeks the psychologist, Fíona Clancy, the counsellor Mairéad Martin and I, along with the Principal and Deputy Principal will be on stand by to help all to get as close as possible to stage 5. from the depths of grief, it sometimes seems that this stage cannot be reached. But together we will get their. After all, we never walk alone. We have one more angel in heaven to help us!
Seán we have no answers,
We have no words of consolation
For your poor heart-broken family.
All we have are our memories
Of a lovely young lad
On the threshold of manhood.
We cherish your good humour.
We remember your roguish smile.
We give thanks for your care-free manner,
Your refusal to get angry,
Your easy-going nature.
You will always be remembered
By so many friends.
Though your candle may be extinguished
Your light will shine on forever
In all our hearts.
You will alawys be our candle-bearer.
Smile on, smile on, smile on…
Above I have placed a picture I took at Seán's funeral of the guard of honour. Our Sixth Year Graduates are wearing white shirts and a past-pupils' tie.