Grief in full view

Overnight the head coach from one of the Australian Rules Football teams, was killed, and his son arrested and charged with his murder. For some international readers, you may be wondering why this is important. Australian Rules is sometimes described akin to religion for many. His death has brought a significant reaction of shock and sadness, particularly in an age when it is easy for people to express a reaction digitally.

As a public figure, we sometime grapple with how we should feel. There of course is no right or wrong way to feel. We feel we know them, but of course we don’t. So we are not sure if we can grieve or feel sad. But we can express an emotion, through twitter or facebook. Or text, or email, or talking to friends. IT will be talked about in the kitchen at the footy, on the train, in the supermarket. If football is important to people, I think it’s OK to be touched by these events. It is what helps us make sense of things, and also helps us feel part of a community, of society. Of course, if we are still thinking about this a month or so down the track, best to find someone to talk about it.

For the family, this will be so hard. Many people who were bereaved by the bushfires and bali told me one of the hardest parts of their bereavement is feeling as though they have to share their distress, their grief with strangers, that it becomes a public event. It is why we encourage public memorial events or activities, to give the public a focus. IT is why we see the emergence of spontaneous flower tributes in places, martin place in Sydney after the siege, in Whitehall after Princess Diana’s death, to Parliament house after Bali.

Should the game go on Sunday? I’ve seen a prominent psychologist suggest that it would be good, it help with the ritualization of the event. I hope that those making that decision will take into account the family and the player’s feelings. What would be going through my head would be, can the players actually turn up and play. It is, after all, only a game, and what has happened is more serious. It is very soon after the event, and I hope that decisions are not taken because of some false bravado. IF they decide to play, will there be the opportunity for the players to not play if they don’t feel up to it, and not be or feel stigmatised. Not an easy decision to make.

The public events are challenging. They define points in our lives, more intensely for those close to the event.

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