Editor's Viewpoint: Grieving families need our support
The funeral today of Michaela McAreavey is a lasting reminder of how total tragedy can strike suddenly at the heart of a family. Not much more than a week ago Michaela and her husband John were on their honeymoon on the beautiful island of Mauritius. It is hard to believe that this young bride was being buried today wearing her wedding dress, after a service in the church where the couple were so recently married.
Michaela's death at a young age has shocked the entire community, and her murder in such circumstances so far away from home leaves a feeling of emptiness and of profound tragedy which will not go away.
That sense of shock has been mirrored by the outpouring of sympathy from many quarters for the bereaved families. This has come from a wide range of friends and sympathisers, not only from the Tyrone area but all over this island and further afield. It was fitting that the First Minister, the Deputy First Minister and other leading public figures have paid their respects to the families on behalf of all of us.
Bereavement in such stark circumstances is extremely hard to bear at any time, but there is an added dimension when some of the family members have such a high public profile.
Mickey Harte, Michaela's father, has made his name as one of the most successful county team managers in GAA history. His personal loss has been shared by a wide spectrum of people who know him from his sporting achievements but who also realise that he is today, above all, a grieving father.
One of the worst heartbreaks that can affect any parent is the death of a child, and the loss of Michaela in such horrendous circumstances must be particularly difficult to bear. Only those who have walked that lonely road can begin to understand the pain.
To their immense credit the McAreavey and Harte families have reacted with great dignity in the midst of their continuing nightmare. In so doing, they have gained the added respect of everyone who realises the amount of private suffering involved.
The past week has been particularly fraught, especially as so much of the pain has been borne in the public eye. But after today's funeral when the cameras move away, the families will face a long period of grieving.
At this time it is important to remember also the other people who are trying to come to terms with the sudden death of loved ones.
The death of Michaela McAreavey reminds us that life is fragile and that happiness can often be so fleeting. However in the face of such loss, people also show great courage and they also gain strength from the support and prayers of so many others. Michaela's family and friends now need that support as never before.