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Mayo GAA and the five stages of grief

An Cailín Rua

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

THE experts say that there are five stages of grief. Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. They warn that people who are grieving do not necessarily experience all of these stages, which, to my uneducated mind sounds like a bit of a cop-out, but anyway.
It might sound a tad melodramatic to describe the aftermath of a football game as ‘grieving’ but for many of us eejits, that’s what it is. If this were any other county, a loss would just be a loss. We’d pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get the game faces back on. Like, you know, normal people. But Mayo is different sadly, and this story of ours, which provides such fascination and indeed, amusement for others, ensures that a loss for Mayo isn’t just a loss, it signifies the death of just another tiny piece of our spirit. Woe is us...
Many of us have been working our way through the grieving process in stages and with varying degrees of success. I have pulled together a short scientific study of the Mayo grieving process which is sure to be of great interests to psychologists everywhere.

Denial (and isolation)
The law of averages alone would be enough to suggest that anyone struggling to come to terms with the reality of the result could be forgiven.
At least the isolation is a collective one – noone understands us, apart from ourselves. And there are plenty of us so it’s never too lonely.
I saw a young Mayo supporter outside the pub after the game who had evidently decided that denial was the best coping mechanism. Every Dub was met with a ‘hard luck lads, chin up, ye’ll win it next year. We were just too good for ye!’. Cue much bewilderment. Grief does funny things to your mind.

Anger
This one needs no explaining. It’s just a case of trying to figure out who you’re not angry with. You’re mad at the opposition, the opposition supporters, God, the ref, the traffic, the management, Damien Dempsey, the selectors, Enda Kenny, the pundits, your Dublin cousins, and basically, anyone who looks at you sideways between now and Christmas. When you’re not crying, you’re raging. I can tell you, the next person to say ‘chin up, nobody died!’ will be seriously tempting fate.

Bargaining
“I swear to god next year I’m leaving the country. They’re bound to win when I’m not here.”

Depression
Depression is a word I won’t use lightly, but for some of us, the feeling of numbness and emptiness after losing a final is reminiscent of something much more sinister. But whether it’s depression or just plain old misery, when you wake up in the morning in the middle of November and your first thought is: “Ah Jesus, how did we not win it this time,” you know there’s something not quite right in your head. Though that may be more obsession than depression.

Acceptance
Oh, there’s acceptance alright. There’s the acceptance that you’re clearly some kind of masochist for putting yourself through this year after year.
The only real nod towards acceptance I have heard in recent days is the repetition of the phrase: “It is what it is,” the most meaningless combination of words in the English language, which may sound like acceptance, but really, depending on who you’re talking to, either means: “I can’t think of anything better to say so just leave me alone to feck” or “take yourself and your condescension far away from me quickly or we’ll be back to stage two before you can say ‘Mayo for Sam’.”
But there is also a begrudging acceptance that even if you wanted to escape you couldn’t, because this isn’t something you choose.
And honestly, would you really want to?

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