Skirting the Issue - There but for the grace of God, go us

The scale of the massacre in Norway is almost beyond comprehension. It is only surpassed by the scale of the grief it has left behind.

I have felt ashamed of myself as I have turned the television off, or shied away from news coverage of the same because it is something I - very selfishly - cannot bring myself to contemplate.

To think of the horror those children on the island of Utoya went through in the moments before so many of them were mown down by a gunman posing as a police officer makes my blood run cold.

In scenes one can only imagine were reminiscent of a Nazi massacre, he cut down 69 young people on that island, shooting many as they begged for their lives.

The scenes, though not graphic, of the bodies covered in white sheets lying on the coast line of the island bring home just what a cruel and senseless world we live in.

These children, on a summer camp, are never coming home.

While this story grew - the full scale of the horror emerging - the media also latched onto the death of singer Amy Winehouse - found dead at her Camden home on Saturday.

Aged just 27 - although her years of addiction and abuse made her look older - it is unsure just yet what caused her death. Chances are it was some of the substances to which she had become so hopelessly addicted to.

The internet went mad - tributes, well meaning messages, statements of shock and sorrow. And jokes too - because somehow now when a celebrity dies it’s deemed appropriate or apt to make jokes. They lose their humanity, you see, because they are famous.

Their dignity dies with them and people are only too keen to rake over their lives and nod and tut and, in Amy Winehouse’s case come thick and heavy with the “I told you so” and the ‘funny’ jokes about chalk lines and coke and the like. Yes. Hilarious indeed.

In watching the coverage of that tragedy (and yes the loss of life of a talented young woman to addiction is a tragedy), I was particularly struck by the images of her parents. Pictured at the height of the grief, the shock of Amy’s sudden, if not totally unexpected, death eating into them - they stood, crying at makeshift memorials outside her London home.

And I thought of their nightmare. Like the children who went off to camp at Utoya, their daughter was never coming home again.

As a parent I can think of nothing worse than the loss of a child - whatever the circumstances of that loss. It has sickened me that what played out in the media has been a hierarchy of grieving. We should feel loss sorry for Amy Winehouse’s family because she was, by all accounts, the master of her own destruction.

Our shock at what happened in Norway should override everything because those children were truly innocent - and had so much ahead of them.

Some will say Amy Winehouse squandered the chances life gave her - the children of Utoya never even had the chance to do that. There has been much discussion, much nodding of heads and passing comment on the whole sorry weekend that played out in front of us.

Closer to home, we saw another family tragedy played out.

We watched a mother stand by a shoreline and wait for her precious only son to be found and brought home.

We, to an extent, have grieved as a city - have filled Facebook pages and column inches with condolences and messages of support. We have tried, in our own way, to help a mother come to terms with the fact her son will never come home again.

And that is what it comes down to. When you strip it back. When you take away all the nonsense. When you stop nodding and judging and passing comment - whispering in corners and saying one person has a bigger right to their grief than another. It boils down to a parent grieving for a child. A heartwrenching loss that nothing will ever fill.

These losses, all of them, are tragedies.

All of them will reverberate for years and not just because they made for strong headlines, or the world was watching or the person who died was famous.

The reverberations will be felt more keenly than that - in the houses where there are now empty chairs, where coats hang never to be filled again, where family occasions will always be missing that one certain someone.

Forget the headlines.

Forget the posturing at the shaking of a head and the passing of any judgement and pray that God, or whoever you may believe in, gives all of these families the strength to cope with what lies ahead.

And when you close your eyes tonight, remind yourself (as I most certainly will be reminding myself) how lucky you are if you can tuck those you love into bed and know that they are safe.